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FOREWARD Conversations in Painting: ‘if it fits in the Fiesta you’re in…’ present an

exhibition of new and recent paintings at Crown Street Art Gallery, Darlington - open to the public on Saturday 14th October until Thursday 9th November 2017 - showing work made by a group of practitioners distinctly placed in their personal trajectory who sustain a direct connection with the Tees Valley. Conversations in Painting: ‘if it fits in the Fiesta you’re in…’ is a collaborative exhibition project incorporating the current work of six studio based practitioners, a mix of emerging, established, national and international artists whose collective expertise represents a diverse range of interpretive approaches. Artists commissioned to make work for this show are: Sarah Cooney, Deb Covell, Gordon Dalton, Philip Gatenby, Remy Neumann and Alicia Paz. This project seeks to understand more about how visual arts culture operates in the Tees Valley, especially so through its focus on painting. Conversations in Painting… is an artist led project initiated by Sarah Cooney and Philip Gatenby in partnership with the independent curator Kerry Harker, a cocurated selective review of non-representational approaches to fine art practice. The exhibition is set in the conventions of the white box gallery, a performance space set in the public realm for shared conversational dialogue between participant artists and the public. Participatory events and workshops scheduled throughout the duration of the gallery show will host visitors, guest practitioners, curators, writers, students and invested members of the public as co-participants in panel discussions. Preview Event (left to right): Vicky Holbrough (Navigator North), Gordon Dalton, Remy Nuemann, Kerry Harker (Independent Curator), Phil Gatenby, Sarah Cooney, Gemma Tierney & K.A.Bird (Marketing & Engagement), Deb Covell, Nicola Golightly, (Publicity Design) and Stephen Wiper (Creative Darlington).


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onversations in Painting, a project initiated by co-curators Sarah Cooney and Phil Gatenby, ambitiously attempted to carve out a dialogue at the intersection of issues around place, pedagogy and institutional politics. In adopting the strapline ‘if it fits in the Fiesta you’re in’, Conversations sought to situate itself within a field of collective practice identified by the curators as ‘artist-led’, highlighting the pragmatic approach to exhibiting that traditionally governs such ventures. Further locating painting, ‘in all its evolving guises’ as central to a form of identity politics galvanizing certain networks of artists working within the specific context of Teesside served to further complicate 1 this nexus of concerns. The strong commitment to painting exhibited by Cooney and Gatenby, along with the other participating artists (Deb Covell, Gordon Dalton, Remy Neumann and Alicia Paz), manifests as potently perverse in the face of a dominant regional institution currently promoting a particular approach to the ‘use value’ of art and the museum. It is not necessarily, therefore, sympathetic to a focus on contemporary painting - an enterprise conceivably lacking an obvious ‘functionality’ that would resonate within this institutional framework.2 Conversations’ co-curators, by comparison, subscribe to the notion that painting is a) alive and well among communities of artists living and working on Teesside, and b) lacking the critical discourse that meaningful institutional support might facilitate. In the face of such a perceived lack or absence, this group collaboratively did what artists habitually do, and decided to plug this gap themselves. I joined the project in 2017 at Phil and Sarah’s invitation given that my formal art education also began on Teesside, where I grew up, and that my practice as a curator has been continuously sympathetic to artists’ desire to return over and over to the potential of painting in a digital age. As a student in the late 1980s, my own engagement with painting was enthusiastically encouraged by my lecturers, firstly at South Park VIth Form College under the tutelage of


the late John Carter, and subsequently at Cleveland College of Art & Design where they included one Phil Gatenby. Later, this was emphatically not the case on arrival at the University of Leeds in 1990, where I began a Fine Art degree. The ‘funny little paintings’ I was making back then (as one lecturer described them, probably accurately) were hangovers from the observational landscape paintings I’d previously made, particularly at Cleveland College, of the north-eastern coast around Saltburn. This challenge to painting as the default position of new undergraduates is both appropriate and necessary, as Sean Kaye sets out in his essay for Teaching Painting: How Can Painting Be Taught In Art Schools?, the excellent anthology from Black Dog Publishing. As Kaye points out, ‘As art educators we have a responsibility to help students understand whether they are painting because they want to paint or whether they are painting because they have no experience of the alternatives.’ 3 This remains a highly relevant question, given my observation of first-year Fine Art undergraduates in Leeds recently. But the artists participating in Conversations crossed this bridge long ago, and demonstrate a mature and informed engagement with the medium, and to a critical discourse about their practice extended through peer networks and, for some of them, their own experiences of teaching, both on Teesside and further afield. As I began to write this essay, 2017 was limping to a close. Amid the tsunami of bad news stories (and the horror of Trump) that dominated the year, and with painting and this essay very much on my mind, I found myself looking back over the handful of art world stories – some positive, some very much less so – that permeated through into the consciousness of the mainstream media. Last Spring came the news of Maria Balshaw’s appointment as the first woman Director of Tate, alongside Trump’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts in the US (a temporary reprieve came in May). And by the summer, accusations of sexual misconduct against high-profile art-world men had begun circulating, and continue to do so, following revelations about the film producer Harvey Weinstein that sparked the wider cultural


movement #MeToo. Within the sphere of contemporary art, the collective voice of ‘workers of the art world’ rallied around Jenny Holzer’s slogan Abuse Of Power Comes As No Surprise, seeking to urgently address the ingrained 4 and inherited power structures of the art world. Three other stories, all apparently concerning art, reached a level of visibility that far transcended their art world origins and thereby a potentially limited relevance. And they had something surprising in common – they all concerned painting. Painting, that nemesis of the new! Most recently, an audible cry of collective jubilation could be heard among her supporters as the artist Lubaina Himid was awarded the Turner Prize at a ceremony in Hull in December. Surely this was one of the most popular decisions ever made by a Turner jury, a far cry from the hammy shock (FAKE NEWS!) feigned by the red-tops on behalf of their outraged readership, back in the days of Tracey and her unmade bed. The Prize exhibition this time round was on display at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, newly spruced up and expanded as part of the city’s year as UK Capital of Culture, and very good it was too, one of the best Turner shows I can remember. Via social media on the night, and in print the following day, the mainstream media’s coverage of the award ceremony focused on Himid’s age and the fact that she is the first woman of colour to win the Prize, more than on her practice itself and the fact that she is a painter. But paint she does – sometimes on canvas, but also consistently on found ceramics, on newspaper (specifically the Guardian), on objects such as model carts of the home-made variety lovingly crafted by hobbyists and Dads, and, joyously, in the form of the cut-out and painted life-size figures that are uniquely hers and which most clearly recall her foundational training in theatre design. Himid’s figures became a sort of leitmotif for my year: I was lucky enough to encounter them in her solo show Navigation Charts at Bristol’s Spike Island in February, where individual figures filled the largest gallery in a collective

Gordon Dalton, Will The Night Last Forever? (detail)


dance, forming an immersive installation with sound; later that month in The Place Is Here, a revisiting of the contested territory of ‘black art’ and the conversations between artists, writers and thinkers during that pivotal decade of Britain in the 1980s; and finally in the Turner Prize exhibition in Hull. Neither was painting’s presence in last year’s Prize limited to its most obvious visibility in the work of Himid and Hurveen Anderson, whose vibrant canvasses blur the boundaries between representational landscape and modernist abstraction. Painting was also very much present in the work of the other nominees, Andrea Büttner and Rosalind Nashashibi, both of whom reference painting and directly deploy the medium within their respective practices. Just prior to the Turner announcement, in November, a predictable media and celebrity frenzy swirled around the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at Christie’s New York for an unfathomable $450.3m or around £341m (including the auction house premium). The buyer, undisclosed at the time, was later confirmed to be the department of culture and tourism of Abu Dhabi 5. From its new home there, the £1bn Louvre outpost by Jean Nouvel,

it is no doubt hoped that the painting will exert a pulling power on cultural tourists equivalent to that of the artist’s Mona Lisa in Paris. And here lies a pithy problem for Conversations in Painting: painting is arguably indivisible from its status as the most highly valued art form in financial terms. The fetish of the auction room on such high-profile occasions is obscene – literally so, as wealthy collectors remain hidden from view, concealed behind their privilege while we watch the ritualized celebrity endorsement, the hushed aura of the dramatically lit salesroom, the urgently whispered telephone conversations with remote bidders, and the portentious fall of the auctioneer’s gavel, from afar. Why do we find this spectacle so gruesomely compelling? Immediately following the sale of Salvator Mundi, journalists hurried to update lists of the most expensive artworks ever sold at auction, the da Vinci going straight to the top of the charts which consistently reaffirm painting’s status as the commodity par excellence. A Google search for ‘most expensive artworks at

Remy Neumann, Theatre of Transformation (detail)


auction’ not only produces list after list of paintings by de Kooning, Cézanne, Gauguin, Pollock, Rothko, Rembrandt, Modigliani et al (we hardly need point out the gender bias) but actually defaults to produce lists of the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction, thereby confirming the seamless elision of the medium and big money. It was back in March 2017, however, as a single and singular painting titled Open Casket went on display in New York, that painting’s ongoing capacity to stir deep, guttural feeling, to shock, dismay, divide and incite, came most sharply into view. I cannot write about painting in the present moment without reflecting on this difficult, divisive episode which confirms that all those continuing to paint without thoughtfully connecting their work to the wider socio-cultural context do so at their peril. The painting is by Dana Schutz and its inclusion in last year’s Whitney Biennial sparked impassioned protest and a complex and far-reaching conversation that located the painting squarely within the racial tensions and polarized political positions of contemporary America and beyond. Its effects went far beyond the art world. The controversy centred on the fact that the artist is white, while her painting depicts the mutilated face of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago murdered while visiting relatives in the Mississippi delta in August 1955. Emmett allegedly harassed a white woman, Carol Bryant, in her husband’s grocery and meat market (the precise details of Emmett’s alleged misdemeanour remain unclear). Her husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam were acquitted by an all-white jury but later admitted to the crime (Carol also later admitted that she fabricated her testimony) 6. It was an appalling act of such gruesome violence that it not only galvanized the civil rights movement at that moment in American history, in part inspiring Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger that December, but continues to reverberate throughout America to this day – as Open Casket amply demonstrates. Beyond these questions of race and representation, the painting also stirs up discomfort about the presence

Alicia Paz, Amazonas (detail)


of such imagery within a major art world institution implicated in a global art market. It potentially commodifies black pain, although Schutz was quick 7 to point out that the painting was not, and never had been, for sale . And the name of the place where poor Emmett was murdered? Money, on the Tallahatchie River, a tiny community of no more than 100 souls today (down from a peak of around 400 in the early 1950s when the local cotton mill sustained a larger population), located midway on the railroad that connects Memphis to the north with Jackson to the south. 8 Schutz based her painting on a photograph of Emmett taken in his casket, left decidedly open for public view at the request of his mother Mamie because she wanted everyone to see what they’d done to her boy (his body was pulled from the River three days after his murder), to make the horror of this violence visible and unforgettable. The painting is not the only artwork based on Emmett’s story: Toni Morrison responded to it in her first play, Dreaming Emmett, but reportedly destroyed all copies of the script and video recordings of the performance after its premiere at the Market Theater in Albany, New York, on 5th January 1986. The Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes wrote two powerful texts, one a poem and one a song, both committed to paper in the immediacy of 1955, both invoking the powerful imagery of the boy’s tears and blood that ‘mix like rain’, while Philip C. Kolin’s 2009 essay Haunting America: Emmett Till in Music and Song is a compelling analysis of the numerous and varying approaches to Emmett’s representation over the years in everything from folk ballads, blues and jazz to rap and hip hop. Given this long tradition of addressing the tragedy through music, why should Dana Schutz’s painting invoke such hurt and fury? It is not the only exploration of these events in paint: the artist Lisa Whittington made two works (2012 and 2016, the second made in the same year as Schutz’s painting) depicting Emmett, one of which shows in gruesome detail what was done to the boy’s

Remy Neumann, Study with Skull and Sprouts


face. But Whittington is black, and Schutz is white. Whittington’s painting presents an imaginary Emmett, while Schutz’s is based on a documentary photograph, from which it abstracts a decorative canvas demonstrating the artist’s trademark gestural brushstrokes carving through thick creamy paint. What offended many commentators was the impossibility and impropriety of a white woman addressing black pain in such a way, especially when a white woman was implicated so heavily in Emmett’s death by giving deliberately false testimony. We will never know what private violence enacted on 21year old Carol Bryant herself may have necessitated the fabrication of so destructive a lie. The Open Casket controversy also coincides with a time in American society when high-profile cases concerning the unlawful killing of young black men have inspired the Black Lives Matter movement – the hashtag appeared in 2013 in direct response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman following the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin the previous year. The problem posed by Open Casket was amplified by the response of black artists, in particular Parker Bright, who located his protest in the gallery itself, standing directly in front of the painting to partially obscure it from view for up to four hours a day, his back turned to the audience so that they could read the words written on the back of his t-shirt: ‘BLACK DEATH SPECTACLE’, and the British artist Hannah Black, who wrote an open letter to the Whitney Biennial curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks demanding the painting’s removal and, further, its destruction. In the letter, widely circulated on social media and initially signed by around 50 other artists and arts professionals, including Bright, Black raises questions around appropriation and representation, and the link between painting and 9 commodification, urging that it ‘not [be] entered into any market or museum.’ I revisit these events in some detail here not to simplistically make claims for painting’s enduring resonance within contemporary art, but in order to remind the reader that painting is political even when it takes the form of painterly abstraction and is apparently removed from the world of

Phil Gatenby, The Curious Case of Disallowance I


representation. Context is everything. Painting may lie at the edge of the world these days, but it is still implicated within in. The threat posed by Schutz’s painting, the aesthetic risk it takes, seems to lie in the fact that it walks the line between figurative representation – it is recognizable as a black body – and painterly abstraction – it is a colourful collage of gestural swirls and slashes – in a way that permits both to co-exist with equal weighting. This is its problem: the deft strokes do violence to Emmett’s face, which nonetheless stubbornly remains a face and the work too prettily makes a picture out of pain. Perhaps its sin is to forget that it too is in the world. Whittingham’s painting, through far less assured or artful, attempts to give the boy agency in the way his face is imagined before and after the terrible events (he is not just a victim to us, imagined after the event), and in the way he faces us, squarely addressing the 10 viewer beyond the frame. What is at stake here is representation itself – the politics of who can represent, and on what terms. Doesn’t Open Casket and responses to it compellingly suggest that, despite our acceleration into a digitally-imagined future, we are not done yet with painting as representation, with the peculiar power of pictures conjured in paint? Artists have long used painting to consciously make political statements. Indeed, Himid says of her extensive engagement with the medium since the 1980s, ‘Mine was absolutely political activism in paint.’ 11 This perspective

matters in helping us to approach Conversations in Painting as a way to investigate and understand the visual arts ecology of the Tees Valley area through a particular focus on painting. The artists were represented in an international and intergenerational group show at the Crown Street Art Gallery in Darlington from October to November last year, marking the public launch of the project. The exhibition is documented in the elegant installation shots by Jules Lister that illustrate this publication. The project, in setting up ‘painting’ as a relational position, was part exhibition and part a series of discursive events that have included iterative panel

Alicia Paz, Amazonas (detail)


discussions (which I chaired and in which exhibiting artists were joined by Stephen Snoddy, Tony Charles, Dr Jonathan Chapman, Kevin Hunt, Keren Pearson and Paul Stewart); group visits to the exhibition by students; and ‘artist hosting’ sessions within the gallery to facilitate conversations between co-curator Gatenby and visitors. This first iteration of Conversations concludes with the publication in which this essay sits, although the discussions opened here hint at value in pursuing further outings. Situating the project within the field of artist-led practice also resulted in the initiative taking on the guise of a temporary, self-organized art school in which a group of artists and others came together to share knowledge, better understand their current position, and debate the context within which they work. In this sense, the project explored autonomy and collectivism as artistic strategies, and the exchange of knowledge, expertise and skills fostered within the social architecture of artist-led initiatives and studio groups. It is here, I think, that we can make sense of the earlier discussion of the problems posed by Open Casket. The debate around Schutz’s painting foregrounds the pressing questions with which Conversations has sought to grapple – about who paints, what they paint, why they do so, where they do it, and for whom. For this group of artists, painting clearly matters – as a daily lived reality and ongoing personal and political commitment, enduring irrespective of art world validation based on fashion or market value. The project conflated ideas on place and practice, temporality, artistic labour and pedagogy. It did not explicitly address issues of race (the artists are all white, as am I, as was the majority of the audience), suggesting that there are critical questions about contemporary art on Teesside still to be asked. Aesthetically, Conversations often inhabited the painterly terrain between figuration and abstraction, setting up ‘non-representational’ approaches as a leitmotif in its pre-exhibition promotion, only to undo this in the selection of Paz and Neumann, who are undeniably figurative in their approach. Neumann, who is based in the Netherlands, is concerned with the transformation of

Deb Covell, Tight-fit (detail)


matter, cycles of life and death, growth and decay. The artist imports materials such as leather, silicone and nails into his paintings, where bodies seem always on the verge of transmuting back into the base matter of life. In one diminutive canvas, a putrid yellow and green skull resembles nothing more than a loose affiliation of radioactive microbes, only temporarily taking on form. The body also dematerializes in the works of Alicia Paz, but by contrast here it is specifically the female form which is abstracted. Across her canvasses and cut-out figures, this body becomes an intricate surface pattern of heightened colour, an organic lacework comprised of Disney-esque paint blobs, jewels and faces cut from fashion magazines, painterly squiggles, glitter, small decorative objects, and collaged photographs of flora: woman as tree or spider web. Gordon Dalton describes his paintings as having ‘a real subject (landscape)’, although they do not depict specific places. The works overtly reference this subject in their broad articulation of horizons, landmasses, skies and clouds, with organic shapes that occasionally hint at a moon, a branch, or a hill. But we are continually pulled back to the surface, and to its painterly construction, through the use of ‘incorrect’ colouration, marks, and multiple viewpoints that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to fix on a specific location or perspective, keeping comforting recognition forever beyond our reach. Sarah Cooney’s works can almost be read as landscapes too, but here we retreat to a distant, higher viewpoint, and look down on oceans and islands of paint in the guise of watery depths against which vibrant ovals, clouds and slabs hover. There is a play with depth and surface, and a flow of marks and gestures flooding and echoing from one canvas to another. In Phil Gatenby’s paintings, we are further out in space still, or perhaps beneath a microscope, oscillating between the macro and micro, able to discern only basic shapes and the broad relation of ground and figure. Gatenby intends to ‘avoid pictorial narrative’, yet I cannot help but read these Hubble-esque pastel hues, the slabs and planes as data of a sort – they are cells, atoms, genetic markers, or else celestial bodies seen


through the shimmery haze of space. Deb Covell, by contrast, locates her practice assuredly within references to 20th Century non-objective, geometric abstraction of the type associated with Suprematism, Constructivism, De Stijl and the American minimalists. While rejecting pictorial space entirely, Covell also rejects the traditional support of the canvas or board – her works literally are paint as opposed to being paintings. In her works, paint itself takes on solid, three-dimensional form, is cut, creased, bent and folded, and frequently pushes at the boundary with sculpture – frequently liberated from the wall, it hangs in space or collapses onto the floor. The divergent nature of approaches adopted by this group of artists only served to heighten the appeal of the rich aesthetic experience offered by the exhibition in Darlington. A tighter curatorial focus on pure abstraction, hinted at in early curatorial discussions, would have necessitated a rethinking of the selection and undone one of the most successful aspects of the project, the collective and galvanizing conversation enabled between these artists in particular, as well as with the panellists, and a core audience largely composed of other artists and arts professionals with a vested interest in the sustainability of localised contemporary practice. Unpicking the interlinked dependencies and sensitivities encapsulated in Conversations, and the questions it raised, is no easy matter. The project conceivably bit off more than it could chew in this first, brief, outing. It probed issues that are deep rooted in the histories of artistic practice on Teesside, the legacies of those who have lived, worked and taught in the region, and their individual and collective contributions to local practice and pedagogy. These valuable questions are complex and require deeper consideration than was possible in this relatively short timeframe. What the project did, however, was to confirm that there is no shortage of interest in debating the issues raised, and it made an important contribution to raising the visibility of and problematising matters of pressing relevance to practitioners based in the

Sarah Cooney, Arthur (detail)


region today. Amplifying the voice of artists is always a welcome ambition. It also made a gainful attempt at connecting individuals and organisations active within different strata of the visual arts ‘ecology’ than is effected by the day-today way of things – something that happens rarely in any given geographical context. The ambition here was to link individuals and those working in organizations of varying scale and remit (across the artist-led/institutional divide) for collective analysis of the state of play on their shared turf. The relationship between these different entities formed the subtext of where this project sought to make its intervention, asking participants to think about the mechanics of art world politics normally folded away beneath the surface of things. Talk of ‘visual arts ecologies’ permeated the panel discussions: this turn of phrase, prevalent in the arts and culture over recent years, is on the surface intriguing, but fails to convincingly describe how a purported ‘wholeness’ implied within the analogy is in effect supported by dynamics of power, money and labour (i.e. by social relations) absent from the functioning of ecosystems in the natural world. Gregory Sholette’s Dark Matter did much to highlight the structural deficiencies of the ‘art world’ he constructs within the book’s narrative, by convincingly describing the processes whereby it relies on the continual emergence of massed ranks of artists, as fresh talent from which it can cherry pick those destined for greatness.12 This works to counter the ecological model put forward by proponents such as Professor John Holden, in laying bare the cold truths of how the labour, patronage and even gossip of workaday artists maintains a centralized art world which elevates the privileged few to the tip of its pyramidal, hierarchical system. 13 While an insistence on painting’s enduring relevance and viability emerged forcefully from Conversations’ panel discussions (all agreed early on that debating its cyclical death and rebirth represents a stagnant debate beyond which they are keen to progress), a note of caution was also voiced in relation to the implied romanticism inherent in uncritically attaching one’s practice to the medium’s extensive back story through the canon of western art history.


What mileage is there in locating the project within, for example, histories of the alternative practices that drew together painters in Paris including Manet and Courbet in the second half of the 19th Century to collectively stage their own group exhibitions outside of the officially sanctioned Salon? In his introduction to Salon to Biennial – Exhibitions That Made Art History, Bruce Altshuler traces the complexities of the Parisian art world at that time, a period that saw artists organising their own exhibitions and periodically opting in and out of more institutionalised exhibition formats. As Altshuler demonstrates, the story is not as linear and simplistic as some historical accounts, which pit artists in opposition against the Academy, would have it. Nonetheless, these prototype self-organised shows, ‘exemplify the artist-organized exhibitions that would be crucial to the development of advanced art during the next hundred 14 years’. Why Altshuler limits this contribution by artists to a period ending in the late 1960s is unclear. However, his analysis of the changing conditions for the production and consumption of art from the 1850s onwards is useful in demonstrating how the Salon system, once opened to those outside the Academy, encouraged more and more people to become artists, and to develop their own direct relationships with collectors and patrons which bypassed the dominance of existing institutions. The Salon des Refusés of 1863 marked a critical moment in breaking with artists’ need to have their work validated by a jury of ‘experts’, setting the tone for a self-organised future: The [Salon des Refusés] thus represents an empowering moment for artists and for a public that would regularly make known its feelings about modern art. Exhibitions would become critical modes of artistic empowerment, organized by artists themselves to bring their work before the public and to the notice of the dealers upon whom their livelihood would increasingly depend. 15 Whilst the relationship of contemporary artist-led initiatives to the art market requires further analysis, we can argue that this liberation from external

Alicia Paz, Madama Butterfly


validation by the institution, in favour of a direct relationship with audiences, is the thread that connects the artist-organised exhibitions of the 1850s onwards, with those that happen today. We can locate Conversations within this lineage, as a collective space of artistic solidarity and empowerment, at least in part a direct response to a perceived failing within the institutional culture which does not acknowledge the ‘unstoppable’ pursuit of painting exemplified by Cooney, Gatenby et al. The confluence of a familiar geography, the practice of painting, and the conscious embrace of a self-organised ethos, proved attractive on receiving the co-curators’ invitation to take part. It has been rewarding to revisit my personal history through Conversations, while learning from the organizers, their fellow painters, and the wider audience generated by the project, more about what it means to be an artist and to sustain a practice on Teesside today. Through the project it has been a pleasure to meet and reconnect with those running artist-led initiatives Navigator North, Platform A Gallery, The House of Blah Blah and The Auxiliary, all of whom have supported the project’s evolution and actively contributed to the debate. The final panel discussion of the three was, for me, the most telling. In an upstairs room at The Auxiliary, a relatively young space within the domestic setting of a terraced house in a back street of Stockton-on-Tees, the real audience for Conversations emerged: a small, mutually supportive group of artists and their closest allies, all with a keen interest in the question of artistic practice, all desirous to see painting acknowledged as a vital part of the region’s art scene. As Manet put it in 1867, ‘to exhibit is to find friends and allies for the struggle’, and this is precisely the space opened up by Conversations.16 The artist Céline Condorelli has also written of the importance of friendship as ‘a fundamental aspect of personal support’ in cultural production, one which she considers ‘an essentially political 17 relationship of allegiance and responsibility.’ In convening Conversations in Painting, Cooney and Gatenby have commendably created the conditions for relations of friendship and support among artists, gathered to collectively


debate the present and future of painting on Teesside. It has also worked to galvanise local networks of artist-led practice, and in this company painting and friendship are intertwined – both are alive and well, passionately defended and debated, and will undoubtedly endure. February 2018 Kerry Harker is an independent curator and PhD candidate at the University of Leeds, where her research focuses on artist-led initiatives across the UK. She was formerly Co-founder and Director of Project Space Leeds, and from 201315 was Co-founder and Artistic Director of The Tetley. She used to paint.

References 1 See the project website, www.conversationsinpainting.co.uk. 2 Mima’s Vision for 2015-18 can be accessed at [http://www.visitmima.com/wp-content/ uploads/2014/12/mima-vision2015-18.pdf], accessed 19 February 2018. 3 Sean Kaye, ‘Teaching Painting Through Not Teaching Painting’, in Teaching Painting: How Can Painting Be Taught In Art Schools? (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2016), pp.64-69 (64). 4 See www.not-surprised.org. 5 Kareem Shaheen, Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi: Abu Dhabi bought world’s most expensive painting, The Guardian, 8 December 2017 [https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/ dec/07/world-record-da-vinci-painting-to-be-exhibited-at-louvre-abu-dhabi], accessed 19 February 2018. 6 Rory Carroll, Woman at center of Emmett Till case tells author she fabricated testimony, The Guardian, 27 January 2017 [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/27/emmett-till-bookcarolyn-bryant-confession], accessed 19 February 2018. 7 Statement by Schutz quoted in Calvin Tomkins, ‘Why Dana Schutz painted Emmett Till’, The New Yorker, 10 April 2017 [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/10/why-dana-schutzpainted-emmett-till], accessed 19 February 2018.


8 Incidentally, the Emmett Till Memory Project uses GPS technology to forensically assess the evidence and move users of an App around various sites on the Delta, highlighting the conflicts within various actors’ testimony about what happened on the key dates, the fragility of memory, and how the facts of Emmett’s story have been manipulated since 1955. See http://tillmemoryproject. com. 9 The events are summarized by Oliver Basciano in Whitney Biennial: Emmett Till casket painting by white artist sparks anger, The Guardian, 21 March 2017 [https://www.theguardian. com/artanddesign/2017/mar/21/whitney-biennial-emmett-till-painting-dana-schutz], accessed 19 February 2018. Black’s letter is quoted in full within Hannah Black’s Letter to the Whitney Biennial’s Curators: Dana Schutz Painting “Must Go”, e-flux conversations, 1 March 2017 [https:// conversations.e-flux.com/t/hannah-blacks10 Lisa Whittington, #MuseumsSoWhite: Black Pain and Why Painting Emmett Till Matters, NBC News, 26 March 2017 [https://www.nbcnews.com/think/news/museumssowhite-representationblack-pain-why-emmett-till-painting-matters-ncna737931], accessed 19 February 2018. 11 Himid quoted in Siobhan Forshaw, Political Activism in Paint: an interview with Lubaina Himid, Corridor8, 6 November 2017, available at [http://corridor8.co.uk/article/political-activism-paintinterview-lubaina-himid/], accessed xx 12 Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (London: Pluto Press, 2011). 13 Professor John Holden, The Ecology of Culture (London: AHRC, 2015). 14 Bruce Altshuler, Introduction’, in Salon to Biennial – Exhibitions That Made Art History – Volume 1: 1863-1959, ed. by Altshuler (London: Phaidon Press, 2008), pp. 11-19 (p.11). 15 Altshuler, Salon to Biennial, p.13. 16 Quoted in Altshuler, p.11 17 Céline Condorelli, ‘Too Close to See: Notes on Friendship, A Conversation with Johan Frederik Hartle’, in Self-organised, edited by Hebert and Karlsen (London: Open Editions, 2013), pp.62-73 (63).

Sarah Cooney, Arianne


T h e c u rio u s case of a b straction … Phil Gatenby


Curating a gallery show in the public realm assumes de facto legitimacy

as established convention where artefacts, in this instance painting, can be encountered, challenged, and savoured for their capacity to reimagine, divert, or entangle? Conversations in Painting: ‘if it fits in the Fiesta you’re in…’ celebrates the milieu of post 1989 strategies for the production of artefacts and their positioning in the public sphere, particularly so for the opportunity this milieu opens up for a pertinacious rethink about abstract painting and materiality. Probing the further possibilities for abstract art positions itself as an estranged lobby group in the recalibration of fine art practices. Re-searching abstraction through the act of painting is doubly estranged yet assuredly insistent. The title of the show narrates a further enticement - the precondition that each artefact selected for public critique ‘fits in a Fiesta’, a re-enactment that tips its hat to ideas formed in 1989, the landmark year when an emboldened ‘call to arts’ enabled gate-keeper institutions in the UK to redirect the reach of their distinct cultural capital. This exhibition seeks to convey an unambiguous curating intent where current painting poses a different order of audacity. The painting work in the show, delights in its allure for slow moving continuities that gain traction through its alliance with a range of precarious subjects. The exhibition project is minded to argue that sustained research in painting takes place in a landscape of peripheral actions to confront rather than deny reason. The central tenets determined for this exhibition project are explicit: to substantiate the potentiality of shared discourse with self selected audienceparticipants; evidence current practices that cherish less authoritarian transformations of public space; test the extent to which sustainable artist networks/constituencies are established, and; advocate interconnectivity in the production of artefacts and research practices focussing on abstraction/ materiality.


T h e town and its ga l l er y ven u e … Darlington, like all north-eastern towns, deal daily with the need to make choices about their strategic approach to sustain council provision across the full extent of its estate, workforce, service provision and civic architecture. For many local visitors to the exhibition the closure of Darlington Arts Centre (2012) represents an enduring source of disquiet as a forerunner for the pending closure of the Crown Street Library, confirmation of which awaits the outcome of a successful legal challenge achieved by local campaigners. The second judicial hearing is scheduled in the summer 2018. In November 2017 Darlington celebrated its legacy gift of Edwardian Heritage via the refurbishment of its Grade II listed Civic Theatre, renamed Darlington Hippodrome, by focusing their civic attention more emphatically into literary and performing arts. This smooth civic approach echo’s the signature vision adopted in other towns in the region - the refurbishment of the Forum Theatre Complex in Billingham in 2012 and the much anticipated Globe Theatre refurbishment in Stockton on Tees (circa 2019). A mere twelve miles northwest of Darlington ‘The Auckland Project’ confirms its partnership with a wealth of prestigious international institutes and galleries to substantiate its bold vision ‘to bring stuff to people – not take it from them’, a social foresight born of an envisioned regard for religion, ‘the beauty of holiness’ and its relation with the legacy of visual art, ‘the holiness of beauty’ identified as a perpetually evolving narrative for purposeful transformation. Imaginative change in towns large and small in the northeast is a joy to wonder.


C onversations wit h l oca l residents , visitors and g u ests ‌ The mixed audience of publics hosted at this exhibition were at liberty to make written comment about their viewing experience by completing a bespoke questionnaire and/or give their email contact to access further information about the painting work on show. Obligingly, the majority of visitors fully embraced the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions, many doing so with reassuring candour. Visitors - whether biddable, silent or forthright are valued for their willingness to engage with the work. It is understood that the notion of having spoken comments referenced in writing can be considered discourteous and the insistence for such is entirely inappropriate. In the same vein it is powerfully evident that a prerequisite for uninterrupted silence throughout is fully respected. Silent viewing in this regard is an act of social thinking that keeps on giving. The positive regard expressed for the gallery space and the library being an ‘open space for the free exchange of ideas’ was fully acknowledged across the entire visitor demographic and thereby affirms the seeds of a sophisticated sense of how social foresight might impact more imaginatively to better understand what the term public space evolves to exclude. The magnificence of art galleries to facilitate silent reflection is precious. The curating decision to focus on conversational exchange was unwavering and by being so helped facilitate a negotiating space where the perception of visitors and guests could be afforded eminence. This project argues that current painting is incomplete if hidden from the probing gaze of public scrutiny. The forensic curiosity of the public gaze is similarly incomplete if the opportunity to be invested with visual art is denied. Encounters such as this have innate dependencies and the contestations of this duologue gain nothing from being presumed. Unsurprisingly, the need for an artist exhibitor


to be on-site in the gallery throughout the duration of the exhibition is a core endeavour and the resultant manner of conversational exchange exemplifies the distinct sovereignty of public space. Visitors attending these sessions were invited to say how this exhibition work relates to their own thoughts about the audacity of current painting and/ or take the opportunity to share conversations about where their own ideas are reflected in the mix? Many visitors expressed thoughtful considerations about the arts and society, aptly contextualised by experientially reasoned concerns for a broad spectrum of local public services. Shared dialogue with repeat visitors, typically accompanied by a different member of their family or a supportive new friend, were enlivened by a nuanced critique of recent civic changes in the town (Darlington), the pending closure of this venue (Crown Street Gallery), and the threatened relocation of the adjacent Library (also in the Crown Street Building) to the rather whimsically named Dolphin Centre. The emotional investment of visitors, primarily those resident in the town, was heartfelt and forthright, particularly so when sharing their thoughts about the perceived acquiescence of local politicians to central government austerity policies, and, what appears to be the case to the majority of visitors, a significant diminution in local cultural provision. Hearing these convictions unmediated in real time from a ‘source of the town’s vitality’ denotes substance. Gallery visitors in their half term breaks from primary schools are joyously exciting. The role of artist host and observer/witness to grandparents, aunties and uncles with young and younger children close to hand is captivating. To a fault, the grown ups listened attentively as mentors to what the children had to say and keen to be guided through the mind and experience of each child to enhance their mutual imaginative play. The calm and compassionate attention given by the grown ups to the perceptive curiosity of each child is a source of unrelenting optimism.


Another surprise, although on reflection it seems counter intuitive to have assumed so, started out with a question posed by a memorably urbane visitor ‘Excuse me, how should I paint a river?’ - a salient utterance from a devotee of table top model making seeking practical advice about how to finish painting his ‘working’ model of a landscape. ‘I painted it blue but it still looks flat? We discussed the merit of using earth colours to represent the river bed and figuring how reflected sunlight might tell a story about the flow of water, perhaps even a couple of ‘bubbles’ along the way as the river ran its course between the shadows of overhanging trees? Maybe painting with liquid glue or varnish? ‘Yes’… and then, after another pause... ‘that sounds good…better than just using blue’. The smile as he left the gallery was a treat.


A rtist networ k s , st u dio practitioners and pro j ect gro u ps … Artist practitioners mutate seamlessly into the discrete roles set out above and would like to suppose the attributes and values of each ‘identity’ are sufficiently porous. Sometimes this carries other times not. ‘Conversations in Painting: if it fits in a Fiesta you’re in…’ in its least complex and most obvious manner wondered whether this current painting show would mutate? Reasonably well as things have evolved thus far? Subsequent ventures undertaken by each and all - individually, collectively or never again - will be the measure. It is understood that subsequent permutations will resist presumption. It seems to me that the process of writing is much the same as making a painting? A process of thought that starts out with the bones of intent and persistently pricks at the arriving flesh to detect then identify the resolved entity. Naming of type and genre might follow. Transforming an idea into a ‘thing’ cannot and does not occur in a vacuum. Monetarism in the UK in 1989 was a boom about to burst, a watershed moment that became a ‘thing’ in the wake of Perestroika, Glasnost, the Velvet Revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Solidarność in Poland and Tank Man in Tiananmen Square. Art making post 1989 is a narrative of the former west invested with a sharpened urgency by the breakdown of trust in the neo-liberal finance system in 2007 and the normalisation of austerity in the UK. The ecology of arts and culture as a sub-set of the creative arts (or vice versa) impacts the sustainability of ‘artist’ led groups, particularly those whose agency is focused on visual research in painting. This complexity is fascinating and certainly not new and the artist exhibitors into the project titled: Conversations in Painting: if it fits in a Fiesta you’re in…’ will undoubtedly continue to thrive.

Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form Foundation Student gallery visit with tutor Carol Sommer.


C o l l a b oration ,

I nc l u sion + C o m m it m ent to painting

Sarah Cooney


‘There is not ‘open access’. But the entry requirement is not one of economic

or social privilege. An art form such as painting is simply a field of experience 1 into which one has to be initiated’.

In his lecture ‘Painting per se’, Merlin James conceives of painting as a ‘field of experience’ into which one is initiated. Perceived barriers such as social and economical circumstances are irrelevant, he implies. Instead, he suggests, ‘open access’ is granted to those who have dedicated their time and loyalty and in doing so have developed a deep sense of connection to it. We can embrace painting from the position of a ‘practitioner’, an ‘amateur’ or simply as a ‘lover of painting’. 2 ‘One becomes a painter or one becomes a lover of painting. It takes profound familiarity with paintings and, for practitioners, with the act of painting. It takes absolute identification with the physical and cultivated practice of the mode. And you do pay a price, if only that you devote time and energy and emotional loyalty that you will then not be able to spend on other things. And if you begin to decide, within painting, what you believe are the important directions for painting now, and who are the important painters, you may have to say ‘no’ to other directions, other painters, painful as that may be. You will have to be against a lot painting, to be for other painting’. 3 As co curators of this project and painters ourselves we have made the choice within our respective practices and within this project to ‘specialise’ in painting. We have chosen to prioritise painting in an art world filled with a multitude of other equally worthy options, disciplines and media. A commitment to the pursuit of painting, as championed by Merlin James is thwarted, however, when there are obstacles to gaining access to it in the first place. Without opportunities to be exposed to painting it is impossible to develop any kind of appreciation and understanding of it.

Blake Lawson. Blue Painting. Year 5, St Bega’s RC Primary School. Painting workshops


Overall, Conversations in Painting has intended to create a forum to contemplate making contemporary painting practice a more inclusive experience. The very particular contextual framework underpinning approaches to practice here in Tees Valley means that the seeming denigration of medium specific values in favour of that, which is socially useful, is a theme we frequently find ourselves contending with. This has prompted the impetus on our part to further understand how visual arts practice is operating in Tees Valley, find meaningful ways of advocating for it and importantly to increase familiarity towards painting practice. Tees Valley is an area that is under represented in terms of contemporary visual art. Broadly speaking, this affects artists in terms of accessing professional networks and opportunities. It affects students and graduates in terms of them envisioning a future where it is a viable option to stay and establish their practices in the area. For school children there is inconsistency in levels of provision as creative subjects are squeezed from the curriculum. For the wider community it means fewer opportunities to visit exhibitions and engage with art making generally. Through the project we were keen to build upon the momentum and legacy following the inaugural Middlesbrough Art Weekender in 2017. In addition emerging plans for Tees Valley to bid to become UK City of Culture 2025 have brought to light a series of recommendations that begin to explore and address areas within the local cultural landscape requiring attention. Social inclusion is one clear aim as is the ambition for the area to become ‘a place of choice’ for artists to call home 4. The likelihood of achieving success in these areas is improved through the implementation of sufficient infrastructure for creative practitioners in terms of support, networks, opportunities that might currently be lacking. In order to better align with future plans we wanted to be purposeful in our approach to working with others. It is also significant that all of the artists invited to show work in the exhibition sustain a connection with

Emma Lawson. Parent participant, St Bega’s RC Primary School. Painting workshops


the area, whether they were born here, are professionally based here or have taught or studied here. A key theme emerging from the project has been concerned with the value of DIY artist led activity. We have worked closely with independent curator Kerry Harker whose current PhD research focuses on artist led initiatives. This aspect of the project has offered insights into artist led trajectories and their potential to intersect with cultural policy, social agendas etc. We wanted to ensure that as far as possible outcomes of the project would have reciprocal benefits for those involved. In this respect it has been important for us to embrace partnership working and we have fostered relationships with Tees Valley based galleries and Artist led spaces as well as with schools, sixth forms and community groups. In doing so our intention has been to cultivate engagement with a cross section of art and non-art audiences. The project brings an additional aim of establishing a hub and network for supporting painting practitioners. From the outset we adopted a collaborative attitude towards working with artists. As curators we were not prescriptive in selecting work for the exhibition at Crown Street Art Gallery instead offering the artists the option of bringing two or three works that we could make a selection from on installation day. In some ways the process of making an exhibition mirrors the process of making a painting. What is needed? What needs to be taken away? Dialogues emerged between works and between us, allowing for the unexpected to occur. In the spirit of collaboration decisions were made together in the space in relation to the particularities of place and context. Embedding painting within everyday experience would seem a desirable strategy for opening up access and prompting dialogue. Berlin based writer and critic Jan Verwoert applies the notion of adjacency to emphasise paintings’ relation to spaces existing beside it, domestic or social space for example.


An example he gives is of the approach of the painter Mary Heilmann who has in recent years made a series of colourful sculptural chairs to accompany her exhibitions, devised to create conditions conducive to viewers spending longer in the gallery looking at the work. For Verwoert, painting here is operating as a parallel practice; running alongside other spaces we occupy in our day-to-day lives and conveying the idea that the exhibition space is neither entirely public nor entirely private. The space of the studio exists next to living space. By bringing in chairs, the studio is recreated in the gallery, reflecting a 5 ‘salon’ type space, a space into which you invite guests. This concept of hosting and the painting/canvas being a threshold between private and public space is something Verwoert further affirms through an example he goes on to give of a painting by Silke Otto -Knapp. The painting in question is ‘Interior (Purple and Red’) 2009-10 in which Otto Knapp references the artist Florine Stettheimer who was famous for hosting salons (attended by figures such as Marcel Duchamp and Georgia O’Keeffe) in her New York apartment during the 1910s and 20s. The interior of Stettheimer’s apartment depicted by Otto-Knapp shows a living space and studio space divided by thin curtain and a large painting suspended in the foreground. Here, Verwoert deduces, the painting becomes a space of hosting. Hosting the social activity that takes place in front of it, the painting is no longer thought of as a ‘surface of depiction’ but rather ‘a social stage’. 6 Verwoert’s notion of hosting is something we have found an affinity with as we sought to welcome guests and participants, put people at ease and promote opportunities to encounter painting and for informal discussion to take place. Throughout the duration of the exhibition at Crown Street Art Gallery we ‘hosted’ a number of groups including students from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form and it was for some their very first experience of visiting an exhibition. We hosted an organised visit from Create Darlington, a group of young care leavers working with Creative Learning North East and Darlington Council.

Deb Covell, Station 6


Again, the visit facilitated an introduction to a gallery setting, and we later learned that one of the young people made a return visit to the gallery independently. Similarly in offsite sessions at St Bega’s Primary School in Hartlepool where provision of art activity is often sidelined, increasing familiarity with painting practice has been paramount. We ran a series of after school workshops providing opportunities for both pupils and their parents to make their own artworks and be given an introduction to contemporary art. Through the sessions we encouraged autonomy in both making paintings and in interpreting the work of others.

Rineke Dijkstra’s video work, ‘I See a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman)’ 2009 became a starting point when planning workshop sessions. The piece was commissioned by Tate Liverpool as an outcome of work the artist had previously undertaken with the gallery’s local communities and records a group of local primary school children responding to the Picasso painting Weeping Woman (1937), which is set up off camera. The video documents a prolonged viewing of the painting by the children. At first the group tentatively begin to make simple observations but as they continue to look, these evolve into more detailed descriptions. As they respond to each other’s remarks their conversation deepens and a candid, insightful and often humorous discussion ensues. The work is revealing in that it demonstrates the importance of the children being given space to encounter painting and through their perceptive and moving interpretations an opportunity to discover and articulate for themselves what painting can be. For us the work presented a lesson in good practice in terms of engaging an audience of young children who had limited prior experience of being in a gallery and looking at paintings and these are principles we have aspired to implement across our workshop groups with young people. Ultimately the curatorial intent behind Conversations in Painting, as the name

Gordon Dalton Somewhere Over There


suggests, has been to open up a ‘conversation’ between artists and the public around contemporary painting practice. But perhaps the artist Gordon Dalton when writing about his own work better sums it up. He states: ‘Importantly, they are about painting. (The) work asks the viewer to look longer and harder at what painting is, and why it continues to be curious and 7 fascinating’.

References 1 Painting per se’ talk by Merlin James, Alex Katz Chair in Painting Cooper Union Great Hall, New York, 28th February 2002 http://www.mummeryschnelle.com/pdf/Paintingperse.pdf accessed 10/1/18 2 ibid 3 ibid 4 Tees Valley Culture Task and Finish Group Final Report, 2015 www.onedarlington.org. uk/media/1025/task-finish-combined-report-14-7-15.docx accessed 10/1/18 5 ‘Painting in the Present Tense’, Painter Painter opening day talk, Walker Art Center, 6/2/13 https://walkerart.org/magazine/opening-day-talk-painting-in-the-present-tens accessed 10/1/18 7 ibid 8 Gordon Dalton Artist Statement www.conversationsinpainting.co.uk accessed 10/1/18


A rtist

E x h i b itors :


sara h

COONEY

​ rianne A 2017 Oil on canvas 40 x 30 cm

Empress 2017 Oil on canvas 60 x 72 cm

Arthur 2017 Oil on canvas 40 x 30 cm


Sarah Cooney (b.1982 Stockton-on-Tees) completed her MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London in 2008. Selected exhibitions include: ‘Colour Code’, Cupola Gallery, Sheffield (2017), ‘Making a Scene’, NN Contemporary Art Project Space, Northampton (2016), ‘The Trouble with Painting Today’ (curated by Hannah Conroy), Pump House Gallery London (2014), ‘Painting Parade’, LeandaKateLouise, London, (2013), ‘Copy’, (curated by Sarah Kate Wilson) Paper Gallery, Manchester, (2013), ‘Dialogues 10th International Biennial of Contemporary Art, St Petersburg, Russia, (2011), Pretty Deep (inside your head), The Royal Standard, Liverpool (2009), ‘Pale Blue and Green’ (two person show with Jess Flood-Paddock), Permanent Gallery, Brighton (2009), Winter Salon, Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin (2008).


DEB

C ove l l

Station 6 2017 Acrylic paint skin wrapped around an MDF panel 69 x 69 cm

New Cross 2017 Acrylic paint skin wrapped around an MDF panel 74 x 74 cm

Tight-fit 2016 Acrylic Paint 27 x 12 x 7 cm


Deb Covell (b.1966, Stockton on Tees) lives and works in Teesside and is represented by Gray Contemporary USA. She received her BA in Fine Art from Liverpool Polytechnic (1989) and her MA in Fine Art from University of East London (2002). Recent solo and group exhibitions include: Eccentric Geometric, Arthouse 1, London, 2017; Bauhaus Babies, Odetta Gallery, New York (2017); Here and Now, Object /A, Manchester, 2016; Real Lines, Gray Contemporary , Houston, USA, 2016; The Fold, Blyth Gallery, London, 2016; We Insist, Biennale of Non Objective Art, Grenoble, France, 2015; Fall of the Rebel Angels, Riva Dei Sette Martiri, 55th Venice Biennale 2015;Sha Boogie Bop, Anonymous Gallery, New York (2014); Real Painting, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, 2015; From Nowt to Summat, MIMA, Middlesbrough (2014); Absolute Zero, PS2, MIMA , Middlesbrough (2014); Zero, Untitled Gallery, Manchester (2013); North South Divine, WW Gallery, London (2013); This That and the Other, Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough (2012); Forthcoming exhibitions include New Modern , Saturation Point Projects, London, 2017, 0/1 KNO, Mala Gallery,National Art Museum Complex, Ukraine 2017 and Painting Black, Wilhelm Morgner Museum, Germany, 2017. She was a finalist in the 2014 Aesthetica Art Prize and her works are held in private and public collections including the MIMA Collection, Middlesbrough.


gordon da lton

Will The Night Last Forever? 2017 Acrylic on canvas 150 x 120 cm

Somewhere Over There 2017 Acrylic on canvas 30 x 20 cm


Gordon Dalton (b. Middlesbrough 1970) lives in Cardiff. Solo shows include Trade Gallery, Nottingham; Bay Art, Cardiff; Bank Gallery, LA; Motorcade Flash Parade, Bristol; Keith Talent, London; Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (with S Mark Gubb). Group shows include Newlyn Art Gallery & Exchange; MIMA, Middlesbrough; Del Infinito Gallery, Buenos Aires; Transition Galley, London; Syson, Nottingham, JirSandel, Copenhagen; Chapter, Cardiff; Arcade, London; CAC, Vilnius; Moravian Gallery, Brno; NGCA, Sunderland; Cynthia Broan, New York.His work was recently selected for Contemporary British Painting Prize; Beep Wales Open, Swansea; Quay Arts Open, Isle of Wight; Exeter Contemporary Art Open; Bankley Open, Manchester and Y Lle Celf National Eisteddfod. Current and upcoming shows include Stiwdio, Bay Art, Cardiff; We Are The Ones, Carlsberg City Gallery, Copenhagen; Manchester Contemporary Art Fair.He is represented by LLE Gallery http://llegallery.com/


phil

gaten b y

The Curious Case of Disallowance I 2017 Oil on canvas 130 x 100 cm

The Curious Case of Disallowance II 2017 Oil on linen 120 x 100 cm


Phil Gatenby (b. Stockton on Tees) completed the MA Fine Art course at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1990 and retired from his appointment as Head of Fine Art at Teesside University in 2014. Selected exhibitions include: Crossing Borders (installation) Felix the Gallery, Middlesbrough Art Weekender (2017), AIR Residency Exhibition, Das Spectrum, Utrecht, Netherlands (2016) White Noise, Installation, Circulation Recording Studios, Darlington (2001), Rivers Bed, Live-stock.ram/fm web-cast and radio project‚ ARC, Stockton on Tees (2000), Open Art, ‘Against’ acrylic paint and plastic text, Middlesbrough Art Gallery (1995), Open Art, ’Measured and Exposed‚’ digital print, Middlesbrough Art Gallery (1994), Northern Open, London Group, Royal College of Art (1984), Sunderland Arts Centre & Touring Exhibition, Sunderland (1983), London Group, South East London Art Gallery (1981), London Group, Camden Arts Centre (1977) and New Contemporaries, Royal Academy (1977).


re m y

ne u m ann

Theatre of Transformation 2017 Charcoal, nails, oil and oilstick on canvas 203 x 150 cm

Study with Skull and Sprouts 2016 House-paint, spray-paint and oil on ceramic tile 25 x 20 cm


Remy Neumann is a painter born in Geleen, Netherlands. He currently lives and works in s’ Hertogenbosch. He studied art at AKV St. Joost in s’ Hertogenbosch where he graduated for his BFA in 2012. His work concentrates around theme’s concerning transformation and various forms of growth and decay. In his paintings he combines everyday-materials with oil-paint to complement the content of his imagery. Inspirations are the cycle of life and alchemy. Remy participated in various group exhibitions in the Netherlands and Belgium and was artist-in-residence in Ghent, Utrecht and Leipzig. His work is part of the collection of the Luciano Benetton foundation and various private collections in the Netherlands.


a l icia pa z

Amazonas 2015 Mixed media on canvas 200 x 160 cm

Madama Butterfly 2013 Mixed media on plywood on powder-coated steel base 117 x 71 x 40 cm


Alicia Paz has had several solo exhibitions in the UK, France, Germany, Mexico, and Argentina, most recently at Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, Germany (20152016). This exhibition was accompanied by a 96-page bilingual monograph published by Verlag für Moderne Kunst, Vienna Other solo projects include an exhibit at Dukan Gallery in Leipzig (2014) and at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Paris (2013). A semi-retrospective exhibit of her work was featured in L.A.C. Sigéan in collaboration with FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon, as part of the regional biennial titled Casanova Forever (2010). Paz has participated in various international painting survey exhibits such as Slow Magic, Contemporary Approaches to Painting at the Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool (2009) as well as Heute. Spektrum. Malerei. at Kunstmuseum Magdeburg (2012). Her work was included in the notable group exhibit Tous, des sangmêlés, recently held at MACVAL, Vitry-sur-Seine, France (2017). Earlier solo presentations include Drawing Now Paris at the Carrousel du Louvre with Galerie Dukan & Hourdequin (2012), as well as Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2006) and Ruth Benzacar Gallery in Buenos Aires (2005).


P ane l S cenario 0 1 : P ainting : po l itics , practice and

pedagog y

Crown Street Art Gallery, Darlington Thursday 2 November 2017, 6.00-8.00 pm Panel speakers: Kerry Harker (Chair and Independent Curator), Stephen Snoddy (Director, The New Art Gallery Walsall), Tony Charles (Artist and Director, Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough), Alicia Paz (Artist) and Gordon Dalton (Artist). This panel will respond directly to the key concerns of current practitioners: ‘What is learned through the artistic strategies of autonomy and collectivism on show in this exhibition and what does this tell us about their relation with radical pedagogy and the practice of painting in the Tees Valley?’


P ane l S cenario 0 2 : T h e P otentia l of P oint l essness : painting b etween p l a y and prag m atis m

Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough Thursday 16 November 2017, 6.00-8.00 pm Panel speakers: Kerry Harker (Chair and Independent Curator), Dr Jonathan Chapman (Programme Leader, Fine Art CCAD), Paul Stewart (Artist and Lead Curator, Middlesbrough Art Weekender), Phil Gatenby (Artist and Curator) and Sarah Cooney (Artist and Curator). The panel invites consideration of a primary project concern: ‘If gaining consent to engage with painting is ‘tricky’, under what conditions has the Tees Valley nurtured a thriving and unstoppable collective practice, re-energised in its progressive development to imagine more playful and less brutalizing futures in the face of an externally imposed focus on functionality’?


P ane l S cenario 0 3 : ‘ Painting , p l ace and eco l og y

The Auxiliary, Stockton-on-Tees Monday 4 December 2017, 6.00-8.00 pm Panel speakers: Kerry Harker (Chair and Independent Curator), Kevin Hunt (Artist and Independent Curator), Keren Pearson (Director, The House of Blah Blah) and Paul Stewart (Artist and Lead Curator, Middlesbrough Art Weekender). ‘Conversations in Painting… take inspiration from the singularity of expertise relating to painting in the Tees Valley. Within this ecology, the seemingly distanced evolution of artist-led initiatives and studio groups rethink the meaning of social architecture to repurpose urban space for the exchange of knowledge, expertise and skills in cultural production. This panel will focus on how artist-led activity enables an engagement with painting, in all its evolving guises.’


A ppendi x


M u t u a l it y and consent… Understanding more about the notion of consent and mutuality through the lens of cultural capital and the evolving manner of its co-dependencies has compelling urgency. During the exhibition two hundred and eight comments were given in response to the bespoke questions posed. A sample of the verbatim response is detailed below: Q1: Do you think paintings work best when they are aesthetically beautiful? A: Makes them nicer to view but doesn’t change the experience. A: No. I think it’s nice to find meanings in paintings, especially paintings not pleasing to the eye. A: Not necessarily. I think if they are interesting and hold your eye or are unusual it makes the work good. A: Sometimes. It depends on the subject and what its about. A: No. Every painting should be beautiful in a different way. A: No. The ones that are ugly have more character. Q2: Do you prefer portrait, landscape or non-representational (abstract) painting? A: Non-representative but associative. A: Mostly abstract though enjoy most forms. A: If it’s interesting I like any painting type. A: Personally I prefer portraits and landscapes. A: I appreciate any and all …depends on the piece. A: Wide range of interests. Q3: Do the paintings shown seem old fashioned – seen it all before – or offer something new? A: It connects to the past but speaks to now. A: Just contemporary.


A: Not sure. A: I think a work should invite me to think. I believe I am looking for some kind of satisfaction irrespective of style. A: No, I think there is a good variety of work and some very new to me. A: Definitely not old fashioned. Q4: Do you think painting has a role to play in the way we live now? A: Absolutely, the world is evolving, so why shouldn’t art? A: Yes, to encourage conversation. A: All art has a place. A: Definitely. I think art gives an expression of the time we’re living in and is always progressing in different ways. A: Yes, I think they reflect the time. A: Yes because they bring new meanings.

Twenty-four additional comments were given in answer to the question posed on the feedback sheet made available in the gallery for visitors to leave their email contact. The verbatim response recorded on one day, Wednesday 8th November, is detailed below: Q: Are the paintings interesting to you? A: Impressive A: Interesting and different A: I love this gallery (handy) A: Save Crown Street Library! A: Conversations on the 28th October, my first visit, got me thinking about art and life. Visiting Schwitters Merzbau this week – info via a-n Artist Newsletter. Thanks A: Dead conversation


A c k now l edge m ents


This artist led project appreciates the support of key funders: Arts Council England (GfA Award) and Darlington Borough Council, and partner support from: Creative Darlington, Navigator North, Platform A Gallery, The House of Blah, Blah and The Auxiliary. Special thanks to Tony Charles, Stephen Snoddy, Dr Jonathan Chapman, Paul Stewart, Keren Pearson, Kevin Hunt, Stephen Wiper, Nicola Golightly, Vicky Holbrough, Gemma Tierney, KA Bird, Anna Bryne, Liam Slevin, Carol Sommer and Foundation and Sixth Form Students from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form, Mike Cooney, Rebecca Docherty, Creative Learning North East and the Create Darlington Project participants. Photo Credits Exhibition work, gallery and preview event photographs: Jules Lister. Panel events and workshop sessions with guests: Phil Gatenby, Liam Slevin and Gemma Tierney. Project Typeface : Avenir Next Regular & Bold (10pt - 36pt) Selected Paper Stock : GF Smith, Gmund Bier 250gsm


www.conversationsinpainting.co.uk conversationsinpainting@gmail.com Facebook www.facebook.com/conversationsinpainting Twitter @convos_painting Instagram @conversationsinpainting


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Conversations in Painting...If it fits in a Fiesta you're in.  

Conversations in Painting...If it fits in a Fiesta you're in. Publication 2018 Design by Nicola Golightly www.nicolagolightly.co.uk

Conversations in Painting...If it fits in a Fiesta you're in.  

Conversations in Painting...If it fits in a Fiesta you're in. Publication 2018 Design by Nicola Golightly www.nicolagolightly.co.uk

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