Navigator North Work & Play Final Document

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& WORK PLAY 2013

& WORK PLAY 2013

NAVIGATOR NORTH Exploring connections between artists, spaces and audiences

We initiate activities to raise public awareness of artists, artworks and creative practice, stimulating dialogue, interaction and engagement between artists and the public. This is done through participatory events, performances, exhibitions, and residencies in publicly accessible spaces including and prioritising non-arts spaces, where artists can both show and create work. Amongst our aims we seek to offer artists the opportunity to produce work, curated to specific themes that engage with non-arts audiences as well as those interested in the arts through non-conventional exhibition channels, encouraging the widest possible audience for the work.

work & PLAY The Work & Play programme is inspired by the social and work-related history of our current Dundas site, in the centre of Middlesbrough. It was previously home to the town’s Winter Gardens, founded by Lady Florence Bell in 1907, as an attempt to tackle one of the social problems which worried the Edwardian middle classes - the ‘improvident use of leisure time, by working class people’(1). The Winter Gardens stood on this site up until 1963, to then be replaced with a large office block, shopping arcade and car park. This office block, Dundas House, currently houses project, exhibition and events spaces, as well as artists’ studios. Use of this and other temporary spaces is possible through a partnership with East Street Arts. Work & Play included a series of artist-led events, artist residencies, exhibitions, workshops and an AV Space. Artists working across Tees Valley have been supported in developing their practice through a small grants scheme, enabling them to realise specific projects or explore ideas relating to Work & Play. Professional development sessions offered knowledge and practical skills development to artists across the region.

1. Extract from Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society Booklet 46, The People’s Winter Garden Middlesbrough by JJ Turner

REVIEW of Work & PLAY by Emma Osbourn

Navigator North are Vicky Holbrough, James Lowther, and Nicola Parkin; they formed in 2010 with a common desire to support artists, use unused spaces and initiate public facing works of art. Work and Play is the first programme that connects these three strands, and explores what work and play mean to us today. The theme of this programme was inspired by the history of the site of Dundas House. The building that once stood on the site, Middlesbrough Winter Gardens, were designed to provide a place of leisure for ‘the worker, his wife and friends’(1). It was at the time described as ‘one of the most hopeful social experiments now being tried in England’(2).

1. The Book of Middlesbrough, Norman Moorsom 2. Quote from Government Minister visiting the Gardens, Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society Booklet 46, The People’s Winter Garden Middlesbrough by JJ Turner Image (Left) English Heritage Blue Plaque on Dundas Mews, Middlesbrough

At Dundas House we climb the flights of stairs through a corporate building. We are led out onto the roof. The view of Middlesbrough is expansive. The hills are in the distance but they are cut through with a swath of industry. It then becomes clear how important leisure time must have been. From a similar ideological stance the factory at Lingfield Point in Darlington was built in the 1950s. It was the Paton & Baldwin yarn factory. There were many social events, dances, carnivals, plays, sports days, tennis courts; formal gardens, even allotments were part of the factory grounds. The site even boasted its own train and generated its own electricity. This great experiment had very positive outcomes; former workers remember the family atmosphere. Unfortunately due to the trend away from home knitting in the 1970s the factory closed down. The site is currently undergoing regeneration and hosted the successful Festival of Thrift in September 2013. James Paterson was artist in residence at the site. One of the first surfaces that Paterson drew on, as a boy, were off-cuts of card that his Grandmother brought home from the factory. This familial connection was one of the motivating factors in the devising of the residency. Paterson’s successful practice is generally commission based, leaving little time to experiment or play. The residency, says Paterson, has invigorated his work. When the necessity to make a finished piece was removed from the process, the nature of the work changed completely.

His ‘finished’ piece is like a giant sketchbook, an open narrative. The canvas suggests the feeling of a working factory. The image is predominately monotone, with the slightly blurred qualities of old photographs. It also features the colours of cine film, saturated reds and blues. The lines that run across the piece evoke a sense of wool running through machinery. As Paterson says “it is like a diagram of the factory”. In previous work he made use of advertising imagery, in the future he will be able to add much more of a sense of the worker, the people behind the products.

As part of Work and Play, Sara Cooper proposed a short residency at the Dorman Museum, specifically working with the Thomas Hudson Nelson Collection, a Victorian collection of eggs and nests. The circumstances leading to her proposal were a patchwork of coincidences, including finding some plates of eggs from a book from the period and familial connections with the coast. Cooper has used her residency to examine the practice of drawing in all its forms, using drawing in its widest sense, from mark making with pencil and paint to the use of carbon paper and printmaking techniques to capture the frozen yet ephemeral nature of the nests and eggs. Being in the gallery drawing has encouraged members of the public to come and speak to her and share their recollections about the Museum and memories of childhood activities. It has created space in which both she and visitors can both engage. The theme of the project is also borne out in the labour of the birds. It has launched many ideas for the future, from using digital technologies to record the building of nests, to the possible development of a series of commercial paints that emulate the blues, greys and green of the eggs.

In two locations, Dundas Arcade and Dundas House, Callum Whitley staged an installation, ‘The general public’s unfamiliarity with human anatomy and physiology’. It is staged as if they were part of the detritus that had been left behind. There are four small monitors, whose imagery flickers in my peripheral vision. It is obscured so that nothing can actually be perceived, but there is the feeling that it can almost be recognised. This is in stark contrast to Paterson’s piece that was an almost legible narrative, which was very much about place and remembrance. This piece is very much about a moment and the present. After the show, this piece will no longer exist. But for now it is the here and now, frozen in time. The dynamics of imagery and object beguile the viewer. One solitary fluorescent strip light mirrors the flickering and intensifies the sense of emptiness. In the studio space the second part of the installation consist of an enigmatic assemblage of clay and a television screen, technologies juxtaposed. Studio Holder at Dundas House, Sophie McIntosh explored the theme of Overworked. She has encouraged artists to print and overprint on each other’s work, playing with the idea of sole author and exclusivity of product. Also at Dundas House, Roberto Picciau and Scott Marks have subsidised studio spaces as part of the project. They are grappling with the issues that define practice after university, art practice in the larger context of the world of work, as versus the world of pedagogy.

Picciau’s piece ‘Alter Set Column’ is cast from Plaster of Paris with pigment introduced in layers. However it is not static, as Picciau has discovered that the pigment moves in the piece and responds to atmospheric conditions. The piece is monolithic, but still of a very human scale. It is changing and even crumbling as time passes. The sculpture and the structure of its fabrication are displayed in tandem, the one piece generated from the other. Picciau had not considered that the apparatus of the construction could also be part of the work, but this is the benefit of the shared studio space, discourse allows ideas to be explored from different perspectives. The wooden supports allude to the work; their bands of faded colour mirror the layers of the plaster piece, referring back to process and the theme of Work and Play. Marks’ piece, ‘Untitled’ is an almost-optical-illusion, a found piece of foam has been soaked in plaster, then filled very skilfully with car body filler, so that the surface is practically smooth. It has become everything that foam is not, and even the soft, textural surface of the foam has been smoothed to a flat, hard solid. Marks refers to this as a “modern day working class craft”. In his process he uses this, in combination with a twist of incongruity, or satire as he describes it, to produce works that are constructed impossibility. Gravity has caused the foam to slump, but this moment is now frozen in time; this piece is an articulation of process, subtly playing with the theme.

As I sit on the train on my way home, I reflect that the themes of work and play, leisure and toil have defined this area. Navigator North have taken these themes and reframed them in the context of artist, space, production, and community. The project has created a space for experimentation and thought. It has also allowed the public to have an insight into that process. So much art making is done away from the public sphere; it is projects like Work and Play that create a safe place for the artist to create and show work and for the public to view it. These are the spaces that create understanding. The full version of this piece was first published on Interface 05/12/2013 as the result of a Critical Writing Bursary provided to a-n by Navigator North


Professional development within Work & Play was delivered through two strands. Alongside individually supporting the Small Grants artists, we worked in partnership with a-n the Artists Information Company to deliver 3 days of professional development for artists. The content of the sessions were informed by the needs of our studio holders and the successful applicants to our small grants scheme. The sessions were also open to artists working across Tees Valley and those who were East Street Arts members. Dodge the Shredder was delivered by artist, writer and broadcaster Emilia Telese. The session gave artists the skills to fundraise effectively and create a financial strategy for their practice. Artist, writer and critic Jack Hutchinson delivered a session exploring how artists can use social media to support their practice with WeDidThis founder and producer Hen Norton helping artists understand the principles and potential of Crowdfunding.

The final session was delivered by Manchester based arts organisation The International 3. They looked at the ecology of the art world from the artist-led space to international art fairs and identified strategies for approaching galleries and curators. 59 artists took up places on the sessions, with the majority based in the North East of England. All were interested in attending further sessions particularly with a focus around developing collaborations with other artists and exhibiting artwork. ‘It was really useful to place my own practice within the wider context of contemporary art practice’ “It was interesting to find out about profiling my work; linking with other practitioner networks; artist-led critiques of work.” Feedback from participants


Utilising vacant shops and spaces within Dundas Arcade, the AV space offered visitors to one of Middlesbrough’s indoor shopping areas a taste of national and regional film based art works. Approximately 32000 people saw the works shown in the AV space, where each work was shown to a constantly changing audience. Programmed to grab the attention of passers-by, it enhanced and increased the diversity of visual arts in the area. The programmed film-based artworks were from both national and regional artists and film makers, loaned from the mima collection. Featured artists included Andrew MacDonald, John Wood and Paul Harrison.

DARLINGTON RESIDENCY This residency at the former site of wool manufacturers Paton & Baldwins - Lingfield Point in Darlington is part of Navigator North’s ongoing interest in alternative spaces and creating opportunities for artists to access and respond to sites of interest. Darlington based artist James Paterson undertook a three month research period at Lingfield Point, which culminated in an exhibition showing a new piece of work as well as previous knitting pattern inspired paintings. James’ practice is inspired by everyday objects, adverts and popular icons and the focus of this residency centered around the social aspects of factory life during its heyday as Patons & Baldwins. The final show of work took place during the first ever Festival of Thrift in September 2013, curated by Wayne and Gerardine Hemmingway and was seen by over 25,000 visitors.

Artist Talk and exhibitions of works at Lingfield Point, Darlington


Through the small grants scheme 8 artists received funding, workspace and support to develop their artistic practice and deliver workshops and events. This was offered alongside a tailored programme of professional development workshops to support future activity and develop professionalism within the arts in the region.

action research Sara Cooper researched the history of the Nelson Collection of birds, nests and eggs with a view to setting up an artist residency programme with the Dorman Museum. “I’ve become interested in the repetition of the act of gathering the eggs and birds (work) and the act of curating and displaying the collection (play). I’m beginning to learn more about TH Nelson the collector, and the significance of the collection to the region and visitors, and the impact of ‘collecting’ on local and national ecology. Spending time in the space - sitting drawing, making notes – I’ve been surprised how many visitors have stopped to tell me about their memories and regard for the Nelson Room and the collection. I’ve documented and transcribed some of the conversations and discovered that the Collection is a favourite of regular visitors, ‘treasured’ by generations. Staff have been very generous in sharing their time, knowledge and enthusiasm and it’s been extremely valuable to be granted access to the objects and be in close proximity for drawing and research. I’ve been able to interact with the public and the collection, which has allowed me to develop ideas for new sculptural work and explore art as a tool for engagement within the Museum.” Sara Cooper

ROBERTO PICCIAU Middlesbrough based artist Roberto Picciau’s work explores the appropriation of visual imagery and the artists object. Roberto was awarded a small grant to support the development of his artistic practice, explore new ways of working and test out new materials. Roberto used various processes and methods including casting, pigmentation of plaster of paris and the subsequent effect of atmospheric conditions on the sculptures. This resulted in a one night exhibition in the Coup project space, on the roof of Dundas House as well as being shown during an Open Studio event and a group show within an empty shop in Dundas Arcade. Benefiting from shared studio space in Dundas House and the opportunity for critical discourse has allowed Roberto to explore ideas from different perspectives. ‘A great opportunity to experiment – an unknown territory, the direction of my practice has changed’ Roberto Picciau

SCOTT MARKS Teesside University graduate Scott Marks used his Work & Play small grant to develop new work for his first exhibition since graduating. His work explores the historical relevance of sculpture with each work described as a vessel for conversation, contextualised in the present tense and enriched by the viewer’s own knowledge. Scott has experimented with found objects and manipulating them. Through this research he has explored form, surface and the edge. The final works were exhibited at Gilkes Street Gallery, Middlesbrough.


Callum Whitley was awarded a small grant to develop and produce two mixed media installations exploring gesture, decision, work and play. Having the benefit of an extended studio space has allowed Callum to experiment further with his creative practice and the viewers’ experience of his work. The two pieces ‘The general public’s unfamiliarity with human anatomy and physiology’ and ‘If mirrors could speak (self-image)’ were shown during October 2013 in both Callum’s studio space within Dundas House and in a temporary exhibition space in Dundas Arcade.

the switch off campaign This campaign was led by artists Paul Theo Murray and Becki Harper with the aim of encouraging people to ‘switch off’ from the pressures of work and take time to relax and do something more creative. Both free and bookable workshops, such as bookbinding and printmaking took place in the Switch Off! hub based in Dundas Arcade, Middlesbrough during lunchtimes and after work. This ran alongside an exhibition of works on paper submitted by artists and the general public responding to the idea of making mock propaganda around the Switch Off! theme. Visitors to the hub found themselves in a friendly relaxed space, where they could chat to the person next to them, have a cup of tea and a slice of cake, share what they’d made and even learn something new to explore further in their own time. “It was great to be able to take time away from working to enter a creative space and do different activities. I absolutely loved it and came back for a few sessions” Workshop Participant

crosscrit Led by Daniel Paul Slater, the Cross Crit sessions aimed to align the creative communities of Middlesbrough through a number of studio based critiques. Critical and constructive feedback during the sessions nurtured the development of ideas and working practice amongst Teesside’s studio based artists. Artists from studios at Dundas House - Navigator North, Gilkes Street and Platform Arts took part in the sessions focussing on two artists per session, encouraging subjective interpretation of each artist’s work in progress. This assembly of artists included those at various stages of their career and creative practice, supporting valuable peer networking and information sharing. Through reflection, critical thinking and articulation in a supportive environment the artists involved have continued beyond these sessions to form an online social media forum for further exchange and interaction.

overworked As part of her ongoing screenprinting practice, graphic designer Sophie McIntosh initiated a series of experimental screenprinting sessions within The Print Room – a printmaking facility based in Dundas House. “Artists can be very precious about their work and sometimes become engrossed in the fine detail. Learning a new skill can often allow an artist to work more freely and experiment with the new medium. The idea behind ‘Overworked’ is a spring board for risk taking during image making.” Sophie McIntosh

During the sessions, artists were encouraged to consider what Work & Play meant to them during the first stages of image making. This unfinished work was then passed on to the next artist to complete – thereby overworking ideas and imagery. The resulting works formed part of a screenprinting exhibition held at Crown Street Gallery, Darlington.

OPEN STUDIOS On Saturday 19th October 2013 Dundas House opened it’s doors to the public. Through Middlesbrough Council’s Discover Middlesbrough Event Programme and East Street Arts’ National Open Studios it attracted visitors from far and wide. The event included roof top tours, print making activities, animation workshops, along with artists opening their studios for people to come and have a chat with them to find out about what they do. The Work & Play artists were able to showcase their work during the event. With 150 visitors to the Open Studios Event, it is without doubt that the event was a real success. We hope to build on this and are looking to run further interesting and intriguing Open Studio Events. “A behind the scenes tour of Dundas House in Middlesbrough - wow. I especially enjoyed the roof top tour. It’s not often you get the opportunity to see a 360 degree view of Teesside!” Visitor to Open Studios

REFLECTIONS ON WORK & PLAY The Work & Play programme is the latest and to date, the most significant piece of work devised and delivered by Navigator North. It has been a journey which has galvanised us to focus on specific strands of activity which support our aims. This will enable us to; support artists develop their creative and professional practice, show work to new and existing audiences, build on our interests in ‘place’ and using unconventional or non-arts spaces for work and showcase opportunities. The origin of Work & Play came about from the discovery that Dundas House now stands where Middlesbrough Winter Gardens once did in the centre of Middlesbrough. This peaked our interest and led us to research this attempt to tackle some of the social problems of the time around the discourse between work and non-work activity which once were, and still are, a part of most people’s lives.

Through our programme, artists and audiences are asked to consider what Work & Play means to them, whether they made a direct connection to sites such as Dundas House and Lingfield Point and the associated social or work-related history of that site or a broader more abstract interpretation. Over 67,000 people including artists, participants and audiences engaged with the Work & Play programme over a 12 month period in 2013/2014. The artists we have worked with during this time have been at varying stages in their careers, with some developing their own practice through Work & Play and others developing a more participatory or socially engaged practice. Feedback from the artists involved with the programme has indicated that support in terms of actual funding, professional development opportunities and additional support has been significant in terms of their development as artists. The Work & Play programme included professional and organisational development for Navigator North too - with a series of sessions with Culture Partners to look at how

Navigator North might grow and move forward. The programme also enabled us to learn new skills ourselves, in website design and creation, which has since enabled us to reach wider audiences. Through Work & Play we have had the pleasure of seeing positive impacts on both practice and careers of the artists involved as well as opening up creative activity to a wider public audience. We are still interested in the concepts around Work & Play and specifically Middlesbrough Winter Gardens and future activity will aim to further explore this. We would like to thank all the artists, participants and audiences involved in Work & Play. Special thanks to Culture Partners, Emma Osbourn, a-n The Artist Information Company and the programme funders which included Arts Council England, East Street Arts and mima – Visual Arts Network.

James, Nicola & Vicky Navigator North

Photographic Credit Photographs taken at Open Studios, CrossCrit and Sara Cooper’s workshop at The Dorman Museum by Jason Hynes. Other photographs taken by Vicky Holbrough, Nicola Parkin and the Work & Play artists. Twitter @navigatornorth