Artists in Residence, The Bowery

Check out some photos from my residency day at The Bowery.

Recording an emotional response, which ran until 11th September, saw myself and Janey Walklin responding to ideas of memory, ritual and the recording of personal histories. Visitors to The Bowery were invited to take part in some experimental collage making using Super 8 film, 35mm slides and relief printing with both artists on hand to demonstrate their working methods.

Visitors to the gallery also had the opportunity to purchase original artworks, reproduction postcards and special limited edition prints.

A selection of items are available through the shop using the following link


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New Exhibition – Recording an emotional response @The Bowery

Recording an emotional response at The Bowery: An exhibition of new work from Christopher Hall and Janey Walklin

Two Leeds-based artists whose work explores the recording of memories and personal  histories are opening a new exhibition at The Bowery, Headingley. Recording an emotional response brings together the work of Christopher Hall and Janey Walklin at Headingley’s vibrant contemporary art space.

Garden chair drawing | oil on canvas |2015

Janey Walklin | Garden chair drawing | oil on canvas |2015

The exhibition will explore how we create personal narratives in the everyday and how our relationship with the past is changing in the digital age, showcasing work in a wide range of media, from video, to photographs and paintings.

Chistopher Hall is a painter and filmmaker who uses elements of collage and found imagery in his work. Alongside his art he is training to be a Media Archivist currently on placement at Yorkshire Film Archive.

“My work celebrates the medium of film specifically the small gauge 8mm home movie format that was very popular in the 1960s and 70s. I admire the unique qualities of film and what can be done with it creatively. I like to manipulate film through various processes to create images that are impossible to achieve digitally in the same way. I am also interested in the implications of digital technology on how we document and store information, the importance of archives and what will survive 100 years from now.”

The Singular Beauty of a Glorious Death | 8mm film transferred to HD | 6 min 55 sec | colour | sound

The Singular Beauty of a Glorious Death | 8mm film transferred to HD | 6 min 55 sec | colour | sound

The exhibition runs rom 26th June-11th September 2015 with preview Friday 26th June 5-7pm. Both artists in residence in a special interactive day at the Bowery on Saturday 8th August from 10-4pm.

More info on The Bowery website.

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Creative License

James Charnley’s authoritative and long-awaited book on the history and development of art teaching in Leeds has just been published by Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.

Creative License Poster

Creative License – From Leeds College of Art to Leeds Polytechnic (2014, Lutterworth Press) is the first study of its kind to focus on the revolutionary approaches to art teaching that were born in Leeds (instigated by Harry Thubron at Leeds College of Art in the late 1950s) and developed throughout the 1960s and 70s into the radical, experimental and at times controversial art associated with the Fine Art department in the Polytechnic era.


Thubron’s Basic Course is credited with having invented the model of what we know as the modern art school, characterised as a place where ‘process, imagination and spontaneity were elevated over technique’. The traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture torn down, literally – the studio space opened up and students encouraged explore new modes of creative expression.

As painter and former tutor at Leeds Patrick Hughes notes in his foreword to the book, “The idea behind the revolution was to drag art schools into the twentieth century, to get students to practice modern experimental art instead of pursuing academic compositions with figures.”


Creative License Exhibition

Throughout the 1960s the College’s reputation grew as Thubron’s successor Eric Atkinson brought in artist tutors Patrick Hughes, Robin Page, George Brecht, Jeff Nutall, Tony Earnshaw and many more; poets mixing with painters mixing with sculptors mixing with musicians. The taste for the avant-garde is reflected in the names of visiting artists passing through the studios; Bruce Lacey, Walter de Maria, Yoko Ono, Brian Eno, Ivor Cutler…The era defined by Fluxus-inspired events, ‘Happenings’ and burgeoning ‘Performance Art’.

As noted in a previous post this posed challenges to those that were working on shaking up the Higher Education system and the independent art schools across the country were gradually swallowed up and amalgamated into the Polytechnic system. The book goes into this in some detail; Eric Taylor then Principal of Leeds College of Art at the time of the mergers resigned in protest after initial early support and there are the famous letters written by Patrick Heron published in the Guardian in 1971 where he decried the ‘Murder of the Art Schools’.


James Charnley ( a Fine Art student at Leeds himself from 1969-72) chose to launch his book at Leeds Beckett University’s Broadcasting Place (home of the current incarnation of the Fine Art course) at a packed out event attended by tutors, lecturers and ex-students spanning some 50 years. I was privileged enough to go along and talk to some of the people involved.

An exhibition charting the development of Fine Art at Leeds was mounted by third year Graphics students and after some words from the author, a special performance of Kevin Atherton’s piece ‘In Two Minds’ was reprised – Atherton conversing with an on-screen version of himself some 40 years his junior.

There then followed a rare screening of artist Simon English‘s films (on Super8) documenting some of the performance events of the time.


Kevin Atherton’s piece ‘In Two Minds’ updated for 2015

As a student of Fine Art in Leeds (Leeds Metropolitan University as it was known by then) I feel a great connection to the stories and the ideals of the era examined by this book; it is fascinating to see how far the Leeds experiment went. When I studied (in ‘the hangar’), conceptual and installation art were very much the thing, it was considered almost anachronistic, rebellious even to want to paint – ‘oh really you still paint?!’

There is I now realise a deep irony there.

James Charnley’s book is a major work in one sense because it pulls everything together – what had previously been only anecdotal or oral history, names, events and places; these stories have finally been written down and contextualised in an attempt to make sense of what happened. In the intervening years there has been much myth-making and speculation (I remember hearing the rumours and stories about what students and lecturers got up to even when I was a student); much of this has been lost partly because so much of what went on just wasn’t recorded (it wasn’t really the done thing; you know performances and ‘Happenings’ – the transient nature of the work being the work, etc!). Yes there really were sheep grazing on campus on the grass on Woodhouse Lane…


Times were very different of course back then. Remember the student grant system meant you were effectively paid to go to University (!!!), and as for teaching you were pretty much left to do what you want (with both good and bad consequences as the book shows) – it is a world away from what we see around us today, the departments were very well funded and the emphasis was on originality, opening minds (not just wallets) and pushing of boundaries. The experiments in learning that were taking place were not following any kind of business model or regimenting students to take their place in the ‘creative industries’.

Note: A couple of startling facts from the book; the student to staff ratio in the Fine Art dept alone was 1 member of staff to every 3 students and what’s more by 1970 the total number of students in Leeds (both University and Poly) had reached the giddy heights of..wait for it..16,000!

This is something of a lost history tinged perhaps with a sadness that we will probably never see the like again. It is a fitting tribute to those people that made the Leeds experience what it was and it also goes a long way to explaining my own experiences as a student of Leeds College of Art/Leeds Polytechnic/Leeds Metropolitan/Leeds Beckett as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.

James Charnley with Patrick Hughes

James Charnley with Patrick Hughes

More information on the book can be found on the publisher’s website.


Simon English’s Eumig projector

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Quays Culture Northern Artists’ Film Programme: Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the Quays Culture inaugural Northern Artists’ Film Programme has been announced and I’m delighted that Composition has made the final list!

Composition (2012, 5min, colour, sound)

Composition (2012, 5min, colour, sound)

All shortlisted films will be shown in full at a special event at MediaCityUK, Salford Quays on Saturday 1st November. The films have been selected by an esteemed panel drawn from some of the best arts organisations in the North (FACT, BBC, Cornerhouse, Arts Council England, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Salford. For a full list click here).

You can see the shortlist of films on 1st November within a special mobile cinema on The Quays, alongside other events throughout the day. All screenings are open and free to the public. Showing times are 11am (full programme), 2.15pm (full programme) and 5.40pm (student strand).

The event is part of Quays Open Day 1 Nov 2014. More information can be found on the Quays Culture website here.

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Oblong Cinema

My film Composition has been selected for this month’s Oblong Cinema event on Thursday 5th June. The event takes place every month at Oblong in Woodhouse, Leeds and this month guest curator Mark Waddington has picked films on a theme of Films with a Social Message.


Oblong is a community resource that supports local people who want to make a difference through volunteering and community projects. Established in 1996, Oblong has operated from Woodhouse Community Centre on Woodhouse Street since 2011.

Oblong Cinema is a forum for showcasing the work of filmmakers from across Leeds and Yorkshire and takes place on the first Thursday of the month 7-8pm. There will be questions and opportunity for discussion with the filmmakers and of course free popcorn!

More information on the event can be found on the Oblong Cinema pages on Twitter and Facebook, directions can be found here.


Composition, 2012, 5min, colour, sound

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Derek Jarman – Pandemonium

I was fortunate enough to catch the very last day of Pandemonium – an exhibition at Somerset House celebrating the work of visionary artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman. In this anniversary year, some twenty years since his untimely death in 1994, a number of events commemorating his life and work are taking place.


Amongst the highlights the BFI are staging a major retrospective of all of Derek Jarman’s features including special screening events that include rarely seen super 8 films and recently discovered ‘lost’ fims. There are talks and symposia taking place across the city and to mark the occasion Test Centre Press have published a facsimile edition of Derek Jarman’s sole and extremely rare book of poetry A Finger in the Fishes Mouth.

I made my way across London on a fine March day full of expectation; I have waited a long time for an exhibition such as this, it is a rare thing indeed. I wasn’t to be disappointed.


‘Death Dance’ (1973) Super 8 digitally scanned


This is the exhibition I would have curated given the chance; curator and King’s College Professor Mark Turner must be congratulated, he has found absolutely the right the focus. The exhibition centres very much on Jarman’s scholarship (he was a student of King’s in the early 1960s); and his use of literary, historical and symbolic allegory, that flows throughout all his work particularly the Super 8s he made in the 1970s. Jarman’s connections to a lost London and the Thames are re-examined with special attention given to the warehouse studios of Bankside and Butler’s Wharf where he lived and worked and where many of these early films were made. In addition there are paintings, assemblages and of course his exquisite sketchbooks.

As we entered we were given a pair of headphones to put on in preparation to enter the darkened space; leaving the material world and its pretensions of grandeur in this former Royal Palace, to enter another realm entirely. Leaving my companions, and with a sense of anticipation akin to entering the tomb of a long dead Pharaoh (what treasures may lay within?) I entered.


‘Studio Bankside’ (1970-72) Super 8 digitally scanned

The music, sounds and texts that accompany you on this journey are all sourced from the many Jarman collaborators over the years; Simon Fisher Turner, Coil, Cyclobe; all drifting in as your eyes adjust to the half light.

The first thing you became aware of is the slow burning flicker emanating from the Garden of Luxor (1973) projected larger than life across the central wall – the ritual is enticing; rich with exoticism,  the smoking mouth, the sinister figure cracking the whip, the fixed gaze of the sphinx. The wall opposite displays a selection of small paintings, with titles such as Egyptian Landscape (1966) oil on board, and the later GBH series. Many of these paintings have never been seen together in public before; here they are on loan from the friends that they were given to, Derek Jarman was notoriously generous with his work.


One of Derek Jarman’s many sketchbooks

In an even darker space as you enter an annexe room, a number of Jarman’s weighty sketchbooks are displayed behind glass, lit from above like sacred texts. Sebastiane, The Art of Mirrors, the original manuscript that would be published as Dancing Ledge, all here. What I would give to leaf through these precious volumes. In the same room on the opposite side are three framed assemblage/collages; working drawings Jarman was asked to produce when he won his first major commission to produce set designs for Sir Frederick Ashton and the Royal Ballet.


Stage designs for Ashton’s Jazz Calendar (1968)

The next room finds another large scale projection this time the rapid inter-cutting of Jarman’s first film on super 8; Studio Bankside. The film documents objects, precious artefacts and the comings and goings of the Bankside studio now long since destroyed. The long lost skyline of the Thames South Bank is clearly visible against the silhouette of the jerking movements of the first cranes, heralding the coming the new age. There are fascinating papers, handwritten notes, exchanges and newspaper clippings charting the battle to keep this artistic enclave and way of life going, a desperate battle to keep the developers and speculators out. Jarman and his contemporaries including painter Tony Fry and brothers Peter and Andrew Logan (the latter artist, sculptor and creator of the Alternative Miss World Contest), were pioneers of ‘loft living’ – around them a whole artistic community thrived with film screenings, performances and parties a regular feature. The prophetic headlines read ‘The Battle of Butler’s Wharf’.

Unfortunately the malignant forces that would go on to engulf the entire city would win out; a few mysterious fires later and it was all gone forever.


Nearby, framed behind a pane of glass, stares a crumpled mask. Fashioned from a brown paper bag; it’s crudely painted features somehow familiar from a number of these early films; how sinisterly it is transformed on celluloid.


Encased in glass below there lie further relics of Jarman’s Super 8 filmmaking; a Super 8 camera, a Nizo of course one of many Jarman used this one etched in his own indelible hand ‘Modern Light’. The lens cap, hood and leather case laid out like the reliquary of a saint. By its side a sketchbook, bursting with black and white photographs open at a page displaying the preparations for the shoot for the film Death Dance; naked boys, a death’s head, the black of the studio wall shored against Tower Bridge in the near distance.


One of Derek Jarman’s Super 8 cameras

At the end of the central passage there glows a bright slab of light; a contemporary shot of the garden at Dungeness back projected onto a vertical screen. Eerily silent the image is static with the Dungeness B nuclear power plant still ever present and operational across the shingle.


The Garden at Dungeness as it is today

The final room and a sense of inevitability. It has all been leading here The Last of England (1987) Derek Jarman’s finest film now expanded for this exhibition into a furious, unrelenting, continuous multi-screen installation; each projection relaying separate sections of the film. The effect is hypnotic, the original film achieves this effect and this has been amplified in it’s new configuration. It is very hard to look away it is so overwhelming.

The crescendo – Tilda Swinton taking the shears to her wedding dress in ecstatic rage is still as compelling and unsettling as it ever was. The rising cacophony and unearthly shriek of Diamanda Galas’ voice raging up the scales still sends a shiver down the spine.


As I feared our time was up and the gallery assistant began to make her presence known I resigned to rejoin my companions back at the entrance where we had come in. I paused for a moment to take in what I had seen. The lady next to me said it had been meditative,  perhaps even a transformative experience, I agreed, indeed it had. A pilgrimage of sorts? The physicality of the artefacts on display, the remnants of a life lived and a presence perhaps it could be thought of as a reliquary? “Oh I wouldn’t go that far”, she replied.


The Last of England (installation view)

So back to ‘reality’. Derek Jarman’s life and work is a true inspiration, his is a powerful legacy whose importance is only just being acknowledged by the mainstream.

A saint? Well, Derek has already achieved that status, remember he was canonised on the beach at Dungeness by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence way back in 1991.

Further details of events celebrating Jarman 2014 can be found here.

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New Lights Award at the Biscuit Factory

The New Lights exhibition has now moved from the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate to the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle and will be officially opened on Friday 7th March 2014.


The Biscuit Factory is the largest commercial art gallery in the UK, housed in a former Victorian warehouse set in the heart of Newcastle’s cultural quarter. The Gallery offers visitors the chance to view and purchase exciting contemporary visual art in a relaxed informal setting and features artist studios, a cafe and a restaurant – all within 5 minutes of Newcastle city centre.


Christopher Hall ‘Elegy’
Oil and acrylic on canvas
70cm x 90cm x 3cm

The New Lights opening will take place Friday 7th March 6-9pm and will coincide with the launch of the Biscuit Factory Spring Show. The exhibition is free to visit and runs until April 4th and is open daily 7 days a week. Please see the Biscuit Factory website for more details click here.

New Lights is a charity formed in 2010 run by a small group of people who are passionate about art and the North of England. The New Lights Art Prize is a biennial award open to artists who were born or have studied in the North of England between the ages of 23-35. This years shortlist and winners can be found on the New Lights website click here.

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