Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Confidence Trick - Episode 2

In the second part of her three part series, Laura Barton explores the extent to which the schools we attend and our social backgrounds more generally play a part in determining our levels of confidence. 

She visits a state comprehensive school and an independent fee-paying school, both in the North West of England, to discover how much effort is made to ensure the confidence of pupils is actively developed, and the means by which that development might take place. She questions how far the network of influential contacts more readily made at private schools can help generate confidence in pupils as they set out into the world, but hears too how for many youngsters today a mask of confidence can often cover a sense of insecurity. 

At a visit to a comprehensive school, a member of staff tells her that in some ways it is easier to instill confidence in students at a comprehensive school rather than a private school because the students have the experience of talking to and interacting with students from a wide range of social backgrounds, cultures and classes. He believes the students are more tolerant and do not have a sense of entitlement that perhaps students from a private school may have.

He explains that the school tries to find something in every student that they can do well. For example, he has discovered that a boy who struggles with his academic school work has a real talent for fishing, and so he has encouraged the student to write about fishing for the school newspaper.

Laura speaks to figures such as Joe Queenan, Dreda Say Mitchell and Stuart Maconie about the ways the place you come from can influence confidence, whether that's the vast expanses of America, the East End of London or the industrial north of England. For Queenan, his own self-confidence comes from a combination of indifference to others' attitude towards him, and a childhood in relative poverty. Once you know you can deal with that, he says, such things as public speaking that terrify so many carry little fear.

Stuart Maconie acknowledges that private schools are meant to instill confidence in their students, but he thinks that this confidence is born of the absolute objective notion that you can't fail because underpinning that confidence is actual material and political power. He states that "if you are poor and you have no shoes, no amount of self-confidence will help you get on in life." It is understandable that those with a good education have a degree of confidence because they have a good reason. Certain opportunities will not be available to those of the lower classes or less well-educated. "No lower-class individual will have the opportunity to become the editor of a newspaper without any journalistic experience, in the way that someone such as George Osborne did because he had a particular network of contacts and a status."

Laura follows up her notion that an unexpected factor in determining is architecture and the built environment in which we're raised, asking expert John Grindrod how correct Winston Churchill was when he said that, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."

Stuart Maconie comments on the difference in confidence between counties. He recognises that Mancunians are generally confident, whereas Brummies are often self deprecating. He also speaks about how the St George's Hall in Liverpool is positioned directly in front of the train station, so that it is the first thing you see once out of the station. This building gives the impression of its grand status.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Confidence Trick - episode 1

In this new three part series, Laura Barton sets out to examine the increasingly important part confidence appears to play in modern life, at the point when so many of us are beset by problems surrounding our own self-confidence. 

Over the course of the series Laura examines the key role of our background and education in determining our levels of confidence, teasing out the intricate interplay between aspects including class, gender, psychology and even architecture. 

She hears how our inclination to follow those who seem most confident can lead us into dark waters, and looks at the complicated connections between confidence and creativity. 

Laura also explores her own vexed relationship with this commodity that has so often proved elusive in her own life, seeking out an alternative to the brazen, pushy version of confidence that is currently so dominant. 

In the first episode, Laura speaks with the likes of Marina Hyde, Susan Cain, Katty Kay and high-wire walker Chris Bullzini to look at how we have come to be so in thrall to confidence and those most assured of their own opinions. She heads into the workplace to look at the ways the loudest and the cockiest most often rule the roost, and attempts being made to give more space and weight to the voices of those given to quiet reflection in order to maximise their potential contribution. 

Marina Hyde points out that it is surprising how quickly people are to form an opinion and have strong views about things that they know relatively little about. 

Writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie is of the opinion that, "We've become obsessed with confidence and self-assertion.... it seems to be a new strain in our thinking. Isn't quiet modest competence a better thing?" He believes that confidence comes with knowing that you are doing the right thing. Maconie realises that being at ease in ones own skin is something that is hard acquired and comes with a long experience of doing what we do.

It is not just through the voice that we can give the impression of confidence. Wearing a uniform can instill confidence in people that you know what you are doing. For example, a pilot wearing a pilot's uniform can be deemed more confident than a pilot dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.

You get confidence by doing things that are challenging to you, but once you have done it once, you feel more confident to do it again.

There is research that suggests that you need three women to make a difference. Evidence of women underestimating their abilities is wide ranging. Men tend to overestimate their abilities by about 30%. Women apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skills set whereas men apply for promotions when they have only 60% of the skills set, thinking that they will learn those skills while on the job.

Susan Cain reported that in a typical meeting only 3 people tend to account for 70% of the talking. 

Social media and electronic means of sharing ideas can be a good way to encourage less confident people to participate. They do not need to compete with loud voices and are given credit for what they share - their contributions are in black and white and can be proven.

The first episode ends with a proposition from Susan Cain. She proposes that real confidence is when you know who you are. 

Do you know what kind of life you want to lead? 

Do you know who you are? 

Do you know what kind of decisions you want to make?

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Catherine Yass Artist talk

The visiting artist at Newcastle University this week was Catherine Yass, the London-based artist. Abandoned urban spaces and sites in a process of construction or deconstruction are of interest to Yass, and often feature in her work. People are usually absent from her work, but this is not the case in High Wire (2008), a multi-screen film and video installation.

High Wire (2008) was filmed at the Red Road housing estate in North Glasgow. When it was built in the early 1960s, Red Road was the highest social housing in Europe, a major achievement for the city planners who sought to rebuild the city. Yet in 2008 it was due to be demolished.

Akin to the utopian principles that were in place at the time that the Red Road housing estate was built, Yass wanted to make a work about "walking in the air, out of nothing." She advertised for a tightrope walker to walk between two of the high rise buildings at Red Road.

Yass worked with French high-wire artist Didier Pasquette. In the talk Yass spoke about her unease when Pasquette told her that he did not want to wear a safety harness. Her terror increased as Pasquette began the tightrope walk and it became clear that the weather conditions were much worse than had been forecast, and Pasquette would need to turn round. He edged his way back to the starting platform.

Yass spoke about how she considered not exhibiting the work as the intention of Pasquette walking from one building to the other had not been fulfilled. However, she began to see this as a strength of the work. I believe that it echoes the situation at the Red Road housing estate; grand ideas of what would exist turned out to be unachievable, and this adds another layer to the work.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Artists as curators on Front Row

Monday's edition of Front Row featured a discussion about artists curating exhibitions.

This coincides with the opening of two exhibitions curated by artists, namely Shonky : The Aesthetics of Awkwardness at The Mac, Belfast and Paul Nash & the Uncanny Landscape at York Art Gallery.

John Stezaker has curated Paul Nash & the Uncanny Landscape at York Art Gallery, an exhibition which in which Paul Nash’s groundbreaking inter-war landscapes which transformed the genre of British landscape painting are exhibited along with works by Stezaker.

In Shonky : The Aesthetics of Awkwardness, the artist John Walter has brought together international artists and architects to explore the nature of visual awkwardness.

John Walter and Jill Constantine, curator and Head of the Art Council Collection reflected on what artists can bring to the curation of an exhibition.

When asked how the process of curating for an artist is different to that of a curator, Jill Constantine remarked that artists tend to adopt an intuitive, immediate, emotional and personal approach whereas curators tend to look for thematic and interpretative material and do a lot of research in order to contextualise.

John Walter recognised that as an artist, he can use his practice as the starting point to make the exhibition, perhaps choosing to to show out of fashion or less popular work. He explained that in the current exhibition at The Mac, Belfast he used the fourteen artists in the show to make a bigger picture. It was encouraging to hear Jill Constantine speak so positively about artists curating exhibitions. She was quick to dismiss the idea that artists that curate make random choices, and did not think that they undermined the position of curators.

To listen to the programme visit:

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Colour blending with Foundation Press

Following on from the weekend typeface workshop at Pop Recs, I went to the home of Foundation Press in the National Glass Centre, Sunderland to join them for some riso printing.

Foundation Press are collaboratively designing printed posters for upcoming gigs and events at Pop Recs, the independent record shop / cafe / arts space / venue in Sunderland. They will print a new set of posters exploring the colour blending possibilities of risograph printers and hand-made experimental typefaces. 

Today we began making printing templates for the poster backgrounds using geometric shapes, patterns and colour blends. 

The risograph printer resembles a photocopier, and works in a similar way. A colour drum is inserted into the riso. The riso prints one colour at a time. A greyscale image is placed face down onto the photocopy bed, and the riso copier is programmed to make a master template. The image is transferred onto the roller, and then multiple copies can be made. Every time the colour is changed, the master template needs to be transferred onto the newly inserted roller. 

Riso works really well for layering different colours on top of each other, and it is possible to create interesting colour blends.

Here are some of my tests using 3 colours: teal, fluorescent pink and yellow.

We also tried some other designs.

Then began to incorporate the text that we had done at the weekend.

Some were more successful combinations than others.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Foundation Press Workshop at Pop Records, Sunderland

The weekend got off to a great creative start as I participated in a workshop run by Foundation Press. Foundation Press is an experimental printing press, operating as a space for testing collaborative approaches to printing and publishing. It is currently run by Debbie Bower, Adam Phillips and Joe Woodhouse with students from the Foundation Diploma Art & Design course at University of Sunderland.

This was the first of two workshops to collaboratively design printed posters for upcoming gigs and events at Pop Recs in Sunderland, an independent record shop, cafe, arts space and venue.

Inspired by simple but iconic text posters like those made by Colby Poster Printing Co in L.A – Foundation Press will print a new set of posters exploring the colour blending possibilities of risograph printers and hand-made experimental typefaces.

Our initial challenge was to come up with our own band name. There were a number of photocopied bits of text that we could cut up and mix with other words to form interesting band name suggestions.

We were then to create hand-made letter sets, using a cut and paste method with photocopies, glue and scissors. We each picked a set of images that had been photocopied, and with these we were tasked with creating an alphabet.

The selection of images included various food items such as vegetables, meats and candy-canes, hair, bears, clouds, bubbles and more geometric shapes like the set I chose.

This is how my alphabet turned out:

Here are some of the other alphabets created in the workshop:

 Using candy-cane and hair imagery

 Using images of vegetables

 Using an image of a bear

At the next session we will be printing from these typefaces and will experiment with colour blending techniques. I'm looking forward to some riso-action!

On Saturday 18th November the finished posters will be displayed along with cut-offs and experiments in an exhibition at Pop Recs.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Reality Check exhibition - Corridor 8 Review by Elisabetta Fabrizi

The NewBridge Project has expanded and set up a new home in Gateshead. Right in the High Street, The NewBridge Project : Gateshead houses a gallery, studio spaces for artists and The Collective Studio, a new ambitious graduate development programme created in collaboration with Newcastle University and the Institute of Creative Practice.

Reality Check, the inaugural exhibition, brings together works by eight early-career artists, resulting from The NewBridge Project’s 2016-2017 Graduate Programme in partnership with Newcastle University. In spotlighting the work of young artists the show acts as a statement of intent, in that it underlines the continuing core aim of The NewBridge Project to support emerging talent.

At opposite ends of the bright rectangular gallery space two works by Oliver Doe welcome and engage us in a conversation about the body. ‘Touch me as you need me’ (2017) consists of a framed assemblage of everyday yet very personal objects – a t-shirt, towel, trousers and a plastic bag. Under perspex, the familiar elements are squashed and trapped. Objectified, they become fossils of intimate moments that we can’t help but stare at and ponder about. At the other end of the gallery, Doe’s ‘and no sex or gender will still be the pleasure of love’ (2017) consists of two abstract sculptures: pale and almost transparent, they appear delicate and mysterious. One leans on the other, which in turn appears to recede. Despite the minimalism of the shapes, a questioning narrative concerning two bodies appears.

The body is also at the centre of Olivia Turner’s ‘Eyepiece’(2017). The two sets of four large sculptural elements (cut plywood sheets) that make the core of the work can only be read correctly (as hands holding a microscope) when viewed at a distance, but become abstract forms as we get closer. And yet, the screens embedded in the sculptures (two surgical videos) can only be viewed up close. In creating the conditions for the impossibility of finding a fixed viewing point to look at the installation, the artist creates an apt metaphor for the difficult relationship between the physical and the cerebral, the verbal and the non-verbal.

With the text work ‘Portion Control’ (2017) Helen Shaddock successfully uses stream-of-consciousness writing to give us access to her perception of being an artist. We read: ‘I’m embarrassed to admit I feel the need to prove… Exhibition opening. Everybody asking: what are you working on?’ Whatever shall one answer? Hope is not lost though and we find it in Emily Garvey’s animation, ‘When life gives you lemons’(2017). Here we follow the life adventures of a lemon learning that, as one of the pop songs of the soundtrack remind us, ‘turning bitter into sweet’, is possible after all.

Visiting The NewBridge Project: Gateshead brings back memories of when, over ten years ago, Workplace Gallery opened their first space nearby, in the now demolished Gateshead Car Park, with the intent of supporting young North East based artists. These two organisations share the crucial common goal of creating the conditions for artists not to feel isolated and for talent to prosper in the region. Their new close physical proximity is a welcome development and acts auspiciously for the future of The NewBridge Project.

Reality Check, The NewBridge Project : Gateshead, Gateshead.

14 October – 28 October 2017 (Wed-Sat 12-5pm)

Elisabetta Fabrizi is a curator and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne and London.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Fine Art Visiting Speakers Programme at Newcastle University

The Fine Art department at Newcastle University presents a public weekly programme of research lectures and seminars from some of the most interesting and original artists, critics, curators, historians and art professionals working today. 
Speakers are invited whose work relates to topical research and teaching themes being explored by staff, undergraduate students, postgraduate students and researchers in Fine Art, and is a significant element of Fine Art’s unique commitment to research that tests established boundaries and methodologies. T‌he Lecture programme is intended to transcend traditional discussion boundaries.
The lectures take place every Tuesday evening at 5:15pm, and tend to finish around 6:30pm. They are held in the Fine Art Lecture Theatre. I fully recommend attending the talks - they are open to members of the public as well as students.
The term 1 programme has been organised by Uta Kogelsberger, and is as follows:
Tuesday 10 October
Lise Autogena

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Studios available at The NewBridge Project: Gateshead

Become a Studio Member of The NewBridge Project

Artist Studios & Co-Work Space now available on Gateshead High Street

The NewBridge Project has recently transformed a former shop unit on Gateshead High Street to provide affordable studio and workspace for artists and creatives. Come and join our creative community. 

The NewBridge Project : Gateshead is equipped with individual studio spaces and co-work space for hot-desking, hosting meetings, events and workshops. 

NewBridge Studios offers space to artists at any stage of their career, working primarily within the field of visual art, with a desire to be part of a diverse and critically engaged community of creative practitioners.

NewBridge Studios promotes exchange and support in an engaged and discursive community of artists. The shared workspace is a critical and collaborative environment that allows artists to discuss and develop new ideas and projects.

NewBridge Studio Members will benefit from:

  •   A new support network from which to cultivate further opportunities and develop work. We 
are committed to NewBridge Studios remaining a discursive and productive working 
  •  The opportunity to be a part of an exciting and vibrant community of visual artists
  •   Affordable 24hour access studio space 
  • The opportunity to help shape NewBridge’s programme and future direction through our artist committees and steering groups
  • Access to our pioneering artist development programme, Practice makes Practice, offering opportunities, training and mentoring
  • A range of facilities offered to NewBridge Studio members including bookable project space, production and making space, co-work & meeting space, social space and a darkroom

The NewBridge Project : Gateshead is also home to NewBridge Gallery Space, a gallery and project space with a programme of contemporary exhibitions & commissions and The Collective Studio, a graduate development programme in partnership with Newcastle University Institute of Creative Arts Practice.

How to Apply

If you are interested in becoming a studio member at The NewBridge Project : Gateshead please complete our online application form
We currently have a number of ground floor studios available (10m/sq) and we will be assigning them over the coming weeks. 

We think it is really important that our studios and facilities are as affordable as possible for artists; the studios in Gateshead are priced at £70 per month (inclusive of all utilities).

Deadline for studio applications: Thursday 9th November, 12pm

Please note: You can apply for our studios on a rolling basis but we will be assigning the available studios in Gateshead based on the applications we receive by the deadline. 

Please specific on your application form that you would like to be considered for a studio in Gateshead. If you have already completed the form previously you do not need to complete again.  

If you have any questions please contact Studio Coordinator, Clare Gomez on or call 0191 232 8975. 

Use our Co-Work Space 

Become a NewBridge Hot-desking Member to access our shared Co-Work Space and other facilities. If you’d like to have regular access to the Co-Work space please complete the application form (insert hyperlink to form). 

Our Co-Work space is also available for anyone to use for workshops, events, talks and socials – if you’d like to use the Co-Work space for an event please get in touch with us. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Spoken Word in the news

"The rising popularity of spoken word poetry is giving a voice to artists like Dylema.

She tells the BBC's Izin Akhabau that it's "so amazing" to have platforms to be on stage and say her truth."

Torn between her Nigerian roots and upbringing in Britain, she didn't know where to call home and so she decided to make poetry her home.

When asked how Spoken Word differs from written poetry, she explains that Spoken Word takes more of a performative stance than more conventional poetry on a page.

Her favourite Spoken Word artists are "those that are the bravest, that say it and deliver it in a way that is entertaining, striking and forges a connection between the performer and the audience."

Friday, 27 October 2017



Women and Sexism in the Arts

On Wednesday the BBC radio 4 programme Front Row focused on the issue of sexism and the treatment of women in the arts. 

Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of London's Royal Court Theatre, actor and director Maureen Lipman and Helen Lewis, deputy Editor of the New Statesman discussed how leaders in the creative industries are responding.

Other topics of conversation included to what extent is the portrayal of women across film, theatre, music and visual art defined by the male gaze? And how easy is it for female artists to claim ownership of their own image?

Photographer Annie Leibovitz, Feminist Art Historian Tamar Garb, Dance critic Luke Jennings and Jacqueline Springer, music journalist and senior lecturer at University of Westminster also joined in with the discussion.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

'Dance Number' by Louise Hopkins

Mackintosh Building Wall Commission

The Glasgow School of Art

Artist wall commission (2017) 
Digital print on metal, on wood panels. 2.44m x 12.2m. Copyright the artist. Photo: Alan Dimmick.

"Dance Number is a new commission, situated directly opposite the Reid Building, on the temporary wall that surrounds the historic Mackintosh Building whilst restoration is underway.

The artwork responds to its location as part of a building site and busy loading bay. Dance Number forms and performs its own rhythm of hand drawn grid, with red, blue and black geometric shapes. It responds to the lines created by scaffolding, the pedestrian barriers and signs and the movement of people working on, in and around the building. Whilst Dance Number is a separate and unique piece, it has evolved from a chain of reproductions moving from the handmade to the digital.

Louise Hopkins is an artist and part-time lecturer in GSA School of Fine Art. Her practice involves working with what already exists in the world; making paintings onto surfaces that already contain information – such as world maps, patterned fabric and pages from books. Dance Number is her largest scale work to date. Hopkins is currently developing several large-scale works for outside locations."

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Final few days to see REALITY CHECK at The NewBridge Project : Gateshead

Get yourself to The NewBridge Project : Gateshead before it's too late to see the current exhibition, REALITY CHECK.

Open Wednesday - Saturday
12pm - 5pm

232-240 High Street, Gateshead 
(very close to the Tesco Extra, METRO station, VUE cinema)

Final day is this Saturday 28th October