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Common Ground

Friday 6 May – Sunday 10 July 2016

Common Ground brought together work by four contemporary artists and four community groups living and working in South East Northumberland.

Across four months artists Aaron Guy, Robert Parkinson, Alice Myers, Maureen Hanley and Monika Dutta worked with Guidepost Social Club, ESCAPE Family Support, Ashington Children’s Centre and South-East Northumberland teachers.

Together, artists and participants worked collaboratively to find shared interests, materials and production techniques to focus on throughout the residency. All projects consider the link between life and art and use stories shaped by personal lives, everyday experiences and a sense of place as a starting point.

Aaron Guy and Robert Parkinson have immersed themselves fully within club life at Guidepost Social Club. Their piece NOTICE; a title taken directly from within the club where ‘NOTICE’ is written above all official information before being pinned to members’ boards; reflects the desire of current members for prospective newcomers to ‘notice’ their club and join in. Throughout their residency these ideas of advocacy, promotion, pride and inclusion have played a key role. Guy and Parkinson have explored the culture of the club, working collaboratively with members towards a social event designed to bring new people into Guidepost. Screen-printed posters and flyers designed by members are presented in the exhibition alongside prints, photographs and documentary text and an amassed collection of materials and ephemera illustrating club culture.

ESCAPE Family Support have worked with Monika Dutta, followed by Maureen Hanley to produce two bodies of work in Common Ground. Messages to and From the Sea uses mythology and folklore to explore metaphors for reality and fantasy, using a fictional mermaid character to tell a story of epiphany and self-realisation. Explorations of sea pottery, messages in bottles, and the contemplative stories these objects tell accompany this piece. What the Pigeon Sees, uses the story of a racing pigeon to convey a celebration of South East Northumberland and its rich culture. Centring on a pigeon’s circular and spiralling flight pattern the piece follows his journey as he discovers the landscape below and is interpreted through pitmatic language, a dialect developed by mineworkers in local coalfields and spoken throughout the Great Northern Coalfield.

In collaboration with participants from Ashington Children’s Centre, Alice Myers has explored physical and emotional responses and relationships to place in Between Blinks. Focusing on proportion and the body, the Centre’s After School Group have used photography, taking photos inside and outside of sessions, to make collages and drawings that play with imagination and scale. Using a projector and shadow play, the participants put themselves back into their own images, imagining and acting out fantastical possibilities for the streets of Ashington. Common Ground will also present a body of work developed by parents from Ashington Children’s Centre, which combines image and text to explore the participants’ experiences of living in the area. These images will also be exhibited in shop windows around Ashington Town Centre.

In addition Alice Myers has worked with Vicky Sturrs, Schools and Colleges Programmer and a group of teachers living and working in South East Northumberland to consider the connections between teaching and creative practice. Now Walk Three Paces examines perceptions of failure, and the capacity of instructions to both open up and close down imaginative possibilities. This group has been setting impossible instructions for each other, taking a psycho-geographic approach to exploring the city and playing with combinations of image and text. These ideas are fed back into the classroom to inform student learning, and offer ways to make space for creativity within rigid structures and busy schedules.Common Ground presents shared imagery, instruction and text from this journey.

Woodhorn Museum, Saturday 19 March – Tuesday 12 June 2016
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Monday 2 May – Sunday 10 July 2016

This was a partnership project between BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, bait and Northumberland Arts Development.