ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE27 October 2022
Spotlighting the variety of artistic talent in Newcastle upon Tyne, this AW22 editorial for END. celebrates the creative community on our doorstep, featuring Kuba Ryniewicz, Juliet Ferguson-Rose, Jawbone Jawbone, Ashley Willerton and Katherine Bird.
As the northern-most city in England, Newcastle upon Tyne has always been a cultural outpost with a burgeoning scene of artists, creatives, and makers – a unique and supportive network that champions local talent and celebrates the variety of approaches, perspectives and styles the region has to offer.
A bastion of originality and excitement that houses the next generation out-with the country’s capital, Newcastle's arts community focusses on cultivating an eco-system of artists and creatives, filling arts spaces, studios and galleries with an array of work that breaks down barriers and refuses to be pigeon-holed. From photographers to sign-painters and sculptors, Newcastle has a rich artistic heritage, rooted by the modern inhabitants of the city, their lives and their community.
Visiting some of these creatives in their studios, END. looks to shine a light on their creative practices and celebrate the varied output of the North East dressed in the newest styles from Balenciaga, GANNI, New Balance, BODE and many more.
Having originally moved to Newcastle to study photography, Kuba Ryniewicz has spent the past decade building an extensive portfolio of editorial, fashion and personal photography work. Working for Balenciaga, Gucci, Loewe and MCM, to name a few, Ryniewicz’s creative work shifts focus away from apparel and onto the people who inhabit his life. “I photograph my people. I admire John Waters for this reason too. Outwardly we maybe have nothing in common apart from both being gay, but the one thing that I really love about him is that he employs his friends and family. I like that the community can create opportunities and vice versa,” says Ryniewicz. Championing the connection between community and creative practice, photography and the subject, his photographic vision is concerned with age old subjects of the medium – time and place.
On his latest project, “Parallel Stories From Here”, a photography exhibition hosted at Newcastle Contemporary Art, Ryniewicz compounds his practice with his deep appreciation of the craft, its history and how photography can be utilised. “I wanted to create a project that would look at different kinds of stories from around Newcastle that will reflect on the theme of limitations as possibilities”, comments Ryniewicz, “one of the pieces, for example, is focussing on the demolition of Commercial Union House – a very iconic artist studio complex in the centre of Newcastle – which was demolished shortly after my former studio was also demolished - something that was obviously really upsetting. When I had distance from it, and I photographed it, I met loads of people who felt nostalgic and upset about it. But perhaps its better, if you’re an artist, to react and create something rather than be nostalgic about it, because it drags you down.” Incorporating documentary aesthetics into his visual code, Ryniewicz’ lens points to both the local and the global – each topic that is covered, while delivered through his subjective point of view, and his close community, is indicative of a global feeling, something that isn’t inherently tied to locality. “Everyone has a different concept and perception of time, and everyone can read it in their own pace. Things are quite simple in my work, but everything is about the rhythm and how to compose things, offering the opportunity for interpretation. It creates questions about the medium itself – is photography truthful? The problem with the medium is that it never fully represents reality. Even if you took a screenshot of us talking over zoom, that doesn’t represent the reality of us talking, apart from the fact that we were here and talking to each other. You cannot see what I see, and vice versa. It’s a narrow point of view that is subjective, there is no objectivity in photography at all.”
Sitting at the intersection of sculptor, ceramicist and potter, although she wouldn't refer to herself as the latter, Juliet Ferguson-Rose is a fine artist whose creative practice shirks conventions of modern art, instead looking to the past and the history of humanity for inspiration. Combining ceramic pieces with writing and audio, Ferguson-Rose builds an intricate world that pirouettes between mediums, finding balance through the study and use of age-old symbols. “I think of Neolithic objects and symbols that are carved onto those objects as really important base layers of research and inspiration, alongside topographical maps – where the map shows terrain like mountains and hills, highlighting the steepness of inclines with concentric circles. Often when I’m walking around the UK, but particularly in the North of England, I see things in everyday life that have a really strong association with these Neolithic markings, symbols that have been used for thousands of years that we are still using now. They represent and symbolise so much to so many different people,” says Ferguson-Rose. Building on these markings through a cyclical process of “making things, with the making informing the writing” and “the writing and the audio pieces then inform the making,” the NewBridge Project-based artist offers a contemporary reflection of the eternal nature of symbols, to “parallel our current uses of modern-day symbols for a variety of different things but perhaps more from a feminist perspective, drawing synergies between them, thinking about how they are visually connected but also connected in other ways. It’s more relative to the people of that time and the people of our time, with those symbols representing the presence of people.”
Beyond her own creative practice, Ferguson-Rose’s work at NewBridge Project with Northern Clay Room sees her focus on community and the importance of creating spaces for the exchange of information, techniques, ideas, and skills. “At university, they have all these fancy machines that they say you must use, but then you finish and don’t have that access to fire or the ability to weld things anymore – it really does feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. Luckily, I knew someone who also wanted to set up a ceramics studio and who had more experience in ceramics than me. The plan for Northern Clay Room started in late 2019 - a ceramic workspace, but also a space to exhibit artists working in clay based in the North, doing interviews and residencies. Of course, the pandemic happened so it didn’t quite work out that way. Hopefully soon I will be able to do all of those things with NCR. Currently, it’s in New Bridge, so anyone who is a studio holder there can book out the ceramics space and use it. That model didn’t exist in Newcastle before and now it does, so that’s exciting.”
A collaborative duo operating under the name Jawbone Jawbone, Nikki Katrina Carroll and Matthew Young’s work often takes a conceptual anatomical form, operating within the wider discipline of sculpture. Abstracted from the natural or the typical, Jawbone Jawbone’s sculptural practice is built with an objective to “construct vibrant and elastic material languages.” Engaging with the representation of both the body and the mind, the duo’s collaborative work looks to material as a method for exploring analogous imagery and the interpretation of dreams – how they detach from reality and become infinite in possibility.
“We are inspired by lots of things, but often we begin with the body. Motifs of hands, feet and heads are usually present in our work and we often use images or outlines of our own bodies performing some kind of gesture as a starting point. We have always been interested in the physicality of language and modes of communication. The wonderful thing about our practice is that it has always been driven by our collaboration, it is essentially two minds asking the same questions but jostling between different answers and then allowing those answers to find material form,” comments the duo. Steered by a combined intuition and a shared penchant for making sculpture, Jawbone Jawbone’s work is often guided by the surprising or unexpected elements that can arise from a collaborative relationship. “We have worked together now for around 7 years and we occasionally disagree about things but challenging each other is just as important as being in harmony.” With collaboration sitting at the core of their practice, the extended creative community of Newcastle continues to provide inspiration; “the creative output within Newcastle and the North-East is continually gaining momentum and it’s an absolute joy to be amongst. For us personally, the support found in artist-led spaces (like The NewBridge Project in Shieldfield where we are based) through opportunities provided and the members themselves has huge impact. Conversations between so many people within studios, galleries, workshops and at the pub are fuel for creating and maintaining a creative practice, as much as seeing the artwork itself.”
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As technological advances reduce the necessity for skilled practitioners of lost art forms, the aesthetic and personality of a place is lost as homogenous society takes over in the modern world. Looking to the hand painted signs of previous eras, Newcastle based traditional sign writer and lettering artist Ashley Willerton is reclaiming this art form, creating beautifully crafted signs with original techniques and methods to introduce the historic art form back into the contemporary world. “Seeing these old relics looking great years after they've been painted and long after the businesses have closed makes me feel like I could be contributing to the city's visual landscape in a lasting way,” says Ashley, “signwriting and lettering is something that can never be truly mastered. There's always something to improve on and I enjoy returning to the brush each day feeling like I'm a beginner with something new to learn. There's a long journey involved with any craft and those accumulated hours are either going to bring you closer to the medium or drive you further away. Fortunately, at the moment, I feel like it's moving me in the right direction.”
Sitting at the core of his creative practice is a connection to both history and tradition, as well as the desire to contribute to cultivating a new visual language throughout the city – one that honours the past and this art form while still forging a new and modern outlook. “Seeing so many people doing great work in the city really boosts my motivation to keep creating and pushing my boundaries. It’s a reminder of how interesting and layered the city is and makes me proud to play a role in that.”
Investigating the incursion of technology on human life and the integration of the internet and the world in the modern day, Katherine Bird’s artistic practice reflects her conceptual point of view, blending mediums and techniques to create an approach that perfectly symbolises the subject matter at the core of her work. Also located in The NewBridge Project, Bird’s primary source of inspiration is internet culture, “I’m always lurking on forums, image boards and tube sites in search of the incongruous. I appropriate imagery from social media, advertising, click-bait, pornography and pirated films and incorporate them into my work,” says Bird. Drawing from the industrial history of the North East of England, Bird’s methodology and process is influenced by order, rhythm and precision. Combining found images, manipulated digitally via “cropping, cutting, pasting, colour-correcting, warping and blending, which at once describe and conceal the source image”, Bird creates abstract pieces with airbrushed acrylic paint, saturated colours and soft gradients to conjure images with a “chemical luminosity”.
“Borrowing from and referring to the practices of industrial production, cinematic post-production and commercial graphic design allows me to explore the relationship between the material and the immaterial and question the emancipatory promise of technological advancement within an economic system in which human behaviour is a commodity,” continues Bird, delving further into the conceptual framework that guides her process and ideological point of view. Balancing the difficulty in portraying the confluence of the digital and the animate, Bird incorporates elements of her own body into the production of her artworks, which “remedies a strictly discarnate digital practice that can sometimes feel impersonal or inanimate. Combining the digital with traditional practices broadens the horizons of what is conceivable and achievable in art making.”
|stylistJack Errington & Lucy Davis