Text by Peter-Ashley Jackson
Built Around You is a Situation Rhubarb initiative organised with co-curator artist Rebecca Travis. The project is housed in a residential property of a Newcastle suburb and hosts a dynamic programme of events, ranging from bread making to sustainable living forums as well as live music and networking evenings. Occurring throughout the month of October 2012, the project provided four artists with a residency to produce new work in response to the transitory nature of Heaton life.
Alex Hanson-Deakin has created a series of screenprints resulting from walks along the terrace where she photographed reflections of bay windows within windows. The images presented here are attractively reduced to bold monochrome silver and offer a neatly re-imagined surface warped from reality into something altogether more aligned to the sensation of a memory. The work renders tangible the transitional experience of shared narratives from within the socio-geography of temporary residents.
Claire Rowlands has produced evocative sensory works made from Japanese food stuffs; dashi (seaweed stock) and kombo (seaweed). The kombo utilised in Structure hangs from the sloping ceiling into a determined formation that attempts to contradict its temporality as an edible product. Rowlands use of the temporary occurs also in Nourishment, a series of wax made serving bowls containing dashi. The work hints at the social activity of cooking and eating yet underlined by a sense of the fleeting in the use of impermanent materials.
Rowlands also presents Talisman a video of photographically catalogued coins discovered in the property. The archive of forgotten foreign coins shifts them from novelty treasures collected by worldly travelers into portraits of the anonymous former occupants and the nostalgia we all have to maintain memories of places far from home.
In the photographic work of Rachel Maloney we encounter a personal space from the home of the artist’s late grandmother. The series entitled St Joseph’s Road documents the family home which has since had new occupants and those too have moved on. In the photographs, Maloney explores the potential for domestic-based memories to change through time revisited. Each image pauses a hauntingly familiar, banal domestic interior setting that evokes the transitional experience of moving in or out of somewhere, beyond that of physical space.
Co-curator Rebecca Travis has lived in six Heaton houses in as many years. Faced with a residency in another Heaton property Travis chooses to revisit her memories of past bedroom spaces she once occupied. Built retrospectively Travis has created six miniature scaled shoji paper replicas of the bedrooms. Suspended from the ceiling of an upstairs bedroom the forms appear like apparitions of dolls houses past. These memory objects generate a newly shared interconnecting narrative between one another. Cut-out silhouettes made from the remains of the miniatures are found occupying another space in the home, as remnants of unique experiences they are harmonised by their uniformity.
The project has involved its immediate community and invited residents of Heaton to submit to a mail art exhibition. The submissions playfully adorn the kitchen fridge and vary in artistic abilities, providing a fair account of the wide scope of visitors the project has gathered.
Also in the kitchen (for the preview night only) artist home-brewers Andrew Wilson and Toby Phips Lloyd can be found. The duo founded Praxis Brewery and conceived two new themed beers for the Situation Rhubarb project: one affectionately named Landlord, a slightly sour yet sweet tasting brew, while the other pays tribute to both rent paying populace and the famous Scottish beverage of the same name, Tenants. Both beers are flavoured fittingly with home grown rhubarb.
Still to come is board game night on Monday 29 October, starting at 6.30pm, for which games-master Daniel Howard has created a new Heaton based board game fittingly on the theme of transitional living spaces.
Built Around You is on display at 188 Simonside Terrace, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne until 3 November 2012.
Peter-Ashley Jackson is an artist, writer and Heatonian since 2005.