FEATURE: Robert Good – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Ahead of Robert Good talking about The Allenheads Cluster at ACA on Saturday 21st July, we found out a little bit more about what inspired the artist.

I wrestle with words. I am fascinated and frustrated in equal measure by how we use them, what they might mean and how they let us down. I try to get to grips with words through my art, where I squeeze them out like tubes of paint to create new compositions and new possibilities.

Over the past six months I have been visiting Allenheads Contemporary Arts (ACA) in Northumberland along with a group of other artists for an open residency project called BEYOND. On my first visit we were lucky enough to do some stargazing at the Allenheads Observatory and hear a talk by an astronomer who told us about the history of the stars, their names and their mythologies. This was fascinating, but most of all I was struck by the oddity of the names given to the constellations – Orion’s Belt, Great Bear, Aquarius – because no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t see anything remotely resembling Greek Gods, prowling animals or signs of the zodiac. I realised how significantly we impose narrative, myth and wishful thinking onto our surroundings.

I love the remote beauty of the Allenheads region and later during my visit I found myself daydreaming about the ruins of the old Victorian lead mine workings dotted about the landscape. Wanting to find out more, I looked at a 1980’s OS Pathfinder map of the area, and was amazed by the wonderful names that had been given to places nearby – Frazer’s Hush, Adam’s Cow, Pile of Stones, Tongue, Kill Hope.

Suddenly, these names seemed just like the names given to the star clusters – magical, quasi-mythological descriptions of places, people and events from the past. I realised that I wanted to commemorate these places and somehow combine the magic of the landscape with the magic of the stars.

So I decided to map the historical place names of the Allenheads area using the cartographical conventions of a star chart. I stripped away all the topographical information such as contour lines, roads and houses and left only individual points on a flat background. The result is a brand new map – The Allenheads Cluster – which I hope people can use to look afresh at the Allenheads area and to daydream about it, just as our ancestors dreamt about the stars and created celestial stories of myth and magic.

Green Swang, Blue Heaps and Benty Brow are now free to twinkle alongside one another like stars in the sky.

Robert Good will be talking about The Allenheads Cluster at ACA on Saturday 21st July at 4.15pm.

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