INTERVIEW: WORKPLACE FOUNDATION | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Paul Merrick, Grotto, 2020, oil on aluminium, 25 x 25 cm, Courtesy the artist and Workplace Foundation

Artist-led project and commercial gallery Workplace open a brand new gallery in Newcastle this month; the large space in Blandford Square will house two exhibition spaces, a library and communal area.

Workplace Foundation is a registered charity set up in 2017 by the gallery to further support emerging and under-represented artists based outside of London with a focus on the North, and with the new gallery space they can deliver on that promise even further, as co-founder and director Miles Thurlow explains. “I think that because of its history and relationship with Workplace Gallery, Workplace Foundation is able to understand what artists need to progress their career and support them. We seek to do this throughout the process of working with artists: studio visits, selection of work, communication of core ideas, presentation of work etc. and we aim to be there as a support network afterwards.”

After so much time in isolation it felt important to begin our programme with a sense of community

Miles recognises that there’s still a significant lack of opportunity and support for artists in the North East, but the things which seemingly hold the region back often also engender a rich proving ground for creativity to thrive. “The shadows of a heavily industrial past, a sense of being marginalised from a London-centric political and economical centrifuge, a resistance to being defined by well worn provincial clichés…[Being] geographically and financially separated from an international art world and art market, but in a place that still is relatively cheap to live, means that there is a constant ebb and flow of artist-led activity and entrepreneurialism – new grassroots gallery spaces appear alongside established institutions like BALTIC and MIMA, temporary project spaces present new experimental work, studios and workshops allow young graduates to keep making and bring fresh energy and ideas that keeps the scene moving and changing.”

Workplace Foundation contribute to this ever-growing scene with a community of their own; their recently set up Community of Artists is a growing roster of artists drawn from past programmes. Their first exhibition at the new gallery, Dark Matter, runs from Saturday 18th September-Saturday 30th October and features work by exhibiting artists including Catherine Bertola, Cath Campbell, Nina Chua, Joe Clark, Claire Dorsett, Parham Ghalamdar, Rachel Lancaster, Paul Merrick, Nicola Singh and Cecilia Stenbom among others, who present work in a range of media from painting, sculpture, video and works on paper. The title references Dark Matter – Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture by artist, writer and activist Gregory Sholette who argues that non-institutional, self-organised and artist-led practices make up the unseen ‘dark matter’ of the art world and are essential to supporting and sustaining the wider artistic ecology. “After so much time in isolation it felt important to begin our programme with a sense of community, bringing artists together within our new gallery space in central Newcastle.” Miles explains. “As an exhibition it will not be a curated, coherent, thematic presentation of work. Rather a discordant, polyphonic presentation of artists who have remained committed to their practice united by a shared seriousness of purpose that is evident within their work. I’m excited to see it.”

Dark Matter is at Workplace Foundation, Blandford Square, Newcastle from Saturday 18th September-Saturday 30th October

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