Newcastle Pavilion: 12-14 Horsemarket Street, Warrington

NORTH is a new initiative which aims to showcase and develop contemporary art in the North of England whilst provoking critical debate on the future artistic production in the region. In a series of curated pavilions, exhibitions and events, NORTH explores the breadth and strength of talent within the region in a festival opening Friday 2 October and running until Saturday 31 October 2015 across Warrington.

The Pavilions for the North of England are curated by institutions and individuals who shape the arts in the North. Vane has curated the Newcastle Pavilion at 12-14 Horsemarket Street, showing the work of Michael Mulvihill, Narbi Price and Alison Unsworth.

Michael Mulvihill’s drawings are weighted with menace: landscapes, urban scenes and even portraits are all potential harbingers of threat, disasters waiting to happen. In The Fulda Gap a montage of small landscapes shows a strategically important area of Germany. Named after the city of Fulda, the area is a traditional east-west invasion route on the old West/East German border used by Napoleon and others. During the Cold War, it was presumed to be an invasion route for any conventional war between NATO and Soviet forces. Master of the Universe shows one of a number of atmospheric nuclear tests that the French government undertook at Mururoa, an atoll in French Polynesia, between 1966 and 1996, provoking huge international protests. In the ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ series the tiny scale of the portraits echoes the online thumbnails from where the images have been appropriated. They show some of the major players of the nuclear age, such as Soviet cosmonauts and members of the RAND Corporation – the global think tank that devised strategies for fighting a nuclear war according to Game Theory.

Narbi Price is interested in perceived histories of locations and how painting can question the understanding of architectural and pictorial space. He challenges the conventions of photographically derived painting in terms of paint application and composition, and in blurring the line between the figurative and the abstract. His paintings are derived from photographs taken on trips to places that have witnessed a range of events, whether from significant moments in music, film and TV, or from whimsical acts through to brutal murders that have spawned folklore. Untitled Canal Painting depicts a beauty spot where a Victorian drunkard murdered his wife and where Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner) ran a pub close to a century later. Untitled Well Painting shows a significant site in North East English folklore, celebrated in the song The Lambton Worm. Untitled Alley Painting shows the backdrop to what is often cited as the first music video: ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ by Bob Dylan. The Untitled Flowers Painting triptych shows floral tributes left by grieving friends and relatives at the scenes of roadside deaths.

Alison Unsworth has a fascination with the built environment and the wildlife within it. Objects and creatures are isolated from their context and presented for examination: in Pedestal a seagull perched on a lamp post, reflecting its orange glow, becomes an alternative public sculpture. Small sculptures are made from domestic ornaments depicting idealised rustic dwellings. She ‘demolishes’ the houses themselves, leaving only the bases of the ornaments. Using model-makers’ materials, she uses each base to create a new scene: in Since you’ve been gone, the vacant site is commemorated by a memorial plaque, in Clearance, a builder’s skip appears to contain the last remnants of the demolished house. In Nothing ever happens here a printed book illustration shows an idyllic landscape image of Dungeon Gill in Westmorland. Unsworth has digitally added a wastepipe on the cliff top from which cascades brightly coloured liquid streaking the black and white rock surface before falling into the water below, creating a spectacle observed by the local sheep.

The other curated Pavilions for the North of England are Manchester (Part 1: Bureau, Part 2: Toast), Middlesbrough (Platform A), Leeds (Part 1: East Street Arts, Part 2: Set The Controls for The Heart of the Sun), Liverpool (Model), Sheffield (S1 Artspace), and Birmingham (Ikon).

NORTH is delivered in partnership with Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival and supported with funding from Arts Council England.

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