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Art research Returns to explore post-industrial landscape

5 Feb 2015

A continuing collaboration between artists exploring the industrial architecture and remnants of ceramics at the former Spode factory in Stoke-on-Trent will result in an exhibition of new work at Bonington Gallery.

Staff and alumni from Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University have created new material for the Returns exhibition which will open in this month.

Image from the ‪‎Returns discussion workshop earlier. Some great points covered. Next week’s session will be “Ruins of craft: Lost art of Making”.

The partnership evolved from an international research project titled Topographies of the Obsolete which was set up by Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Norway in 2012/2013 at the disused Spode factory. The work for that project was exhibited and published during the world-famous British Ceramics Biennial in September 2013, and centred on the landscape of post-industry.

Art shown at the biennial included pieces using abandoned decorative ceramic transfers by Nottingham Trent University researcher Danica Maier. The transfers were produced in bulk in large stacks with which Danica worked, often making them into plinths or frames for themselves – blurring the boundary between what is the ‘artwork’ and what is the ‘frame’.

Return single image 3, Danica Maier: Mallard Service Plate, Spode Transfers, terrine lid, 2013/15

Danica said: “In my work two-dimensional and three-dimensional identities are combined together: a whole series of flat planes together unite into three-dimensional forms. A ‘flat’ decorative transfer, when stacked in multiple, creates a new three dimensional form in space. It is the continued development of these ideas that I am playing with in the Returns exhibition.”

Meanwhile her Nottingham Trent University colleague Andrew Brown led ‘sound walks’ around the disused factory in which participants walked through the site while listening to a specially-composed soundtrack, comprising contemporary recordings made in that environment and sounds from other times and places. He also exhibited video and installation works.

Returns develops themes and initiatives which started at the Spode factory by focusing on placing objects in a new context, developing site specific work as well as further work with performance and sound.

Andrew explained: “My design for each sound walk is informed by perspectives on the past, present and future of each site, and Bonington Gallery and its environs provide diverse material with which to work.”

In addition to artistic researchers Andrew and Danica, fellow Nottingham Trent researchers exhibiting will include Debra Swann and Joanne Lee, with recent Fine Art graduates Ciaran Harrington and Christine Stevens, both participants in the original Spode project, being artists in residence for the duration of the exhibition. From Sheffield Hallam University, Chloë Brown will be exhibiting.

Chloë Brown: Temple Dance, film, 2015

Following Returns, a subsequent exhibition will be taking place at Sheffield Hallam SIA Gallery in winter 2016. Each exhibition will be a new development from the work previously exhibited, demonstrating the progression of the research.

Returns will show at Bonington Gallery from Thursday 12 February to Wednesday 4 March, Monday – Friday, 10 am – 5 pm.