Chris Watson recording for his NE3 commission

Chris Watson recording for his NE3 commission

Countdown begins to 'varied and exciting' New Expressions 3 Live Season 2015

By Simon Harper

22 December 2014

The countdown is now underway to the start of one of England’s largest heritage and visual arts collaborative programmes - New Expressions 3 (NE3). In just over 3 months’ time, the programme’s 3rd iteration, which for the first time establishes a national approach, comes to fruition as fifteen organisations present new works by eighteen visual artists in a Live Season from March 2015 onwards.

NE3 is a national Arts Council England pathfinder programme supported and delivered by the Major Partner Museums network, the National Trust and the Contemporary Visual Arts Network. The aim of the programme is to unlock the creative potential of museums by enabling heritage organisations to commission new works by contemporary artists in response to their historic collections.

The NE3 ‘family’ consists of six Major Partner Museums: Bristol Museum and Art Galleries, York Art Gallery (York Museum Trust), Soho House (Birmingham Museums Trust), Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Cumbria Museums Consortium (Abbot Hall, Tullie House and Dove Cottage) and Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (Exeter); three National Trust properties: Tyntesfield (Bristol), Lyme Park and Gardens (Manchester) and Upton House and Gardens (Nr Banbury); and six ‘New Opportunities Award’ (NOA) partnerships to enable museums and artists who have not previously collaborated to develop skills in this area: Bridport Museum in Dorset, Penryn Town Museum in Cornwall (with curatorial organisation Field Notes), Armley Mills Industrial Museum in Leeds, Touchstones Rochdale, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire and (subject to confirmation) Strutt’s North Mill in Derbyshire.

From Penryn Town Museum in Cornwall to Cumbria Museums Consortium in The Lakes, and many towns and cities in between, the Live Season will awaken historic collections and spaces across the South West, Midlands and North of England. New works, by established and emerging contemporary artists, will show the spaces in a new light, as long-term interventions and one-off performances promise to produce powerful experiences for host organisations, artists, visitors, staff and hundreds of volunteers.

The NE3 Live Season kicks off in March 2015 with NOA artists, Nottinghamshire’s Tristram Aver and Derbyshires Tim Shore. Aver explores the collections, artworks, decorative arts and historic legacy of Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of Romantic poet Lord Byron, through innovative painting. Shore will create 12 short films that consider time and its close companion in the factory system, light. Time and light are the material elements of moving image. 

Also in March, Chris Watson, one of the world's leading wildlife recorders, will bring sounds of rural Devon into the heart of Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery. Visitors will be treated to soundscapes from nearby coast and countryside as they make their way along the stairway linking RAMM’s garden entrance to the Down to Earth gallery. The sound installation will continue throughout 2015.

From April, artist Yelena Popova’s installation and video The Collector’s Case, Lord Bearsted’s Missing Collection, will be presented at the National Trust’s Upton House and Gardens. Popova has been working with Lord Bearsted's painting collection and the house's enthusiastic team of volunteers to cast light on the historical accounts, archival secrets, technical requirements and practical solutions related to the keeping of the collection during World War II.

Starting in early May and in keeping with New Expressions spirit of forging new partnerships and developing collaborative skills, NOA artists Matthew Bennington and Richard Baines will use the art of storytelling to refresh the Penryn Town Museum’s collection. The museum links to the industry of ancient ports, and the artists, whose output is cutting edge, will toy with the quirks of nostalgia through high quality craftsmanship.

Also launching in May, a major highlight of NE3 promises to be Heavy Rock by artist Keith Harrison, a commission by NE3 lead organisation, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. Harrison’s inspiration has come from a maritime painting in the museum’s art collection, ’Laying Foundation Stone of Plymouth Breakwater’ by George Barrett the Younger, 1812. He is planning an intervention during the casting process and seasonal placement of the 100 tonne ‘wave breaker’ concrete blocks that are placed out on Plymouth’s breakwater each year – highlighting the ongoing defence of the breakwater, Plymouth Sound and the city itself, and making a hidden process public.

Artist Emma Smith will use an inter-disciplinary approach to explore the inter-relation between people and place, also in May. Smith’s commission, by the National Trust’s Tyntesfield property, will present socially engaged work that involves music, sound and play. Up to 900 volunteers of all ages will take part in Smith’s The Written Word Stays and the Spoken Word Flies.

The Dorset market town of Bridport has its origins in Saxon times. The town has an 800-year history of rope and net making, with production continuing to the present day. Bridport Museum’s Sanctuary Collection is rare in its comprehensive documentation of a longstanding industry. The collection was the starting point for work by socially-engaged artist Nancy J. Clemance. As a NOA beneficiary, Clemance researched the objects and archive and initiated conversations with the local community. Bridport Knots, a work meaningful to both community and to Clemance’s own practice will be presented from May 2015.

York Art Gallery, one of the six Major Partner Museums taking part, will see artist Philip Eglin’s temporary ceramic commission run from mid-May until its de-installation in early 2016. Eglin specialises in free-standing figures, almost invariably female nudes, and his work is rich in references both to ceramic traditions of the past and to painting. His work can be found in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. He was winner of the 1996 Jerwood Prize for Applied Arts: Ceramics.

In the Midlands from July to September, the partnership of Chris Poolman and Elizabeth Rowe bring Good Money: A Currency Competition for Handsworth to Soho House in Handsworth, Birmingham. The house was home to industrialist, entrepreneur and Handsworth visionary Matthew Boulton from 1766-1809. Boulton founded Soho Mint, the world’s first steam-powered coining mill in which every process was automatic. His image appears alongside James Watt on the Bank of England’s £50 note in recognition of the role he played in the history of coin production in England. Poolman and Rowe’s Good Money will produce coins to commemorate Handsworth and local heroes. The profile of their faces will feature on the head side of the coin, and designs depicting community experiences of the area, on the tails.

New to the NE3 ‘family’ for 2015 is NOA artist David Bridges and NOA organisation Armley Mills Industrial Museum. The museum is housed in what was once the world’s largest wool mill. Centred on the theme of memory, Bridges’ work, will be shown in July and August, and will comprise of a series of porcelain sculptures illuminated from within, each a repository of thought, of a real memory. Described by the artist as ‘filmic sculpture’ the work will address experience, passion, love and fear, which is outside of material concern.

Another beneficiary of a NOA is artist Hannah Leighton-Boyce who will develop a series of works in response to, and situated within, the off-site collections store of Touchstones Rochdale arts and heritage centre in Greater Manchester. Leighton-Boyce’s exhibition will take place from July 2015.

Later in the summer, artist Uta Kogelsberger will present videos that respond to a commission by Cumbria Museums Consortium. Kogelsberger’s work uses the weather and conversations about the weather as a focal point. The work looks at how the landscape and the people of the Cumbrian region are influenced and shaped through the weather in order to create a visual and socio-political portrait of this much admired and visited area of the UK.

Performance and video artists John Wood and Paul Harrison are collaborating with Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Their new work, inspired by the museum's designated collection of Geology, is titled Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The work is based on the history of geological maps, walkers and individual geologists whose histories are tied up with Bristol's collection. It will be exhibited from 19 September 2015.

The final piece in the NE3 Live Season puzzle is artist/architect Sean Griffiths who has recently been selected to work with the National Trust’s Lyme Park in Cheshire. Griffiths is currently working up some exciting ideas for his commission at this Grade I Listed property on the edge of the Peak District.

“After an intense period of research and development it’s fascinating to see the results of the artists’ really coming to the fore,” said NE3 Programme Manager, Judith Robinson. “2015’s Live Season is shaping up to be extremely varied and exciting. The many different ways in which the artists are responding to the environments and venues they’re working with is really living up to the overarching aim of New Expressions, which is to unlock the creative potential of museums and heritage through collaboration with contemporary artists.”