Review: Where We Live @ Millennium Gallery
Words and photography: Grace Burr
Recently opened in Millennium Gallery, Where We Live is an art exhibition bringing together paintings by Trevor Burgess, Jonathan Hooper, Mandy Payne, Narbi Price and Judith Tucker. Aiming to examine the overlooked and often under-regarded aspects of the cultural and urban landscapes we inhabit today.
Presenting five locations across England, the images include Sheffield’s own Park Hill.
The works on display interrogate the social landscape of England at a time of profound political and social change.
Each series of paintings offers the viewers multiple perspectives on the notion of home and our sense of place.
Trevor Burgess (born 1963) is an artist, currently living and working in London, featured in the exhibition. Living in the city, his work is affected by the urban environment around him.
He’s primarily interested in painting, which explores relationships, people, and contemporary urban spaces, and creating artwork. After moving to London, he felt the need for a more concrete subject matter and specialism within his work. So he turned to the immediate urban environment.
He usually paints images using his own photographs as source material. In making paintings from these photographs, he’s seeking to recover memories from whatever he’s seen and visualise what he felt about it.
His website includes a selection of his work, a portfolio going back over 25 years.
It will constantly evolve to include an expanding portfolio of both new and older paintings.
Jonathan Hooper (born 1963) is a painter based in Leeds. For the past twelve years, he’s focused on painting the imagery within his local neighbourhood in Leeds.
He was brought up in Cornwall, southwest England, in the 1960s. His father, Harry Hooper, was also a painter. At university, he studied structural engineering followed by a master’s degree from Imperial College London. He works primarily in oil paint and thin glaze on plywood.
‘A Place to Live’ features a series of paintings of different types of homes in London as viewed from the street. It was inspired by the images of local property, that were from a new development, from adverts in the newspaper.
He regularly exhibits in regional and national open exhibitions and curated group exhibitions.
Six of these paintings were selected by Time Out art critic Ossian Ward for The Discerning Eye 2011 where he was awarded the London and South East Regional Prize.
Mandy Payne (born 1964) managed to study formally, whilst working as a dentist, as a part time art student over 6 years. In 2012, she had a career change to work as a full time artist.
Her work is inspired by the urban landscape, debates around gentrification, inequality, social housing and the flux of city environments. Between 2012 and 2017, her work was focused on Park Hill, one of Britain’s largest examples of Brutalist architecture, the Grade II* listed Sheffield council estate.
She wanted to document the estate in transition and also for the work to speak of the loss and displacement of the existing communities. Since 2017, as the regeneration of the estate has progressed, public access to Park Hill has been increasingly limited.
“I have always painted and over the years took many weekend and evening classes when time permitted between work and family commitments.”
Narbi Price (born 1979) is an artist. She has recently completed an AHRC funded PhD at Newcastle University in partnership with Woodhorn Museum.
Her work depicts Ashington in Northumberland. Ashington was the biggest mining village in the world but the last pit closed 30 years ago.
“No longer any mining, no longer a village. There’s literally a hole in the centre of the town.”
These paintings are products of the many hours Narbi spent walking the streets of Ashington, at times, following in the footsteps of the Ashington Group. Though ideas for this exhibition came through studying the Pitmen Painters, these paintings aren’t really about the Ashington Group.
Both the beginning, during the depression of the 1930s, and the end of the Ashington Group coincided with the recession of the 1980s. Many of the group’s members lived to see the industry that they had documented, and the very reason for Ashington’s existence taken away.
Making their decades-long documentation of their working and home lives all the more poignant.
Through a changed landscape, that they would barely recognise physically, in a socio-political climate that they might increasingly recognise. Among the places depicted in the paintings are sites of the five collieries, operated by the Ashington Coal Company: Ashington, Woodhorn, Linton, Ellington and Lynemouth.
These new paintings are as much, if not more, about the ghosts of Ashington as they are about the town today.
“Qualities of skill and imagination, as well as a sympathetic feel for the ordinary, make Narbi Price’s pictures eerily noticeable. One is a rendering of bare earth on municipal grass.
It appears photographic but up close it jumps into a completely different dimension, becoming dancing loose dots and blips, free of any representation whatsoever. Even once the painting’s double nature is absorbed, it is hard to comprehend how on earth he did it.”
– Matthew Collings, Evening Standard, June 3rd, 2019
He was the Journal Culture Awards Visual Artist of the Year 2018, and the winner of the Contemporary British Painting Prize 2017.
“Qualities of skill and imagination, as well as a sympathetic feel for the ordinary, make Narbi Price’s pictures eerily noticeable.”
Judith Tucker (born 1960)is an artist and academic; her work explores the meeting of social history, personal memory and geography. It investigates their relationship through drawing, painting and writing.
Between 2003 and 2006, she held an AHRC fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Leeds. In 2013, she was invited to be one of the artists in Contemporary British Painting, a platform for contemporary painting in the UK.
She is currently vice-chair of the organisation.
Her work depicts the Humberston Fitties nearby Cleethorpes in North East Lincolnshire-
“Fitties is a local word meaning salt marsh.”
The series of paintings, titled ‘Night Fitties’ that take place after hours, explores the medium of light and dark and the uncanny transformations of chalets on the Humberston Fitties.
As well as exploring notions of vulnerability, precarity, occupation and emptiness.
They investigate the relation of social, environmental and energy politics on both micro and macro scales, looking out to land and sea and back to the community.
Tensions in the images are layered, with poetic texts foregrounding the voices of the residents,
between legacies of the past, the reality of the present and often conflicting visions of the future
The exhibition launched at Alan Baxter Gallery, London in autumn 2021 and will be touring nationally through 2022 and 2023.
Where We Live is available at Millennium Gallery until 5th June 2022