Residency: Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead
As Poet in Residence at Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead I've been running a new series of free public poetry workshops, called 'All Surface, All Form' investigating the collections held by the Shipley wing of Tyne and Wear Archives.
The subtitle of the painting is 'A Study from Life' however, it is really an imaginative study, representing figures from the folk song, these include the ballad's author George Ridley, his characters Cushie Butterfield the 'yella clay' seller from Ridley's previous song, Mussell Nell, the Swallwell Cat (not a kitty but a card sharper) and Billy Sup-Up who was by name and nature, the local drunk. All these characters and more are well loved locally and have a particular place in the socio-historic legacy of the North East.
What is particularly interesting about Irving's key is that despite being very handy, the key serves to exclude over 90% of other figures in the painting. Being placed beside the artwork guides and influences the way the eye might naturally move around the painting without it. We purposefully look to the key and back to the painting or vice versa. This imposes a particular hierarchy, which becomes more obvious when we transform that noun key (meaning guide) into an adjective, which in turn suggests that these key figures the most important to our viewing experience. The other people become background noise. So what happens when you ask a group of writers to look around these figures? Well, it turns out, some rather interesting poetry contemplating a wide range of perspectives within the painting. Some human, some animal. A selection of this work will be performed at the Late Shows next month, when we are also launching an exciting exhibition of the group's work.