The Great Lines Project/Blog

Since 2014 I have been chasing the history of a line.

Contour lines on maps were first invented 400 years ago, or perhaps only 250; depending on whether isobaths (the submarine version) count. If you stay above ground then Newcastle born Charles Hutton is the man.

I assumed foolishly that there would be a book – one academic – that had pulled together all the strands: who first, why, who saw their map and created the next evolution. But that book isn’t there. Instead I’ve been amassing leads in the Netherlands, Italy, Britain and France, slowly pulling together the threads of the story.

Bear with me, if you like maps, walking, art or detective stories you might like: The Great Lines Projectcontour 07

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Threads, Tangents and TV

Both residencies – in Cowgate and Blaydon – are now at an end, although there’s still one more week to see the Creative Makings show at Gateshead Central Library.

I have really enjoyed the process of meeting and working with communities new to me, and through both, feel my own work has grown and developed too. I hope some of the links created during the process will continue into future projects. One spin-off already is appearing on Creative North (Made in Tyne and Wear TV) highlighting my work in recycled materials – the request to take part came through publicity of the exhibited work and the episode is now available on you tube.

It is remarkable how – through clever editing – I appear to know what I’m on about!

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Journey’s End – Blaydon

There’s so much to see in Gateshead Library at the moment, even from the car-park Kate Eccles’ work brightens the Gallery window. Inside the journey through 3 residencies worth of artwork continues.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was lovely teaming up with Kate, Victoria, Mark and the Gateshead Arts Team, slowly figuring out where each piece needed to be. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We talk to groups about the importance of team work and then often as adults forget to do it ourselves, so HURRAH to us!

And I know the show looks stronger for it.

That process is echoed in the close team working that saw the creation of Journey Book by students from St Thomas More School. It is a fabulous piece which really requires the visitor to get up close to unravel the thread of ‘stories’ running through, please go and have a look – photos do not do it justice – the show runs though till may 9th.

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Examining Shafts – Gateshead

It was the strangest thing walking the same route through the same backstreets three times in one day, each time with a different group of folk as happy as me to stop and stare at a wall.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The brickwork in question – to be fair – contained vestiges of pre-war railings, boot-scrapes, coal holes or dry middens, from a time when the night-soil man might visit more regularly than the coalman. There were also signs a plenty of the big drive towards sanitation and Water Closets: Examining Shafts, Flushing Shafts – replete with dates – even Manholes, each with their purpose proudly printed upon them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou would think by the third walk I’d seen and said it all, but participants brought knowledge and their own stories and interests to our walks, so each time some new detail would be brought to light.

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Light Switch

Both Cowgate and Blaydon residencies began with walking, trying to get a feel for place (Traces of Place indeed!). Once however, the process of engaging and creating was in full swing, each developed along its own unique path.

So it’s pleasing now – as both projects are coming to an end – that lighting: a medium so important to the Blaydon project (and developed through working with Victoria Bradbury in Gateshead) has slipped across the Tyne and into the final ‘bling’ workshop held last Saturday in Newcastle Arts Centre.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWorking with Blaydon Library the emphasis had been ‘shining a light’ on the past, Victoria (who has been working with Gateshead Central Library) helped me convert the Art Club’s work Blaydon Races from battery to mains. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then whilst participating in one of her workshops I realised how simple a light source could be: a little disc battery taped to a tiny LED. The ‘light-bulb’ moment was taking this idea and using it for making the Cowgate ‘bling things’ – medallions that not only reflect light, but literally light up too.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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Imagining an alternative: Blaydoon

The year is 1828 and Blaydon is on the brink of incredible change… a turnpike is planned but will the railway arrive before it? Starting from this moment – and pooling the collective imaginations of visiting families dropping-in to Blaydon Library – we used historical photos plus found and recycled materials to re-imagine and rebuild the town as a time-warp fantasy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUsing one of the library’s historical maps for guidance, I created a road network – plus section of Tyne – scaled up to a mammoth 4 metres square as ‘skeleton’ on which to build Blaydoon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOlder folk also dropped by to explore our vision and decry the demise of so many of the old buildings, now lost to the heart of the town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had hoped to keep our creative vision in-situ for an artist’s talk the following day but, destruction prevailed yet again (the room had a morning booking).

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Dog Walk – Cowgate

January is a risky month to launch a new outdoor activity. That anyone turned up – with hindsight – is quite astounding. But numbers were low – even with the offer of free soup for afters. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy input on Cowgate is slowly winding up, but I do hope the dog walks – born out of a medley of residency initiatives – continue, perhaps with a re-launch when the weather is warmer?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heart-warming for me was seeing all the participants (both human and dog) sporting some arty medallion bling.

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