The QT

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Hear, see and feel work of emerging talent

Three winning artists and a clutch of hopefuls are putting on a show at Seaton Delaval Hall. David Whetstone reports
Seaton Delaval Hall

Summer sees the flowers blooming at Seaton Delaval Hall along with the annual display of contemporary art, courtesy of the North East Emerging Artist Award.

As the work of the latest three winners is unveiled at the National Trust property, so the eight contenders for next year’s commissions begin vying for the public vote.

Can an audio piece be unveiled?

It’s a moot point. Wambui Hardcastle’s award winning proposal, Time Flies in the Blink of an Eye, is to be heard rather than seen, although it will undoubtedly conjure images in the mind’s eye.

The versatile young artist is also a writer and performer and no stranger to this place with its colourful and dramatic history.

In the autumn of 2022 she was part of the ensemble cast of The Unlocked Door, November Club’s memorably idiosyncratic production staged at key locations around Seaton Delaval Hall. 

Visitors listening to Wambui Hardcastle’s audio work. Photo by Bec Hughes, House of Hues

Wambui, in a tiny room away from the grand salons and staircases, brought a maid to life in a piece she had written herself.

Now comes this audio work in which she imagines the future of the property — brighter, you’d imagine, than it would have seemed after the devastating fire of 1822 that destroyed much of the central block.

Hear Wambui’s work in the space they call the Gilt Parlour, off the Entrance Hall.

Another winner whose proposal has now taken wing is Rachel Blackwell’s bat-inspired Flight of the Pipistrelles in the Entrance Hall itself.

After the fire, bats made themselves at home and have been in residence ever since, to the extent that Seaton Delaval Hall is now the largest known pipistrelle hibernation roost in the UK.

Who wouldn’t be inspired by these fluttering creatures?

Rachel has suspended 70 pewter bats from on high. Visitors so far have been appreciative. What the bats think of their artistic stunt doubles has not been recorded.

“It’s been absolutely fascinating learning about the history of Seaton Delaval Hall and its ecology,” says Rachel.

Rachel Blackwell with her installation. Credit: Bec Hughes, House of Hues

Now she has responded in her distinctive, award-winning way.

Third of the winners making a splash this summer is Jacob Goff who has decorated the Kitchen Passage between the Entrance Hall and the West Wing with his distinctive textile hangings.

Looking ahead to what he proposed to do, he said: “I feel very lucky to be able to engage with Seaton Delaval Hall and its inner workings to expand on my work.

“I aim to celebrate the team of volunteers who work as an essential part of its operations using materials that have been left and found on site, ultimately demonstrating that the space is shaped, moulded and ushered into the future by the people who contribute their time and effort.”

The act of creation is complete, making for a soft and colourful intervention amid cold stone with each textile piece reflecting an area of work.

Jacob Goff with his wall hangings. Credit: Bec Hughes, House of Hues

But that’s not all because the proposals of those hoping to make a splash next summer are also on display in the stables.

The shortlisted artists vying for your vote are Jordan Edge, Iris Ollier, Phoebe Scott, Bethany Stead, Suze Terwisscha van Scheltinga, Chris Thompson, Debbie Todd and Lucy Waters.

All are either from or have studied in the North East. They are the third cohort of artists shortlisted for the annual award.

The North East Emerging Artist Award is a collaboration between the National Trust and independent curator Matthew Jarratt.

All the work will remain on display at Seaton Delaval Hall until Sunday, June 23 and you will find details on the property’s website.

Looking up at Flight of the Pipistrelles. Credit: Bec Hughes, House of Hues

Meanwhile other National Trust properties in the North East are also displaying contemporary art.

At Lindisfarne Castle, in the Upper Gallery, you can experience Embodied Cacophonies, an installation by artist and composer Liz Gre [CORR] who was inspired by the voices of Holy Island.

Running at Cherryburn until November 1 is a new exhibition by master engraver Chris Daunt, a man following in the footsteps of Thomas Bewick who was born here in the Tyne Valley.

Many Hands by Jacob Goff. Photo by Bec Hughes, House of Hues

The exhibition is called The Art and Craft of Wood Engraving and it comprises examples of Chris’s work across the decades.

Then at Wallington in the autumn you can catch the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Earth Photo 2024 exhibition — a wordy title for what promises to be a fascinating attraction.

It opens on September 14 and runs until November 3.


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