Exploring Northumberland′s dark past and bright future in art

07 July 2016

A celebration of art and architecture in Northumberland has seen the unveiling of 11 new installations at Kielder.

The launch of London-based Fiona Curran’s “The grass seemed darker than ever” – an artistic response to the history of Kielder Castle – also saw the introduction of ten temporary installations created by Fine Art students at Newcastle University.

Located only 600m from Kielder Castle, “The grass seemed darker than ever” features more than 350 individually painted fence palings encircling a section of the forest floor, now painted black.

The piece is inspired by the history of enclosure of the English landscape, reflecting, in particular, the Black Act of the 18th Century. This Act enabled the death sentence to be passed on people suspected of poaching on the newly-enclosed land, or those found in the forest with blackened faces.

Fiona Curran said: "It has been a wonderful experience working at Kielder over the past year with such a committed and supportive team of people. The landscape has been a constant source of inspiration throughout the changing seasons. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work in such a magical place, to participate in the Art and Architecture programme, and to contribute to the area’s rich histories."

One of the student artworks is based on the story of Hansel and Gretel. A vending machine sited in the forest dispenses miniature gingerbread sculptures and visitors are led there by a trail of crumbs.

All 11 pieces of work form part of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust’s Art and Architecture programme. These particular pieces have been made possible thanks to support from the Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water, and Arts Council England.

The ten pieces by Fine Art students build upon the growing relationship between Kielder Water & Forest Park and Newcastle University. Previously architecture students have designed a stargazing pavilion in Stonehaugh, a warm room for stargazers at Kielder campsite and currently redeveloping a dilapidated roundhouse in Rochester.

Peter Sharpe, curator of Kielder Art and Architecture, said: “The Art and Architecture programme is constantly evolving and it is great to work with established artists, such as Fiona, as well as students who represent the future of art. Having worked with Newcastle University’s architecture department, it is great to expand that relationship.”

Professor Andrew Burton, Acting Head of Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures, said: “It is fantastic for our students to be able to contribute to Kielder’s wonderful Art and Architecture programme. The art has been created by students ranging from those in their first year to those studying for Masters degrees and for them to be able to deliver installations that sit in this stunning environment is incredibly rewarding as we look forward to building upon our relationship with the Kielder team.”

Guests, including members of the Kielder community and local dignitaries, were taken from Kielder Castle to the Fiona Curran artwork, and given an opportunity to walk along the Duchess Trail, taking in the student work.

For more media information, contact Paul White on 0191 301 5325.

Kielder Water and Forest Park, which spans 250 square miles, is home to the largest forest in England and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe. It was awarded the number one tourism experience in England by Visit England 2013, and the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Together with Northumberland National Park, it was granted gold tier Dark Sky Park status in December 2013. For more information see www.visitkielder.com.

Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working to develop the Park as an inspirational place. It aims to improve economic, social and environmental sustainability, provide public recreation and leisure facilities, facilitate education in all aspects of the natural environment and advance art and architecture in the Park. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities.

Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder, Northumberland County Council and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.

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