L-INK are a group of young people who work with the Hatton Gallery and Laing Art Gallery to organise events, work with artists and create artworks.

In the past, L-INK have worked on facilitated projects with gallery staff, and have had the opportunity to meet artists, curators and different gallery teams; they have created artworks and events and made & delivered creative interpretations of works from Hatton & Laing Collections.

L-INK 2021

L-INK are a group of young people age 16-24 who work with the Hatton Gallery and Laing Art Gallery to organise events, work with artists and create artworks.

In the past, L-INK have worked on facilitated projects with gallery staff, and have had the opportunity to meet artists, curators and different gallery teams; they have created artworks and events and made & delivered creative interpretations of works from Hatton & Laing Collections.

Check out the 2019-20 project here

The next L-INK project will run from January – July 2021. 

L-INK 2021 Project

Recent events have thrown into sharp focus universal changes that need to happen within in our society. The role of artists, curators and galleries is fundamental to making a positive difference in the way we understand our own personal, cultural and national identities, and the ways in which we acknowledge our responsibility and grow.

The L-INK 2021 project aims to examine the role of galleries, collections, artists and curators and the roles and responsibilities they have in the cultural landscape.

The Laing Art Gallery recently acquired a trio of paintings by contemporary artist Mike Silva; Silva has spoken of his own experience:  

'I’ve always grown up being aware of otherness. The mixed-race experience is a very strange one, I almost feeling like I’m floating between identities […] of feeling simultaneously very British but also not British at all.'

The L-INK 2021 project will use Silva’s work as the catalyst and lens through which to explore our own personal & national identities and how we fit into an evolving society.

Image: Mike Silva, Kitchen Window, 2020, courtesy of the artist and The Approach Gallery.

Image: Mike Silva, Jason in Hyde Park, 2020, Oil on linen 76 x 101 cm courtesy of the artist and The Approach Gallery

The project will pose questions such as: who decides what artworks should go into a collection? What is ‘ownership’ and is ownership the same as possession? Do we trust our galleries to be impartial? Are there different ways to display artworks so that they tell different stories? What is the role of an artist or a curator?

The project will also explore exhibitions and displays at the Hatton and Laing Art Galleries, including works by Linder Sterling in the Hatton’s exhibition Linderism.

Image: Linder Untitled 1977 (c) - Linder Sterling Courtesy the Artist

A new, dedicated space will be created for L-INK to use as gallery & exhibition space, to navigate, explore and become familiar with as they consider curatorial questions.

The group will work with the galleries’ Art Team, contemporary artists and mentors to explore current political issues through creative discussion and action. They will visit exhibitions and collection displays as well as having the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at the Hatton & Laing Art Galleries, learning how artworks are conserved, handled and hung. The group will also connect with galleries further afield as long as it is safe to do so under government guidelines. They will undertake a series of practical artist-led workshops and curatorial exercises, with the ultimate aim of presenting new narratives within their own curated exhibition using works from the Laing & Hatton Collections.

L-INK members will also have the opportunity to complete a Gold Arts Award with this project.

Follow L-INK on Facebook

L-INK interviews artist Mike Silva

In February of this year, during lockdown L-INK wrote to Mike Silva. His responses helped to inform their exhibition, New Perspectives: Outside In.

Do the people in the original photos get a say in whether or not their photo gets turned into a painting?

Yes as usually the subjects are close friends whom I’m in regular contact with. Of course it’s a completely different situation when I select an image from a magazine or newspaper. 

How do you choose the photos you paint? What is the selective process of what photos you include? 

The selection is usually intuitive- sometimes it’s the pose or facial expression of the sitter or their clothing . Sometimes its entirely based on composition or the light. 

How have people reacted (positively or negatively) to being included in your work?

I once painted an ex lover from the late 90s. The photo was old and torn and I felt there was enough distance between me and the subject to paint him but when he saw himself floating around social media he wasn’t too happy. We lost all contact so there were no way I could contact him but I eventually tracked him down through Facebook and we arranged a studio visit and his response changed when he saw the actual painting. I think my work doesn’t translate too well online as the surface and quality of the paint becomes invisible.

Are there any photos you are particularly looking forward to painting? 

I have a wall in the studio where I’ve tacked up a lot of images I want to paint from. Many of course end up just stuck in the wall never to be painted and that’s fine- sometimes it takes years for an image to grow on me.

How does the time gap between the photographs being taken and you painting them influence your pieces? Are there aspects that you edit or change because of this difference in time? Do you think that as we get older we subconsciously edit / re-create our own memories so that they fit within a personal narrative within which we are comfortable? 

I started to paint from photographs from the past as a result of revisiting my youth and my surroundings after dealing with serious illness. Going to the studio felt so different and I began to paint from an old photo of my ex partner as a way of making my past into a present tense narrative. Also you get to a certain age and you realise that you have all this history that can be a overwhelming so rather than continually stew in the past it’s great to make something that’s concerned with the present. I rarely edit stuff out deliberately, but things do get lost in translation through the painting process.

Are any photos that turn into paintings enhanced? Is anything omitted?

Nothing is enhanced or omitted. The photo is as it is but sometimes graphics or logos of shops or clothing are edited or simplified for the purpose of painting. I like to make things look easy. 

What is the reason for your choice of faded, washed out colours for the paintings? Is this to add an element of grit that would normally not come from those artists whose paintings show colours much more saturated and vibrant?

Sometimes I paint from colour photocopies and the results are often washed out or worn out which I find interesting- maybe it adds an element of nostalgia to the piece. 

Is the blurry effect of the paintings to represent memory or to represent the nature of film photography?

The blurry effect isn’t deliberate and is probably the result of the painting process or perhaps too much linseed oil in the medium I use- I always try to make an accurate depiction of the image I’ve chosen, and any mistakes or mishaps are to be cherished as these are the elements that can make a painting interesting but it is never deliberate or knowing.

Would you ever consider painting from digital photos, for example ones taken on a mobile device more recently? 

I still take photos with my Pentax K1000 but of course I use my iPhone and I’m always surprised how even photos from 4 years ago seem almost archaic. I recently painted a friend from 3 years ago and it already seems like a different era. 

How do you decide on the size of the painting? Does the size of the painting relate to the level of intimacy you wish to portray?

Again this is usually intuitive. I can see an image and know how it will work best either large or small. Usually still lives and interiors work better on a smaller scale. Portraits can either be heroic or intimate depending on the pose or stance.

Given how most of the photographs that you have painted more recently were taken in the moment and not originally done with paintings of them in mind, have you ever been interested in doing painting made from more purpose-taken, composed photographs taken through the artistic lens? 

I have taken staged photos before and usually the sitters expressions appear either wooden or knowing- in the past I would take a few reels of film along to a session and it would often be the 2nd reel that would have the most interesting images as the sitter would be either relaxed or bored. It’s incredibly easy now to take photos of people as the culture of social media has made people more aware of how to look. I’ve stopped total strangers in the street and photographed them and the results have been great even though I’d just taken a few snaps. 

Does revisiting memories make you remember things you had forgotten? Are they vivid memories or some that were easily forgotten? Memory is usually more potent when it’s contained in our thoughts. Sights and smells can evoke deep forgotten memories- photographs often encapsulate positive memories as I rarely seek out contentious imagery. Gerhard Richter was good at addressing this with his October series dealing with the photographic images of the Red Army Faction. 

Does painting the photos help you process negative memories? 

I think any activity that does involve conscious thought than help processing negative memory. We all have histories and many of us are survivors and have coping mechanisms that are incredibly strong. 

Are there any particular aspects of exhibitions you’ve been to that you liked from a curating perspective? What aspects have you liked about previous exhibitions your work has been involved in?

I remember seeing Richard Billingham’s photographs of his family pinned all over the wall at the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy - they were hung at different heights not in a grid formation. The work stood out as the photographs were both intimate yet confrontational. They weren’t voyeuristic and you could tell he had a real empathy with his subjects.

Has art helped you with your mental health and your general resilience to haters/negative things that happened/happen in your life?

I think painting objectively from images I find interesting has been so helpful with my mental health. I love and admire many painters who make abstract work and wonder how they developed such an incredible skill in building up layers and forms intuitively knowing when to stop. That’s real skill to me. I’m an emotional person and I want to be liberated from emotion when making painting.

Are there any artists you look up to personally? 

Christopher Wool, Amy Sillman , Alex Katz, Giorgio Morandi, Peter Doig, Andy Warhol, David Hammons, Robert Ryman , Pablo Picasso.

What do you hope people take away from viewing your artworks?

I hope people can focus more on the surface and touch of the painting- that’s where the real content is.

With thanks to Mike Silva and The Approach

About the galleries

The Laing Art Gallery

The Laing Art Gallery was founded in 1901, funded by Alexander Laing, a Newcastle businessman who had made his money from his wine and spirit shop and beer bottling business. Alexander Laing didn’t leave any paintings or other art to the Gallery. He said that he was confident “…that by the liberality of the inhabitants [of Newcastle] it would soon be supplied with pictures and statuary for the encouragement and development of British Art”. The gallery today is home to an internationally important collection of art, focusing on British oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics, silver and glassware.

The Hatton Gallery & the Merz Barn Wall 

The Hatton Gallery is part of Newcastle University’s Fine Art Department, but just like the Laing, is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM). The Hatton’s roots are based in Fine Art teaching, but over the past hundred years (or so), its role has gradually changed.

The Hatton is also home to Kurt Schwitter’s Merz Barn Wall. The Merz Barn Wall is part of a construction created by German artist Kurt Schwitters in a Lake District barn in 1947-8. The Elterwater Merz Barn was based on the idea of collage, in which found items are incorporated into an art work. Schwitters applied a rough layer of decorator's plaster and paint over these found objects, giving the three dimensional collage an abstract quality. Asked what it meant, he replied 'all it is, is form and colour, just form and colour'. The barn was designed as a permanent structure, somewhere Schwitters could exhibit existing work. When he died in January 1948 it was left unfinished. In 1965, after lengthy discussions about the barn's future, the Wall was given to Newcastle University who undertook its removal, restoration and preservation.