School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Irene Brown

Lecturer in Fine Art, MFA Course Leader



Irene Brown is an artist who has specialised in site specific installations and permanently sited public art. Working methods include sculpture, printmaking and photography and artworks often include kinetic elements, lighting and optical illusions. Her current research is concerned with the creative and pedagogic potential of 'Wonder' in the production and presentation of fine art and within contemporary museum display.

Roles and Responsibilities

Degree Programme Director MFA


1979-80 Cardiff College of Art. Foundation.
1980-83 Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham. BA(Hons) Fine Art, First Class.
1985-87 Reading University, MFA

Previous Positions

1987 – 94 Studio Demonstrator/Lecturer in Sculpture, (full time) Newcastle upon Tyne University

1994- 2007 Senior Lecturer in Fine art and Sculpture (full time) Wolverhampton


Research Interests

Shortly after taking up the post at Newcastle University in September 2007 I decided to refocus my research. I have over twenty year experience of combining a full time lecturing post with a professional career as a site specific public artist and gallery based installationist. Most of my work has been funded from non academic sources such as the Arts Council, One North East and Local councils. I now wish to explore the potential of a more ‘academic’ approach towards my research.
This refocusing has been brought about, at least in part by project I initiated with the Great North Museum: Hancock while it underwent a major new rebuild and refurbishment For eight months between October 2008 and May 2009 I photographed the gradual transformation of the interior of museum, eventually taking over 3,000 photographs creating a permanent digital archive for the GNM and a major resource for my own practice. This experience prompted extensive research into the relationships between artists and museums, museum history and philosophies, taxonomies and even taxidermy. It instigated a new and ambitious research project the ‘Gallery of Wonder’. GOW is an exhibition and research facility for exploration into the evocation of wonder through display. It invites exploration into the potential of visual display to provoke enquiry and stimulate innovative associations. The Gallery of Wonder extends an open invitation to artists, scientists, writers and researchers to engage with and contribute to this research. The original Gallery of Wonder is comprised of two large oak and glass display cabinets built into the windows of the Fine Art Building in Newcastle University.

Although mainly artist led, the GOW project has been intrinsically interdisciplinary – many of the artists engaged with the project have either worked directly with scientists or explored aspects of science; performance artist Lady Kit worked with Dr John Lazarus, an evolutionary biologist and psychologist in the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University. Artist Helen Bullard explores subjects of animal-human divergence and convergence, her fascination with science and natural history has often led her to work in collaborative partnerships with scientists and researchers. Corinne Lewis worked as artist in residence within the school of Biology at Newcastle University working with Dr Gary Caldwell, examining live algae specimens using Microscopy, as part of the ‘MarineBioEnergy Initiative’. Professor Paul Younger, Director, Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability at Newcastle University, Chair at SustaiNE, an Environmental Engineer and Hydrogeologist presents Images taken using a petrographic microscope, commenting on the aesthetics of science.


Other Expertise

Irene has experience of running a bronze casting facility and a broad range of experience in hot and cold casting techniques. She also specialises in the use of digital photography, the use of lenticular technology and large scale stainless steel engineering and construction.

Current Work

accommodate 18 projects over two years, February 2010 to April 2012. In November 2010 the project was expanded to include a new venue, a specifically designed cabinet installed in the Great North Museum: Hancock,    This new GOW/GNM project presented 10 opportunities to engage with the project within a museum context completing in December 2011.

I am working towards a NIASSH supported international, cross disciplinary conference, of 100 participants, with publication entitled ‘Wonder and the modern world: An exploration into the role of wonder in contemporary society’, summer 2012 to conclude this phase of the GOW project.

The GOW project is about to enter a new phase; leading a new ‘Cabinets on Campus’ imitative supported by the Coherent campus group. The Kings Gate and the Robinson Library buildings on the Newcastle University central campus will provide two new venues. Each will accommodate museum grade cabinets for the curation of exhibitions that can include items from the permanent collections of the university.

I am also working on an AHRC – Science in Culture Exploratory Awards application in relation to the future of GOW/ at he GNM: Hancock. The application is to trial an innovative dissemination approach for Science based researchers within Newcastle University. The aim is to present aspects of scientific research in a visually stimulating way, to a largely non-academic audience by empowering and building confidence in the scientists to test new ways of sharing their research. The project would provide experienced, professional advice and technical support, working with a fine artist/ curator to develop, design and install exhibitions with the scientists within the Great North Museum: Hancock.

Future Research

Personal research is focused on resourcing a second residency at the Great North Museum: Hancock, this time based at the Permanent Collection facilities in the basement of the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. I am working to develop a series of 3D photographs for Exhibition.

If the AHRC – Science in Culture Exploratory Awards is successful then I will be developing the theme into a major bid. Continuing to curate the cabinets on campus imitative.

I’m also intending to build upon my experiences of delivering/ publishing papers at international conferences.

Studio practice and Dissertation supervision on MFA programme. PhD first and second supervisor.

Esteem Indicators

Commissions and Awards and residencies:

2008 Photography residency at the GNM: Hancock.
2007 Extramuros – art outside the walls, Sculpture in the landscape.
International touring exhibition of sculpture to Spain and Portugal plus permanently sited series of sculptures for Ellesmere, Shropshire (Launch March 28th )

2006 Eyes of Aberafan – Design for solar powered, illuminated sculpture.
Aberafan, South Wales.

2006 Paper Work – Permanently sited public sculpture for the Wansbeck Business Park, Ashington, Tyne and Wear.

2005 Encompass- International Symposium and permanently sited public Sculpture. Lake Vyrnwy, Wales.

2005 Elemental - Permanently sited public art for The Quorum Business Park, Newcastle upon Tyne.

2005 Chair - Personal Practice Symposium. Allen Heads
Arts Centre. Northumberland

2003 Llanwddyn Arc. International Symposium and permanently sited public Sculpture. Lake Vyrnwy, Wales.

2003 The Golden House. International Symposium and permanently sited public Sculpture. Lake Vyrnwy, Wales.

2003 ‘Gallery without Walls’ – Developing new teaching aids for
Primary school s based on the Art on the Riverside works

2003 Fleet - Permanently sited Public Art Commission
Market Dock, South Shields. Art on the Riverside.

2003 Design for regeneration of
Grange Rd, Middlesbrough.

2003 Sea Change- Temporary event. / Installation for the
launch of the New Arts and Cultural policy for South

2003 People of South Tyneside (POST) awards.
Design and manufacture of 13 glass awards.

1998-2000 Spirit of South Shields- Artist in Residence & permanently sited Public Art Commission.
Market Dock, South Shields.
Art on the Riverside / Tyne and Wear Development Co.

1993 Racing Ahead - Permanently sited Public Sculpture – ‘
Stockton on Tees High Street.

1990 Northern Arts travel bursary – Four month research trip to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.

1990 Caesar’s Sofa -Public Sculpture –
Gateshead Garden Festival.

Solo Exhibitions:

2010 The Realm of possibilities, exhibition to launch the Gallery of Wonder
2009 Wielding Wonder -Exhibition in the Great Exhibition Hall for Launch of GNM: Hancock

2004 Installation - Carpe Diem
The Myles Meehan Gallery, Darlington Arts Centre.

2001 Installation – The Vision (Part1)
The Customs House, South Shields, Tyne and Wear.

1995 Installation – ‘House of Fun’
Northern Stage Company, Newcastle Playhouse.

1995 Installation – ‘MOTEL, MOTEL’
Two major site Specific Installations for the Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Selected group exhibitions:

The Castle Keep Chapel of Newcastle upon Tyne.

1998 Installation – VANE, G.o.t.m. in the City.
Newcastle upon Tyne.

1996 Sculpture – ‘ARTLANTA’ – Hatton Gallery, The University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the King Plow Arts Centre Atlanta USA.

1996 Animation – Take Over TV. Channel 4.

1994 Installation – ‘Light Fantastic’ works using electric light.
Walsall Museum and Art Gallery.

1994 Sculpture. The Newcastle Group Show.
The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1992 Sculpture - ‘Take a Seat’
Kings Lynn Arts Centre.

1991 Theatre Design/Sculpture – ‘Women Prefer’
The Gilbenkian Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1991 Sculpture – ‘Animal Crackers’
Newcastle Arts Centre and Ayr.

Selected Publications and Articles:
2009 The go between - Conference Cardiff. Delivered and published paper

2006 Commissions in the North East of England 2003-2007 – Arts Council Pub.
2005 Journal- Culture -Colour supplement October 05 (images)
2005 The Culture Show. BBC 2 May 25th (images)
2003 Commissions in the North of England – Arts Council Pub.
ISBN 0-7287-0937-6
2000 Public Sculpture of Northeast England- Paul Usherwood, Jeremy Beach and Catherine Morris. ISBN 0-85323-625-9
1999 Guardian Review of ‘Vivata In Memeoriam Mortis’
1999 Catalogue - VANE
1995 Observer colour supplement – Year of the Visual Arts Northeast.
1996 Catalogue – ‘Artlanta’



Undergraduate Teaching

All undergraduate programmes on the Fine Art BA Stages 1-4.

Postgraduate Teaching

Postgraduate tutees and contribution to MFA seminar programme.
First and Second supervisor for PhD