The vitality of our research environment stems from the diversity of our research projects (often supported by UK Research Council grants or internal awards); from collaborative to lone-scholar research; from regular events and seminars presented under the umbrella of our research fora and Visitors Programme; and from a culture enlivened by the presence of some 25 postgraduate research students who often collaborate with staff and who often have established art practices of their own.
We are also aligned with the University’s research institutes and initiatives, for example the Newcastle Institute for Creative Arts Practice – NICAP, which now provides an ambitious new framework for cross-disciplinary practice-led research and doctoral training for creative practitioners across the University.
Research in Fine Art at Newcastle includes theoretical and practice-based research in Fine Art, Art History, Curatorship and Digital Cultures. Our reputation is built on world-leading research, disseminated in the form of publications, exhibitions, installations and interventions. Our research strategy is fundamentally rooted in evolving Fine Art practice and we actively promote visual art generated at the nexus of established and new practices, technologies and methodologies as well as cross-disciplinary collaboration.
While much of our individual research and professional practice entails some element of collaboration, various models of collaboration as a basis for research are becoming increasingly common; as demonstrated for example, in projects by Wolfgang Weileder, Jane Wilson, Louise Wilson, Catrin Huber and Andrew Burton.
The unit’s strategy also involves inviting researchers into the unit to work alongside us – artist-fellows, Early Career Fellows and other researchers on short-term projects – Lipman Fellows in Ceramics and Bartlett Fellows for example, facilitating their research. To this end, we have a firm commitment to supporting research around the full range of traditional, contemporary and emerging studio-based art practices, along with the associated theoretical and historical discourses. We aspire to enrich research territory with work that tests established boundaries and methodologies. This commitment matches our long-standing pluralist philosophy around Undergraduate and Postgraduate teaching, where we have a very successful four-year Fine Art BA, a two-year MFA programme and a substantial cohort of practice-led PhD students.
The above strategy and initiatives are supported through conferences, seminars and other forums for innovative interdisciplinary creative research such as Connecting Principle. Our Visiting Speakers Programme also brings a variety of important researchers and practitioners in to this rich mix.
Our research at Fine Art is loosely clustered around research themes, and a selection of our projects - along with the projects of our recently completed and current PhD Research Students - can be seen here:
Discover research in the Fine Art department
Research in Fine Art at Newcastle includes practice-based and theoretical research in Fine Art, Art History, Curatorship and Digital Media.
Learn about research in Digital Cultures
The Digital Cultures Studio is a centre for creative digital practice and is a group of artists, designers, musicians and performers.
Visiting Speakers Programme
Our Visiting Speakers Programme presents lectures and seminars from some of the most interesting artists working today.
The Hatton Gallery
The Hatton's collection includes more than 3,000 works, including the iconic Merz Barn Wall by Kurt Schwitters.
Our research themes
The critical base here is the ability of the moving image to mediate between real, imagined and constructed worlds. Richard Grayson is recognised for his constructions across various media exploring subjective belief systems in contemporary art and ways in which they might constitute new models for ‘alternative’ practice. His most recent manifestation of this is Possessions_inc. an online video project for Matt's Gallery, London.
Henry Coombes makes experimental film developed from both practice-based and theoretical research, and the integration of critical and creative work. Utilising his training as a psychotherapist he adapts powerful therapeutic techniques to produce visionary films with a strong and innovative cinematic language.
Jane and Louise Wilson use film, photography and sculpture, to create highly theatrical and atmospheric installations that investigate the darker side of human experience. Works which engage with the unconscious mind and which probe collective anxieties and phobias, arousing unwanted memories, and reveals things which are usually repressed.
The work of Uta Kogelsberger examines how the built environment and the domesticated landscape become physical and visual manifestations of a society’s ideology and belief structures, and the way photography and lens based media have the ability to pull this mechanism into focus.
Both Catrin Huber's and Richard Talbot’s practice-led, theoretical and historical research explores the complex relationships between drawing systems, spatial depiction and its histories. Talbot’s drawing practice involves elaborate drawn spatial constructions, but also raises interesting and important questions about linear perspective's significance and our broader understanding of its nature, history and origins. Catrin Huber investigates representations of architectural, fictional and imagined space, and also site-specificity of painting and drawing. Currently she is leading the AHRC-funded project: Expanded Interiors: Bringing Contemporary site-specific fine art practice to Roman houses at Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Likewise, and often responding to specific places, Wolfgang Weileder’s research is primarily concerned with the examination and critical deconstruction of architecture, public spaces and the interactions we have with the urban environment. His work engages with the world through large-scale, temporary site-specific installation and sculpture; temporal recordings of spaces and environments through photography; film, performance and sound installation.
Tim Shaw’s research engages predominately with sound and is concerned with the relationships between site, sound and technologies. He uses a variety of self-constructed technologies, musical performances, installations, walks and site-responsive interventions to create and examine complex sonic environments.
Fiona Anderson’s research explores queer sexual cultures and art from the 1970s to the present with a particular focus on cruising cultures, the HIV and Aids crisis, queer world making practices, and the politics of urban space. She is also interested in practices of gentrification and preservation, institutional narratives, and queer approaches to challenging hegemonic histories.
Stephen Moonie’s research engages with the art and theory of the post-war United States, with a particular interest in the discourse of Modernist painting in the 1950s and 1960s. More broadly, he is interested in art writing, aesthetics and contemporary painting.
The research of Ed Juler operates broadly within the critical terrain of the medical humanities, and with a particular interest in the body as an object of artistic and medical discourse, most especially within the context of Surrealism and its legacies. Current projects involve corporeal grotesquery, exploring 'skin' as a critical metaphor in modern and contemporary practice and physiological aesthetics in Surrealism.
Richard Clay’s research has focused on aspects of iconoclasm’s histories, but has also included: contemporary jewellery as sculpture; Matthew Boulton and mass produced art of the 1790s; graffiti’s roles in armed conflict; cross-sector collaboration; and the roles of digital in cultural collections’ display spaces.
Research in sculpture that specifically explores ceramics has again been expanded through the work of Katie Cuddon, Andrew Burton and recent artist-fellows Markus Karstiess, William Cobbing, and Serena Korda and Eva Masterman. Katie Cuddon's sculptures are known for their clotted, restless surfaces which are modelled in clay and then painted, sometimes in a uniform colour or multiple layers of paint - applied, rubbed of and reapplied. The focus on surface is important – it is specific and allusive and creates images apparently recognizable as anthropomorphic, symbolic, but unfamiliar so they rapidly withdraw to a level of abstraction that’s hard to capture with language.
For Eva Masterman the studio becomes a site of reflexive and subjective making, using clay as a primary material language. Through attention to the generative tendencies and tensions between the private and performative, she explores the territory of risk and the place of migration between state and thought.
Andrew Burton’s research explores the creative intersection between sculpture, ceramics, architecture and craft. Burton’s current research expands his enquiry into juxtapositions of scale, relationships between interior and exterior form, and explores processes of making and unmaking. His work with artisans in India probed the boundaries of craft and sculpture and explored whether there is the potential for new creativity as traditional craft processes are challenged within India’s new socio-economic situation.
The critical base here is a concern for the particular forms of thinking, creativity and engagement associated with, and specific to, materials and processes. It is set against the background of the availability of new technologies and methods, and also of a critical and historical understanding of traditions and orthodoxies within disciplines.
For example, Nick Fox through painting, video and drawing, explores floriography, its links to desire and longing, and the interface between ‘art’ and crafts. Questions about material and process act as departure points for research relating to content, intention and form; the relationship of practice to 'tradition', 'craft' and the notion of discreet 'disciplines'; issues of collaboration with other artists or with technical specialists/manufacturers and reliance on the expertise of others; the impact of new knowledge and technologies on practice and the relationship of theory and history to practice. Researchers whose work overtly or otherwise engages with this territory are Andrew Burton, Katie Cuddon, Richard Talbot, Alan Turnbull, Catrin Huber, Chris Jones and Erika Servin.
Curatorship is explored both as a scholarly practice, and a creative one. Other projects explore the politics and poetics of siting art within different contexts: institutional, urban and the landscape.Richard Grayson, in particular, is recognised for his constructions exploring subjective belief systems in contemporary art and ways in which they might constitute new models for ‘alternative’ practice.
Gill Park’s recent research engages with Feminist Curating practices, exploring the curatorial and artistic innovations produced through the radical convergence of photography and the Women’s Movement in the 1980s. Notions of display as complex text with material, spatial, political and creative dimensions also underpin much practice-based work, e.g. Giles Bailey challenges our understanding of the history performance, engaging with and questioning historiographic models that are traditionally linear, sequential and reductive. Through various iterations - print, exhibition and live performance, the research uses performance itself to become an active participant in its own history.
Alan Turnbull, a painter, film-maker and printmaker, has combined the roles of artist and archivist to expose the complex histories of Dresden, and in other research the subtle and nuanced relationships between poetry, image, and the translated text.
Paul Becker, through engaging with ‘imposture’ and the fabrication of a fictional artist’s archive, has explored the relationship of artist to the studio, the artist’s relationship to institutions and the myth of the artist.
Such work connects with research in which the siting of art, or the artist’s response to site in relation to the semantics, poetics and aesthetics of place and the politics of placement are primary concerns - issues explored through Vee Pollock’s work on the politics of siting contemporary art in relation to social inclusion agendas.
Wolfgang Weileder’s AHRC-funded ‘Jetty’ project engaged with the multi-faceted debate around the term ‘sustainability’ through the creation of a temporary large-scale architectural artwork, integrated within the impressive wooden structure of Dunston Staithes, a landmark scheduled Monument and Grade II structure on the south bank of the River Tyne. The project has been developed in collaboration with urbanist Professor Simon Guy, Director of the Architecture Research Centre at the University of Manchester, with additional project partners from the arts, heritage, education and business community.
Similarly, Andrew Burton’s AHRC- funded research project 'Creation, Curation and Exchange: Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage experience’, will explore the commissioning of temporary visual art in heritage sites from multiple perspectives. In contrast, Chris Jones’ work brings together investigation of site, assemblage construction and "un-monumental" form, with work characterised by small-scale, rudimentary material and understatement.
From another direction, Jane and Louise Wilson’s collaborative practice has centred on abandoned buildings, often imbued with the presence and ideology of the original occupants. More recently, they have worked with the Imperial War Museum archive, looking specifically at archive images of early surveillance and camouflage techniques employed during WWI. Building on their longstanding interest in the technology and architecture of conflict, the research explores perspectives on visibility, technology and the reconstruction of narratives about that period.
The interest in siting, already implicit in museum, gallery and exhibition display practices, carries through into work in the sphere of public art by creative practitioners and critical studies concerning the links between public art, notions of community participation and consultation and instrumental cultural policy. Irene Brown's research and practice is engaged with 'wonder', focusing on the history and philosophy of science, specifically cabinets of curiosity (wonder cabinets), investigating the threshold between aesthetic and scientific realms. Neil Bromwich, together with Zoe Walker, uses installations, social sculptures and public performances as tools to question the limits of society and to imagine a better world, creating work that crosses between the gallery space and the public realm, exploring art's potential to act as a catalyst for social and political transformation.
This theme addresses the multiple relationships digital technologies can have with aesthetic practice. The work concerns not just the aesthetically-informed creation of digital artefacts but also investigations of how the digital impacts traditional practices and materials. The research is trans-disciplinary in character, drawing on multiple scholarly perspectives, with both theoretical inspiration and empirical groundwork motivating the design and creation of artefacts and artworks.
An important concern of the theme is to impact communities and academic fields with a practical concern for the design and use of digital technologies. Accordingly, much of the research is delivered to computing conferences and publication outlets (especially in HCI, Human-Computer Interaction) alongside traditional artistic settings.
Specific research topics have included: theorisations of media archaeology and provocative pieces exploring data as a material, the use of sensor-based systems to connect computation with other materialities, digital fabrication, the use of design traditions to inform the development of innovative interaction ideas, exploring digital technologies in live performance settings, sound art, improvisation and intermedia performance, data visualisation, wearable technologies, bio-signal interaction and embodiment, interventions in tourism and cultural heritage sites, aesthetic artefacts for domestic settings.
Staff have brought a design-research orientation to work in Digital Media. For example, John Bowers' multifaceted practice draws on design traditions to create interactive digital artefacts. Tom Schofield’s practice-based research explores how the materials of everyday technologies can be reconfigured for new forms of creativity and spreads across creative computational and electronic media, archives and collections interface design/visualisation and physical computing.
Digital Cultures research is supported by Culture Lab, involves close collaboration with researchers across the arts and humanities, and, notably, with computer scientists in the university. Working closely with NICAP (the Newcastle Institute for Creative Arts Practice), Digital Cultures supports a lively community of PhD students and an interdisciplinary Master’s programme in Creative Arts Practice.