Mike Collier

Prof Mike Collier (PhD) is a lecturer, writer, curator and artist. He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College before being appointed Gallery Manager at the ICA in London.

He subsequently became a freelance curator and arts organiser, working extensively in the UK and abroad. In 1985 he moved to Newcastle to run the Arts Development Strategy at the Laing Art Gallery, where he initiated the Tyne International Exhibition of Contemporary Art.

For the last twenty years he has worked in education and is currently Professor of Visual Art

Throughout his career, Mike has maintained his artistic practice and he is now based in the High Bridge Studios in Newcastle. He has shown work in a number of one person and group shows in the UK.

Collier’s work explores the interrelated nature of ecological and cultural ideas through a detailed study of local environments and (through walking) our embodied engagement with `landscape’.

He maintains that our perception of the world is phenomenological – it is active and multi-layered which is why the act of walking through the environment is central to his work.

He has developed a hybrid practice (that of the embodied artist/curator) which bring these activities together, exploring new ways of curating through a series of curated walks linked to exhibitions and other engagement strategies (talks, presentation of papers and critical writing)

He is also interested in the phenomenology of language and etymology. Local dialect words are a poetic reminder that an understanding and feeling for the natural environment was there in the language ordinary people used and recently he has been working with the diaries and notebooks of poets and natural historians, exploring the embodied relationship between the form of the script they used and the landscapes(natural and social) in which the texts were written. His recent work reflects a twenty first century perspective on the relationship between contemporary society and the roots from which our understanding of natural processes comes from; a relationship based more on our direct experience of the environment than on hierarchies of class and ownership.

Collier’s research activity is multi-disciplinary. His work is 2d visual art; however, it links different areas of research – language, mapping, etymology, sound and colour, anthropology etc within the context of phenomenology.

Click here to see Collier’s website

Brian Thompson

Emeritus Professor Brian Thompson graduated from The University of Newcastle in 1975 with an MFA in Sculpture. He has been awarded numerous prizes including: the Norwich School of Art Fellowship, the Pernod prize and the Peter Stuyvesant Art prize. His work has been disseminated through exhibitions and lectures in Europe, USA and Asia including; The Condition of Sculpture, Hayward Gallery London; The Paris Biennale; The British Art Show; Sculpture Trails Museum, Indiana; the House of the Artist Moscow and the Guandong Museum of Art, China. He was a pioneer of practice-based doctorates in Art & Design being director of studies of one of the first PhD completions in Sculpture in 1992. He is Associate Dean for Research, Resources and External Engagement at the University of Sunderland.

His research is studio-based with sculpture and drawing that brings together two themes; methodological invention in the manufacture and craft of sculpture with approaches to engagement with landscape. His work is topographical in nature and is part of a personal research project drawing together interests in a physical engagement with landscape through walking and related approaches to mapping with the developments of new crafts in making sculpture.

He is interested in how journeys inspire and explore landscapes, how places get known over time, how paths get worn, compress and build up over many generations. These journeys show the topography of the world, reveal something of culture and histories and give insights into how we come to know, understand and navigate. A significant part of the development of the sculptural work is the approach to form and the considered use of materials and process. Sometimes these become ‘patterns’ for casting or constructions in materials relevant to the location; such as wood, paper, iron, glass, bronze, stone or lead. The sculptures serve as records, memories, souvenirs or trophies.

Engagement with landscape through physical experience revealed through sculptural metaphor is a long-term and current concern. He is a founder member of the University of Sunderland’s; Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge (W.A.L.K.) research group. He is preparing work for W.A.L.K. seminars and exhibition in the UK, Europe, USA and Japan. He currently supervises five practice – based PhD students in Art and Design.

Janet Ross

After working on the contemporary exhibition programme at the Laing Art Gallery, Janet became freelance in 1994.  Since then she has worked for a number of organizations on exhibition curation and management of arts events but mostly on initiating and developing arts projects set in communities throughout the north east.  She currently runs the arts charity Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC) which hosts an artist residency programme with associated projects, talks, exhibitions, workshops and events.

Her most recent project has been to organize a series of Art-Walking events and exhibitions in Northumberland in association with Art Circuit Touring Exhibitions and Sunderland University’s W.A.L.K research centre.

Janet’s research interests are in walking and spirituality, in particular pilgrimages.

Marcia Ley

Marcia says ‘the main focus of my research is arts in health. This stemmed from my practice as a participatory artist where I have specialised in working with people facing life-limiting illness and also people with mental ill health.

Another area of interest for me is in personal experiences of public spaces. I have explored this by staging artistic interventions in space through actions such as yarn bombing and performance. I am also part of WALK (Walking, Art, Landscape and Knowledge) research group that focuses on art walking and the experiences of walking through and engaging with the environment we live in.

My research is often explored as action research and often culminates in practical outputs such as exhibitions or collaborative art works. Recent projects include WALK project ‘Tales of the Tyne’ and ‘A Walk on the Wearside’ with students (funded by the Robson Real World Experience fund – as well as an exhibition at Gateshead library in October 2018.

My studio practice has also been influenced by my participatory practice where I encourage people to find their own creativity in a therapeutic art setting. Teaching skills such as silk painting and felting in a participatory setting has led me to be very interested in perceptions of ‘craft’ and contemporary art and the intersections between them. My Christian faith is central to this practice. Without making overtly religious paintings it is often a factor in my work.’