Are Northern Artists more sociable than Southern ones?

The Northern Art Prize 2009 has today announced a short-list of four artists, three of whom work in collaboration, and whose work represents a growing movement towards art that is participatory, social, or driven by collective thinking. The shortlist can be seen to represent an ongoing shift towards social and participatory forms of art, where the artist is sometimes originator of an idea that may only be fully realised by others. As witnessed with Anthony Gormley’s One & Other, the public have become central to art work in new and evolving ways, often beyond the artist’s control. Has the loneliness of the artist’s studio persuaded our artistic talent to get closer to other people, or are artists simply more sociable and less ego-led in the North?

From Yorkshire to Tyneside, Liverpool to Middlesbrough and all points in between, the hunt to celebrate the best contemporary artist in the North, has been whittled down to:

Pavel Bϋchler, Manchester

Pavel Büchler is a Czech-born UK artist, lecturer and writer, who describes his work as ‘making nothing happen’. Büchler works in a variety of media, often placing sound art within a wider installation. He works in a variety of media and often uses redundant audiovisual technology. Recent solo exhibitions include L’imitation at Tanja Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2009), Max Wigram, London (2009) and Small Sculptures at Street Level, Glasgow (2009).

Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Old Trafford

Working together, Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson’s work is often playful and inspired by Manchester. In Explaining Urbanism to Wild Animals (2005), the artists sought to warn wildlife about the threat of the encroaching city by broadcasting the sound of building sites to the ponds, fields and copses of the Cheshire greenbelt. At 25 Metres (2007), they created a firework display in FACT’s main gallery, illustrating the wildness and celebration of a public display, confined inside a cultural space.

Rachel Goodyear, Manchester

Rachel Goodyear’s drawings employ the unusual and the everyday. Often emotionless, her subjects are captured behaving naturally, within an unexpected context. Her UK exhibitions include: ‘they never run, only call’, Solo Exhibition, The International 3, Manchester (2009), ‘the converging ends were misaligned’, Solo Exhibition, Houldsworth Gallery, London (2009), and ‘The Drawing Room’, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool Biennial (2008). Rachel has also published a book of drawings, ‘Cats, Cold, Hunger and the Hostility of Birds’ (Aye-Aye Books/2007).

Matt Stokes, Newcastle/Gateshead

Matt Stokes’ practice focuses on musical sub-cultures and his interest in how events contribute to collective social experiences. Recent works include The Gainsborough Packet, a pseudo-period folk music video inspired by a letter written in 1828 by Newcastle resident, John Burdikin, and these are the days, a two-channel film and installation that explored the legacy and actuality of punk as a widespread subculture in Austin, Texas.

Pippa Hale, Director of the Northern Art Prize said: “Though there is evidence that many artists continue to work and create alone, the Northern Art Prize short list illustrates a growing trend to look beyond the solitude of the artist’s studio and work with other artists and the public, placing a collaborative, participatory process at the heart of the picture, that is often interested in a social or historical context and in which the artist may have a limited control over the outcome. There is still evidence in this short-list that traditional media has a place, but its subject matter will make audiences think twice.”

The short-list was whittled down by judges Patricia Bickers (editor, Art Monthly), Richard Deacon (artist), Paul Hobson (director, Contemporary Art Society), Peter Murray (director, Yorkshire Sculpture Park) and Tanja Pirsig-Marshall (curator of exhibitions, Leeds Art Gallery). They commented: “Short-listing from the list of 23 artists whose work has been put forward by those leading the way in the North, was very tough. We’d like to thank all of the artists, and those who nominated them for proving beyond doubt, that there is a need to showcase talent outside the Capital”.

Since 2007, the Northern Art Prize has captured northern talent on canvas, paper, film, video, in sound, sculptural forms and found objects. Previous winners include Nina Pope & Karen Guthrie (2008) and Paul Rooney (2009). An exhibition displaying the shortlisted work will be open to the public at Leeds Art Gallery from 27 November 2009 – 21 February 2010. The winner will be announced on 21 January 2010.

The prize money has, for the third year, been donated by Logistik and Arup. Logistik originally founded the Northern Art Prize in 2007 in partnership with Leeds City Council. The sponsors are joined for the first time this year by Leeds Metropolitan University.


  1. You know, I really wish you hadn’t said keep it clean.

    I am so bored with reading this self indulgent drivel that only speaks to initiates of dank coffee houses.

    We may as well return to the good old days when a glass of water was an OK tree (by Michael Craig-Martin and folks…he was extracting the urine) when statements like:

    “whose work represents a growing movement toward art that is participatory, social, or driven by collective thinking.”

    Which means what? it was made by a committee? we can play with it? What I think you’ve just described is a phone in on a TV show.

    Art like this is completely inaccessible to the every day man who already feels aggrieved that money is being spent on it instead of CAT scanners for hospitals. And when I say inaccessible I mean both through specialised knowledge and enthusiasm. Joe Bloggs is not interested and I’m pretty sure the art community doesn’t care.

    Well it should. Because while it’s not bothered about communicating with Joe it’s sat in it’s comfort zone preaching the above rubbish to the converted knowing full well everyone will stroke their beards in appreciation. And that’s not what art should be about. Art should be about communicating ideas that drag up a reaction from anyone who sees it and standing by it no matter that reaction.

    Having the guts to say something to the world and saying knickers to those who want to knock you down.

  2. Well Mr Lead Sharp, I don’t know where these dank coffee houses are but I haven’t seen any in Leeds recently. Your comment is a magnificent series of sweeping generalisations that undermine what you may be trying to say. Your apparent assumption that the prize uses money that could be spent on the health service is inaccurate – if you read the text you will see it has been donated by a private company.

    Of course artists should be communicating ideas and seeking a reaction. Of course they should be able to defend their position. But you seem to be complaining about the way artists are describing their work rather than the work itself, which I must assume you have not yet seen. And you have a point. Visual artists are often guilty of using ten long words where a single short one will do. I don’t know why this happens, but it does. When I read those over-written gallery notes they make me laugh, but you seem to have been sent off in an apoplectic (long word, sorry) frenzy by what you’ve read on this website.

    The Northern Art Prize is a great thing. I don’t always like the shortlisted art but I love the way it promotes debate. And (ignoring your gender bias) it’s not all ‘inaccessible to the everyday man’. Some of it is difficult, some of it is fun, some of it is just plain crazy. But it makes the world a more enjoyable place and the artists who have produced it are not from a different planet. Take a look at Leeds Art Gallery when it goes on display in November. Then criticise it if you want, but at least you will be doing so from a position of knowledge if not appreciation.

    1. Read my comment again. Now again. Now until your nose bleeds.

      “Art like this is completely inaccessible to the every day man who already feels aggrieved that money is being spent on it instead of CAT scanners for hospitals.”

      Specifically that bit. I can appreciate art like any other person I also have some working knowledge of the subject, been to college and all that jazz and have a fairly strong idea that art is not just about the subject matter or what it’s made of but the intent with which the two are combined in order to depict an idea or illicit an emotional response triggering healthy debate. I also know it needs funding from somewhere and I’m quite happy for that to be a source that doesn’t require the money to be better spent elsewhere, the Lottery for example. But that’s a debate for another day and I’m guessing bringing Jeramey Clarkson into this won’t help matters.

      When the intent is to masturbate (sorry big word but I’m not allowed to say the more common vernacular [oop sorry ‘nother biggun’]) concepts and ideas that serve no other purpose than to stroke the egos of the immediate audience (whether receptive or not, after all a negative press is still attention to some folks) then it all boils down to bobbins. And Joe Bloggs, the man who actually works to keep the world turning and the streets clean doesn’t want it, mainly because he sees it for what it is. Utter feces. And THAT’S when he wants that money to be spent on an incubator.

      And guess what? it’s his money.

      Logistiks customers are Marks & Spencer, Lloyds Group, BT, ASDA, BITC, Vodafone, BUPA and Bourne Leisure and let’s face it they’re not doing very well. So where are they getting the money from? Government subs’ maybe? The money Joe himself may actually spend in those industries? And that opens a bag of worms not worth using for fish right now.

      But most of that is re-iteration!

      What really got me ‘apoplectic’ was the ‘gender bias’ remark, I’m willing to bet you’re someone who sings ‘Ba Ba Rainbow Sheep’ and doesn’t think it’s fair that only women can give birth. Please, if you’re remarking on a slip of archaic semantics just go forth and multiply.

      (no swearing, I’m quite proud of myself)

  3. Hi Lee

    Artists work and have jobs and pay taxes too, they are quite normal if you get chance to meet one. The Northern Art Prize and the visual arts in Leeds bring a lot of tourism to the region and it adds cultural wealth to the city. Through private sponsorship these things are relevantly cheap to the local authorities, and raise the profile of the sponsors, along with the profile of the region. The City Council employs 6 people in it’s Arts & Heritage office (a little fact for you).

    The ‘Modern art is rubbish’ argument is soooo 1990’s, BTW. And it makes us Yorkshire folk sound a little backwards. Why would businesses want to invest in a city that has no culture? It’d be a bit embarrassing to have a joke of an address for your multi-national corporation, or to have a double page spread in the Sunday Times on a weekend get-away to Leeds where there isn’t much worth seeing, apart from the Harvy Nics. You really are letting the side down.

    I think what you are really fishing for is – you can come out and say it if you like, don’t be shy – for the winner to buy you CAT scanner with their prize money? Would you like one? I don’t know if any of them will, but if I won I would buy you an incubator to live in. So shut up.

    1. I wouldn’t know what to do with a cat scanner.

      Damien Hirst’s charity work can be found here:

      And lets not forget Live Aid, Comic Relief (anyone who says a comedian is not an artist gets a verbal smack) and so on.

      The ‘incubator’ is a metaphor. If you had actually understood my (admitted) rant you’d have got this. My point is that Joe Blogs doesn’t research this stuff, so his anger, unfounded though it may (sometimes) be, is none the less real and ever more so ignored by people who consider filming themselves painting a canvas black (I actually saw this today, Bluecoat, Slow Magic, going to review it on my site) somehow clever instead of old and hackneyed.

      If you could actually point out were I said modern art is rubbish by the way I’d be grateful? Also perhaps where I say someone from Yorkshire said it? Considering it’s been going on since the late 19th century that would be like saying I don’t like books or films or Chagall (whom I adore).

      I admit that my reaction is to the content of the piece rather than the art itself, but I’ve seen enough tripe to know what tripe is and I’m simpley expressing a sentiment towards the tripe inspired by the writing above.

      By the way, I’m in Liverpool. European Capital of culture 2008. Do you want to know how many cultural folk are in Liverpool’s council?

      lead sharp, artist, care assistant, tax payer.

Comments are closed.