Grizedale Arts

Grizedale Arts Blog

Thursday 2 April '15
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Jessica Lack - The Nuisance of Landscape

The Nuisance Of Landscape: Grizedale – The Sequel Jessica Lack

“The ecstasy of drudgery” says Adam Sutherland, quoting Eric Gill, with only a hint of the fanatic in his eyes. We are standing in the hall of the Coniston Institute in the Lake District and Sutherland, Director of Grizedale Arts, is telling me what artists can expect when they come on residency here. Over the past 15 years, Grizedale has become the most radical arts organisation in the country. “Which is odd,” says a bemused Sutherland surveying the craftmaking workshop going on around him “because what we are doing is actually very ordinary”. But then sometimes it takes an extraordinary effort to be ordinary.

Grizedale Arts, as it is known today, began in 1999 when Adam Sutherland was appointed the new director of a small arts organisation based in the forest of Grizedale. It is now a research and development agency for contemporary artists, running a curatorial programme of community events and artist residencies. Inspired by places like Dartington Hall in Totnes, which embraced the philosopher Rabindranath Tagore’s ideals of progressive education and rural reconstruction, and John Ruskin’s early workers’ education movement, Grizedale promotes art that is useful to society.

From the start Grizedale Arts caused controversy, splitting locals into two camps, those who embraced its cultural democracy and those who saw the organisation as cynically exploiting the community. Sutherland, ever the belligerent optimist, devoured all criticism, even going so far as to invite the inhabitants to decide the fate of a much-hated public art work commissioned by Grizedale. They did so with rueful pugnacity by burning it to the ground. Its impact on the art world was also immediate. Grizedale offered an alternative to the neo-liberalism dominating contemporary art at the time and became a place of refuge for a group of young, post-yBa artists who were at odds with the prevailing climate. Artists like Olivia Plender, Nathaniel Mellors, David Blandy and Bedwyr Williams.

By 2004, when Alistair Hudson joined as deputy director, Grizedale had become something of a right-ofpassage for socially engaged artists. A kind of Grizedale aesthetic began to emerge, often involving animal costumes, craft and subversion. Marcus Coates confronted rural romanticism, literally head on, by attaching dead birds to his skull in an attempt to excite the Sparrow Hawk population, Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane started their Folk Archive, Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope won the Northern Art Prize for work made as part of the Grizedale commission ‘The 7 Samurai’ in which seven artists traveled to work with a local community in Japan. Then, five years ago, Grizedale stopped encouraging artists to make art. They were still invited on residencies, but were expected to dig in the garden, print 2 tea towels for the honest shop or run activities in the local village. What happened? Did Grizedale become anti-art? “Not at all”, says Sutherland, “I think art can change people’s lives, but for me creative success is the practical application of an idea that is integrated into the everyday and then sustained by a community inspiring involvement and development”.

Grizedale’s fifteen years are currently being celebrated with an exhibition in multiple venues across the Lake District called ‘The Nuisance of Landscape’- a suitably truculent title for an organisation that’s impossible to get to without a car. The exhibition starts with a blurred photograph of Marcus Coates crawling across a field in one of his many attempts to commune with nature. I’ve always enjoyed Coates’ art, he does no harm, although he invariably puts himself in potentially hazardous situations, politically, physically and emotionally, yet everyone comes out with their honour in tact, and as Grizedale’s longest serving artist resident it is fitting he starts the show. There is also a video of Sutherland describing the public burning by the local community of the contentious piece by Roddy Thomson and Colin Lowe. A retrospective is a great way of testing the waters of contemporary art, and what becomes apparent is how much of an impact Grizedale has had on the British art world, not just for its humour and DIY punk aesthetic, but its collective subversivism - they even make a key cutting shack look political (we don’t do Chubbs).

But mostly I like the fact that Grizedale is a respite home for art’s superannuated Trojans, those who have fallen foul of contemporary cultural Imperialism. There’s a great film of Olivia Plender earnestly attempting to rehabilitate the late Ken Russell as an auteur while he barks on about tits and ass and John Ruskin is celebrated for his progressive ideals, rather than his pathological fear of pubes. In many ways, Russell and Ruskin are good mascots for Grizedale. Both were uncompromising bastards who spent much of their lives in conflict with the prevailing orthodoxy. As Sutherland says, “Why should the shit version win? Lets reclaim a role in art; we will give back to people's lives what is missing and it will act as a catalyst to get other disconnected activities back into dialogue.” For those in the public arts sector, crippled by cuts and directed by a deluded government into approaching an utterly indifferent private sector for money, Grizedale suggests there might just be another way.


Friday 12 December '14
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

The Nuisance of Landscape

A review of the show The Nuisance of Landscape by writer and art critic Jessica Lack:

“The ecstasy of drudgery” says Adam Sutherland, quoting Eric Gill, with only a hint of the fanatic in his eyes. We are standing in the hall of the Coniston Institutive in the Lake District and Sutherland, Director of Grizedale Arts, is telling me what artists can expect when they come on residency here. Over the past 15 years, Grizedale has become the most radical arts organisation in the country. “Which is odd,” says a bemused Sutherland surveying the craft-making workshop going on around him “because what we are doing is actually very ordinary”. But then sometimes it takes an extraordinary effort to be ordinary.

Grizedale Arts, as it is known today, began in 1999 when Adam Sutherland was appointed the new director of a small arts organisation based in the forest of Grizedale. It is now a research and development agency for contemporary artists, running a curatorial programme of community events and artist residencies. Inspired by places like Dartington Hall in Totnes, which embraced the philosopher Rabindranath Tagore’s ideals of progressive education and rural reconstruction, and John Ruskin’s early workers’ education movement, Grizedale promotes art that is useful to society.

From the start Grizedale Arts caused controversy, splitting locals into two camps, those who embraced its cultural democracy and those who saw the organisation as cynically exploiting the community. Sutherland, ever the belligerent optimist, devoured all criticism, even going so far as to invite the inhabitants to decide the fate of a much-hated public art work commissioned by Grizedale. They did so with rueful pugnacity by burning it to the ground.

Its impact on the art world was also immediate. Grizedale offered an alternative to the neo-liberalism dominating contemporary art at the time and became a place of refuge for a group of young, post-yBa artists who were at odds with the prevailing climate. Artists like Olivia Plender, Nathaniel Mellors, David Blandy and Bedwyr Williams. By 2004, when Alistair Hudson joined as deputy director, Grizedale had become something of a right-of-passage for socially engaged artists.

A kind of Grizedale aesthetic began to emerge, often involving animal costumes, craft and subversion. Marcus Coates confronted rural romanticism, literally head on, by attaching dead birds to his skull in an attempt to excite the Sparrow Hawk population, Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane started their Folk Archive*, Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope won the Northern Art Prize for work made as part of the Grizedale commission The 7 Samurai in which seven artists traveled to work with a local community in Japan.

Then, five years ago, Grizedale stopped encouraging artists to make art. They were still invited on residencies, but were expected to dig in the garden, print tea towels for the honest shop or run activities in the local village. What happened? Did Grizedale become anti-art? “Not at all”, says Sutherland, “I think art can change people’s lives, but for me creative success is the practical application of an idea that is integrated into the everyday and then sustained by a community inspiring involvement and development”.

Grizedale’s fifteen years are currently being celebrated with an exhibition in multiple venues across the Lake District called ‘The Nuisance of Landscape’- a suitably truculent title for an organisation that’s impossible to get to without a car. The exhibition starts with a blurred photograph of Marcus Coates crawling across a field in one of his many attempts to commune with nature. I’ve always enjoyed Coates’ art, he does no harm, although he invariably puts himself in potentially hazardous situations, politically, physically and emotionally, yet everyone comes out with their honour in tact, and as Grizedale’s longest serving artist resident it is fitting he starts the show. There is also a video of Sutherland describing the public burning by the local community of the contentious piece by Roddy Thomson and Colin Lowe.

A retrospective is a great way of testing the waters of contemporary art, and what becomes apparent is how much of an impact Grizedale has had on the British art world, not just for its humour and DIY punk aesthetic, but its collective subversivism - they even make a key cutting shack look political (we don’t do Chubbs). But mostly I like the fact that Grizedale is a respite home for art’s superannuated Trojans, those who have fallen foul of contemporary cultural Imperialism. There’s a great film of Olivia Plender earnestly attempting to rehabilitate the late Ken Russell as an auteur while he barks on about tits and ass and John Ruskin is celebrated for his progressive ideals, rather than his pathological fear of pubes. In many ways, Russell and Ruskin are good mascots for Grizedale. Both were uncompromising bastards who spent much of their lives in conflict with the prevailing orthodoxy.

As Sutherland says, “Why should the shit version win? Lets reclaim a role in art; we will give back to people's lives what is missing and it will act as a catalyst to get other disconnected activities back into dialogue.” For those in the public arts sector, crippled by cuts and directed by a deluded government into approaching an utterly indifferent private sector for money, Grizedale suggests there might just be another way.

* Jeremy and Alan's Folk Archive definitely didn't start at Grizedale although they did come to stay during the collecting phase and decided that any local folk art was tainted by the proximity of so many artists so consequently inadmissible.


Thursday 8 November '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Now I Gotta Reason

Are+they+working%3F
Are they working?

The show at the Jerwood Space opened for business yesterday. Co-curated with Marcus Coates, the premise of the show is looking at ways in which art, artists and culture can play a more useful role in society. The main discussion so far seems to be about money and in particular the artist and their unpaid or unvalued labour. As we will be making the budget spend transparent and encouraging the artists to think about generating income through their activity, money talk is no surprise so we will see where these discussions take us in the coming weeks.


Thursday 1 November '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Santa's Helpers

Not really, he doesn't exist. However, we could really do with some help bringing special seasonal art cheer to our local village. From making Christmas decorations, serving mulled wine at the Christmas Lights Switch On to offering a gift wrapping service at the Farmer's Market and Art Fair, you can use your creative skills in lots of useful ways. For more information, email Maria.


Wednesday 18 July '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Beware The Stare

The Coniston Youth Club, which we started just over a month ago, is arranging its first public event - a film night in Coniston Institute on Tuesday 24th July. They decided to screen the 1960's sci-fi film, Village of The Damned, a film about a group of children in a village who have telepathic powers and are able to force people to do things against their will! We will be joined by a group of young people on a residential visit from Tate Liverpool. Do read the Coniston Youth Club weekly blog here.


Friday 8 June '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

From Purcell to The Beach Boys

Mill Hill County High School were in Coniston last week for a spot of canoeing, hill walking and general school holiday fun (with a few trips to the hospital). All music students, on holiday with their music teachers (with a penchant for both classical and easy listening), much to our delight, they agreed to to do a performance for the village on their last night. Held in Coniston Institute, our Youth Group made homemade ice cream and temperance drinks and served these during the interval and raised money for both Mill Hill school and our youth group. 


Monday 7 May '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Talk by Dr. Derek Lynch

Transforming Agriculture: Growing better communities

Monday 28th May 6pm

Coniston Institute


Dr. Derek Lynch is an expert in organic agriculture and professor at Dalhousie University in Canada. He is in Consiton to give a talk on his research into organic and sustainable agricultural systems from around the world. This talk is free and not to be missed so please come along! Refreshments will be served.

Dr. Derek Lynch is Canada Research Chair in Organic Agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. His teaching and research interests include organic and sustainable agricultural systems, environmental/ecological impact of farming system, and soil quality and fertility management.


Monday 7 May '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Michael Marriott Talk

Coniston+cricket+pavilion
Coniston cricket pavilion
One+of+the+most+beautiful+recreation+grounds
One of the most beautiful recreation grounds

A talk and workshop with renowned Interior Designer Michael Marriott, as part of the development of the Coniston cricket pavilion and grounds.

Friday 25th May

6 - 9pm

The event is free and a buffet dinner is included. All are welcome.

This is the second event in a series of talks focusing on contemporary, sustainable building and design for a community build project.


Saturday 21 April '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

Holidaying at Home

Holidaying at home is the new going away so here's a link to our neighbour and friend John Atkinson's holiday blog. His 2 week annual leave from his National Trust job is spent lambing on his farm.


Tuesday 10 April '12
(from Grizedale Arts Blog)

A village self-build

Dominic+Stevens+at+Coniston+Institute.+Photo+by+Hydar+Dewachi
Dominic Stevens at Coniston Institute. Photo by Hydar Dewachi

We have now had a couple of meetings with the local cricket, tennis and bowling clubs with a plan to work with them to re-develop their buildings (in particular the cricket pavilion). Set in one of the most stunning views in Coniston at the base of a mountain, the opportunity to create a contemporary build (or series of buildings) couldn't be missed. As a community project, this will involve quite a lengthy process of discussions, talks and workshops to re-think the whole area and how it might be possible to generate income streams from these new buildings. The first talk we organised was with Irish architect Dominic Stevens. With his sensitivity to the landscape and to environmental issues, use of local materials and labour and to being cost efficient, his talk went down very well. We then had a discussion about the needs of Coniston, the community and the three clubs and decided that what we don't need is another pub (there are 6 already in the village) but what would be beneficial was if the pavilion could double as accommodation during the winter, generating income for the clubs. There was a bit of opposition to this, mainly from fear that a precedent would be set which would allow the site to become a housing estate in the future, but generally everyone was all for a multi-use contemporary build.  


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