The current exhibition at Shieldfield Art Works, Community Not Commodities, explores the connection between printmaking and protest, with a collection of printed artworks such as posters and zines that carry messages about the important issues of housing, gentrification, homelessness and refugees. Its features work by Theresa Measton, ‘The Right and Freedom to a Home’ (originally produced for the 2016 ‘Beyond Words’ exhibition in Hull), comprising a zine, sketchbooks and prints which use traditional typesetting techniques alongside bold colours and impactful imagery to convey a powerful message about home, inclusion and injustice.
Measton also worked with community members to produce a series of posters which are displayed on the outside of the Shieldfield Art Works building. ‘A Shout, A Cry, A Question: Shieldfield Speaks’ (2019) was created using quotes from local people gathered during discussions about community, housing and activism. The quotes came from (left to right in image below): Sheryl Cathey, Maxine Mallon, John Armstrong, The Bible – Amos 5:24 (The Message), Fherisia Dougall, Jill Menzies and an excerpt from The People’s Poems 2 by Sky Hawkins.
SAW’s display also includes a collection of articles about the housing crisis, community led housing projects and Arts Activism approaches to these challenges. There is also a selection of protest posters from the 1970s and 80s, addressing issues such as housing and women’s rights. These give some historical context about the way poster art has been used previously to convey a message on difficult topics, using bold graphics and humour.
A new artwork was commissioned for the exhibition by artist Ciara Ní Léanacháin, who is also an activist and chairperson of the Three Sisters ACORN community-based union. Léanacháin worked with members of ACORN living in Shieldfield and created a series of cyanotype prints entitled ‘Spectres on the 10th Floor’ (2019). This technique creates impressions of spaces and objects, producing ephemeral images in shades of blue. The processes of collaging, exposing, and processing these prints all took place within the walls of their homes amidst discussions about the precarious nature of safety and security, particularly in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster.
This exhibition is not just about looking and appreciating; it is a call to action with various ways to get involved. Visitors can make their own protest poster to add to the gallery display, and there are workshops and discussion events to enable further engagement with the issues raised.
Community Not Commodity runs at Sheildfield Art Works until 9 November 2019.
Sarah Davies is an artist and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.