For this week’s episode we had a sit down and a chat with the wonderful Ellen Ranson and Elaine Robertson from Conny Art Festival to discuss the most recent edition of the festival. Conny is a two week long arts festival which takes place all over the town of Consett, in County Durham. There was workshops, exhibitions, live events and all sorts, and now it’s all over for this year we wanted to hear all about it from the festival’s two founders.
Every year Cheeseburn has a sculpture festival and this was the first time my Dad and I went along to check it out. Spoiler: it was amazing! If there’s one thing we love its a big old stately home, and although we couldn’t go in this one (it’s privately owned), the expansive lands around it filled with amazing art made do.
The grange has over 70 pieces of art by dozens of artists and there was so much in terms of style and variety; truly something for everybody. I don’t really know how to talk about everything we saw so I guess I could just go by favourites, both mine and my Dad’s.
First up, mine: the first thing we saw, because I saw it through the doors as we went to go get a map from the lady, was the lovely Erin Dickson’s amazing Authentic Venetian Chandelier, which we talked about a bit in our Abject Gallery Double-Bill episode a couple months back. It was cool seeing it irl, all lit up in an old stable.
The story behind this is fab: Erin was visiting a museum or gallery somewhere in Italy and when trying to take a photo of a stunning Venetian glass chandelier, she was told she wasn’t allowed. However, one thing she learned she was able to do was to use a mobile 3D scanning app, so she scanned this then printed the whole thing. The result is obviously very unlike the original piece, and goes to show that new technologies aren’t the pinnacle of contemporary ways of making. I do love this chandelier though and would love to have a house big enough that I could have it in a grand entryway or something.
Next up is one of my Dad’s favourites. Following the trail around we went into the game larder, where glass artist Ayako Tani was showing some of her remarkably delicate and detailed glass ships in bottles, which were also available to purchase. These things are absolutely amazing, and one of those things (like most sculpture tbf) that I’ve got no idea whatsoever how you’d go about making. We said hello and goodbye to Ayako, and on our way out she told us she has an exhibition on in the chapel as well, which I for whatever reason assumed was going to be a really large glass ship in a bottle. What’s much more impressive than 1 large ship in a bottle, however, is like 150 small ships in bottles, covering almost every surface of this cute little chapel. I mean just look at this:
Here’s a quote from my Dad: “I’ve always had a fascination with ships in bottles, but this was on a whole other level. It was amazing. It must have been so difficult making it all with glass, even the little ropes and everything.”
We followed the trail around and came to another favourite of mine:
These little monkeys are Brigitte Jurack’sScavengers, and there were a whole bunch of them they were fab. The parts of them covered in yellow look to be some kind of wax, and like at most exhibitions I go to it was all I could do not to touch them and find out. The rock in the foreground there is called The Oxton Rock and reminded me a bit of Elmer the Elephant which was pretty neat.
This next piece is a definite favourite of both myself and my Dad; it’s ‘Enlightenment?’ by Peter Hamner. Anyone who has visited Baltic recently to check out Digital Citizen (or at least anyone who’s listened to our episode about it), would recognise these mildly disturbing figures and dystopian scenes. They’re awesome.
“It was weird like. I know art’s a subjective thing, everyone gets something different out of it, but to me this one showed just how crazy the world is.”
Another fave of mine was ‘Nostalgia de la boue: Plastic Friend’ by Clare Townley. Townley is the winner of last year’s Gillian Dickinson award which enabled her to make this and install it at Cheeseburn. It’s made up entirely of waste and repurposed plastic and transforms this delightful copse of trees into a dystopian installation that makes you consider the impact of plastic on our environment. There’s even a swing you can sit on to do this contemplating, looking out onto the untouched landscape nearby (which my Dad is doing here).
I’m gonna finish up by sharing a favourite of my Dad’s, and something we both had a bit of fun with. It’s this cool glass piece by Cate Watkinson (I’m pretty sure anyway), and we both thought that the little bubbles in the glass were raindrops, however we loved this little convex lens aspect of it because it made our faces look funny from each side.
So that just about does it for this blog post. Cheeseburn is free to go to (however they are a charity and rely on donations), so it’s absolutely worth a visit. The only thing is that you pretty much have to drive there, I’ve got no idea how you would even nearly get a bus to this place. If you do head along though let us know, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Cheeseburn is open somewhat sporadically over the summer: