April brought me back together with my Boro guide Brian as we headed out to Redcar to meet the men from Team Talk once more. Our mission: to wrangle this gang of ex-steelworkers into a modelling session of sorts and create a living version of Mackenzie Thorpe's classic sculpture, “The Apostles”.
The idea was born when Team Talk visited Arthaus last autumn (for full details on that rowdy occasion, check out my previous blog post!). Mackenzie joined the group via Facetime and talked about “The Apostles”, describing it as “The Middlesbrough Last Supper” - wherein a group of flat-capped working men leaving the pub on a Friday night, immersed in their tall tales, jokes and debates, fall into the instantly recognisable positions of the Apostles themselves. Well! This sparked quite a conversation and we laughed about the notion of recreating the sculpture with the men of Team Talk. What better models?! How fitting that these Teesside working men should be the ones to do it?! The plan was set in motion.
Huge thanks to Team Talk for being such great fun and so willing to take on this challenge: Brian, Tony, David, Peter, Alex, Colin, Eric, Cliff, Paul, Mick, John, Richie, Paul, Roy, Martin...and Tess the dog!
Thanks also for my very own Team Talk Hoodie, I feel like part of the gang!
*Watch this space for further adventures with Team Talk – I wonder what our next project will be?!
ART CONSULTANT ERIKA BAYLEY GETS THE GUIDED TOUR OF MACKENZIE THORPE'S BORO.
Following the Team Talk visit to Arthaus, in which this lively gang of ex-steelworkers from Teesside came to view an exhibition of Mackenzie Thorpe artwork inspired by his roots in Middlesbrough, I somehow agreed to be taken on a guided tour of the town and surroundings that are at the heart of Mackenzie's “industrial” work, by those who know it best.
And so I found myself, on a suitably grey winter's day, meeting Team member Brian for my first trip “Over The Border.”
First Stop: The Transporter Bridge
It was only natural that our first port of call was Middlesbrough's beloved “Tranny”, that iconic symbol that dominates the cityscape and features in so many of Mackenzie's images. Driving past the now-derelict (but still-infamous) Captain Cook pub, we met the men who work on the bridge, and rode across the river Tees with them as they recounted stories about transporting workers and watching for the seals that breakfast in the waters below every day. Industrial Middlesbrough sprawled on either side of the river; ships, factories, docks and work yards (some active, some not) lay in every direction.
We took the opportunity to photograph our own version of Mackenzie Thorpe's "Waiting For Me Dad"
The rest of the day was spent touring Middlesbrough, from Grove Hill to Linthorpe, Doggy Market to Town Centre, a circuit of places that have cropped up in Mackenzie’s artwork and stories. I could not have asked for a better tour guide than Brian – like the town itself he is full of distinctly northern character, stories, and humour! Brian had an anecdote or memory to share for every stop we made, bringing the town to life for this New Yorker’s first taste of the Boro. I'm looking forward to our next outing, which will reunite me with the rest of the Team Talk gang as we re-enact the Mackenzie Thorpe sculpture "The Apostles" - this group is about to take the modelling world by storm!
The October exhibition upstairs at Arthaus was themed “Made in Teesside” and showcased some of Mackenzie Thorpe’s most personal artwork, focusing on his Middlesbrough roots. The exhibition was full of iconic images of the Transporter Bridge, shipyards, mills, working men and of course the streets and people of Teesside.
One of the highlights of the show for me was a visit from Team Talk - a group of ex-steelworkers from Teesside. An appropriate audience, and what a great bunch of guys! Although quiet - and possibly unsure of what to expect - when they arrived at the gallery, as soon as they went upstairs it became a very different story! There was a heated debate on the specific location of the industrial setting of “Boro Brothers”, plus stories and memories stirred up by pictures like “That Side of the Track” and “Pay Day” – it was a rowdy, vibrant morning spent with a group who found so much of their own experience reflected in Mackenzie’s work.
Every artwork sparked a conversation or a tale, every figure was somehow recognisable, every setting was familiar. It showed once more how Mackenzie’s work speaks to the world beyond art galleries and collectors, to people and places rooted in real life. Mackenzie himself joined us via facetime and regaled everyone with an explanation of “The Apostles” that had jaws dropping. There were pasties and cups of tea and a lot of laughter, and by the end of it I had agreed to go on a road trip with Brian and the guys, and visit the Transporter Bridge and the rest of their stomping ground for myself! What have I let myself in for?!
Another idea born that day was to connect some of the team with our framer in Darlington, Malcolm Hepper, for a project that will see Mal donating off-cuts of wood from his shop and giving the guys a tutorial on frame construction. We love the idea of bringing people together and supporting Team Talk in their efforts to build opportunities for skill sharing and creative projects. Some of the team are already keen woodworkers so it will be interesting to see where this all leads! Something tells me this is another outing I will be joining; I wonder if they will let me try some frame-making myself?! I expect to return from my adventures having been both educated and entertained by this lively gang – watch this space for updates!
As a new Art Consultant here at Arthaus, I have had a busy (and educational!) couple of weeks so far. Remembering the daily to-do list, mastering the drive to the framer’s, and learning all about Mackenzie Thorpe and his work. Today I have been tasked with contributing to the Arthaus blog and to say a bit about “Gallery Life” from a new team member’s perspective.
One of my favourite things about working in the gallery is talking to the people who come through our door. I have already met such a wide range of people and I love hearing about how they discovered Mackenzie and how the artwork fits into their lives. A recurring theme in these conversations has been the accessibility of Mackenzie’s work. For every collector I have met that is a seasoned gallery-goer, I have met just as many who would never have described themselves as “art lovers” in the same way. People who always thought art wasn’t “for” them and would normally hesitate to go into a gallery like this one. One lady even asked if we charge entry!
If you have ever heard or read a Mackenzie Thorpe interview, you will know this is a topic close to his heart - the perceived elitism of the art world. What an absolute pleasure it is, then, to have spent these weeks talking to so many people who have found art that speaks to them, that reflects the world they know and love. Many of Mackenzie’s fans, like Mackenzie himself, are from industrial cities around the world, from Newcastle to Sydney to Chicago. They know these cities, know the people, and know the life. Although not originally from the north-east (I am a London/New York girl myself), I am a real fan of Mackenzie’s Middlesbrough artwork and love seeing pieces featuring his hometown and its people.
I love the fact that this work is being represented in the 2018 calendar. If I had to pick my favourite image from the calendar, it would definitely be “The Night Before”, an evocative portrayal of Middlesbrough workmen with the ever-present Transporter Bridge standing watch over them. This train of thought has led me to a fascination with all of Mackenzie’s artwork that feature the iconic Transporter Bridge – watch this space for more about this and some of my favourite pieces! What is your favourite Transporter Bridge image?