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!