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Ashes and Diamonds
Friday 26 July – Saturday 31 August 2013
The Outsiders Newcastle gallery presents a gala showcase of ‘Ashes and Diamonds’, an art exhibition by acclaimed painter Darren Coffield examining the miner’s strike of the early 1980s. A series of talks and live performances will accompany the artwork itself.
Coffield is noted for his fine art portraiture, such as his painting of Nova magazine editor and 60s scenester Molly Parkin that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. But for ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ Coffield has employed urban art influences ‘to communicate with the grandchildren of the miners and their families’. As a result the work is sometimes stark and uncompromising, simultaneously echoing the sombre nature of populist agitant art during the 1980s.
Inspired by former Derbyshire miner John Dunn, Coffield has created many of the pieces on display using coal obtained from the National Union of Mineworkers branch at Maltby Colliery in South Yorkshire, which was officially closed in April 2013.
Some pieces feature incendiary motifs in a stencil art style including the word ‘scab’ hanging from the gallows. A stirring poster evocative of mass entertainment posters, commemorates The Battle of Orgreave in which miners were attacked by police, Work is a study of a coal plant reflecting the personal attachment many miners had with their place of employment. The emotive subject matter of such works as Clockwork Orgreave has been of particular relevance recently given the inquiries into police brutality and cover-ups at events such as Orgreave and Hillsborough.
Coffield’s portraiture is also significantly represented. Portraits include NUM president Arthur Scargill, his right-hand man Peter Heathfield, and Scottish miner’s trade union leader Mick McGahey. Entirely new portraits for this exhibition include that of Yorkshire NUM picket David Jones, who died, aged 24, from injuries sustained during picketing around Ollerton Colliery in Nottinghamshire. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is also represented – in the form of a life-sized bust made from resin and coal dust, and a portrait in rust on iron.
The exhibition is a snapshot of the moment heavy industry died in Britain, at a time when its absence is being felt at a national economic level. A proportion of proceeds will be donated to the Durham Miners Association, for the restoration and maintenance of its archive of trade union banners.
Gallery director Steve Lazarides is a keen collector of political art. He has worked closely with politicized street artists including Banksy, Zevs and BORF. His personal collection includes an extensive body of propaganda and revolutionary posters, from throughout history to the present day.
Newcastle Upon Tyne
England NE1 3DE
Tel +44 (0) 191 221 2560