This project has been developed by The Burton Art Gallery & Museum, with thanks to Torridge District Council and The Friends of The Burton

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Next Generation Artists Selected

We are pleased to share with you the names of the artists and the film maker selected for the Bideford Black: Next Generation commissions.

We were delighted by such a high number of applications – all of which were excellent and which made the selection process very difficult. The panel felt that the selected artists went above and beyond the criteria as set out in the brief. We anticipate that their work will provide a fascinating addition to the existing Burton collection and offer a real insight into this distinctive local pigment.

The selected artists are:
Tabatha Andrews (Devon)
ATOI (Cornwall)
Luce Choules (Essex)
Corinne Felgate (London)
Neville & Joan Gabie (Gloucestershire)
Littlewhitehead (Lanarkshire)
Lizzie Ridout (Cornwall)
Sam Treadaway (Bristol)

Our film maker is Liberty Smith. Liberty presently lives and works in London and went to school in Hartland, North Devon, just up the road from Bideford. She will be creating a wonderful documentary film to record the artist’s progression over the coming year.

We welcome The National Trust and Ian Cook of Exeter University to the project and thank them for supporting the artists in their research and development phase.

We anticipate the final works will open to the public in the autumn of 2015 – exact date to be confirmed.

Updates on the project and the artist's progress will be posted here, so keep reading.

Any enquiries please contact Carolyn Black, Project Manager The Next Generation: Carolyn@flowprojects org.uk

Monday, 13 October 2014

Bideford Black - the new generation + Richard Long

We're grateful for the many applications we received for the artist and film commissions for this project. The selection has finally been made and we will tell you more once the programme begins to take shape.

Why not come to The Burton Gallery in the meantime and see the Richard Long show, part of the Artists Rooms tour from Tate? His work is very much about earth materials and black mark making. It's a real treat to see his work in Bideford - it runs until December - how fantastic to have it so close to home for people in North Devon.


Kingsley Road, Bideford, Devon EX39 2QQ
Telephone: 01237 471455
Admission is Free
Open Daily 10am - 4pm
Sundays 11am - 4pm

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Bideford Black - the Next Generation. Not the first, and not the last, to use this medium

Claire Gulliver and I (Carolyn Black of Flow Contemporary Arts) have been appointed by the Burton to take the Bideford Black project onto another stage. The Next Generation - is not the first project that the Burton has initiated relating to artists using Bideford Black. It is a development from the work done by many local artists, including Peter Ward on this blog, and in his studio too. It's inspirational to see and meet so many artists who have worked with BB as a medium. The exhibition at White Moose in Barnstaple showed some of them in 2013.

Thanks to ACE funding and support from the Friends of the Burton, Claire and I are managing the new commissions on behalf of the art gallery, working closely with Warren Collum. 8 artists and 1 film maker will be selected to stretch this pigment to its limits. Coming from an industrial background, the pigment played a part in the economic foundation of Bideford. We're excited by the possibility that artists can explore new ways of using it. Beauty, fragility, density, darkness, earthiness and stickiness are just some of the qualities it possesses.

As a natural pigment, it has some very specific qualities. It holds social history in its tacky texture; crumbling memories of ancient geology; grains of physical hardship in its mining; but it can also be part of an unknown future. Since it was first used in industrial paint and mascara, the world has developed unbelievably fast. Technology is everywhere, new materials and compounds are being discovered, some of which may (or may not) be combined with the pigment in some way. We need to understand more thoroughly the nature of the material and hope to be able to share a material analysis in due course.

In the meantime, we encourage artists to think beyond the page or the pedestal, challenge the preconceptions we have about what pigment can be used for.

Download the brief here and share your ideas with us. Don't be afraid to suggest something unusual or challenging, the criteria for selection are stated in the brief - beyond them anything may be possible.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The nature of black: Artist commissions to explore new ways of working with scarce pigment

The Burton Art Gallery & Museum has secured Arts Council England funding to commission eight artists and a film maker to make new works for the collection and to develop new ways of using Bideford Black.  Eight artists and a film maker will explore new ways of working with a scarce pigment as part of a project launched this week. ‘Bideford Black - The Next Generation’ is a Burton Art Gallery project produced and curated in association with Flow Contemporary Arts and Claire Gulliver.

The artists will be selected by open call and the project partners are confident they will be both surprised and excited by proposals from emerging and established artists from across the UK and beyond. The new commissions will join examples of existing works made with Bideford Black in the Burton’s collection.

Warren Collum, Exhibitions Officer, said: “We are grateful for the support of The Friends of the Museum who also contributed, to ensure the budget is suitable to attract high-calibre artists to make art with, or about, this unique and adaptable black pigment”.

The project connects the heritage of the Bideford area with the use of its local pigment by artists past and present - commissioning and documenting its creative possibilities. ‘Biddiblack’ is the local name for Bideford Black, a coal-like mineral traditionally prized by artists for pigment and mined at Bideford until 1968. ‘Bideford Black: The Next Generation’ will reinterpret Bideford Black for a contemporary audience, stretching its uses and creating fresh artworks for Burton Art Gallery’s collection.

The specially commissioned film will document the creative process - from the artist’s preliminary ideas, right through to the final works - for exhibition in the Autumn of 2015. Devon-based artist Peter Ward, who uses this unique pigment in his own artworks, conducted some fascinating research about Bideford Black:

Running alongside seams of anthracite across North Devon is a black clay-like material that was mined for 200 years in Bideford for its uses as a strong black pigment. The unique ‘Mineral Black’, or ‘Biddiblack’ as it was known, was commercially produced for applications in the boat building industry, for colouring rubber products, for camouflage on tanks in WWII and was even bought by Max Factor for the production of mascara. The mines were closed in 1968 when the production of cheaper oil-based blacks and the depletion of the seam made the operation financially unviable, but many locals still remember the ‘Paint Mines’ and have tales to tell of using the paint or going into the now defunct mine shafts.

Follow the progress of the The Next Generation project on this blog.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Opportunities for 8 artists and 1 film maker

Bideford Black - The Next Generation’ is a Burton Art Gallery project produced and curated in association with Flow Contemporary Arts and Claire Gulliver. 

The Burton has secured Arts Council England funding to commission eight artists and a film maker to make new works for the collection and to develop new ways of using Bideford BlackWe are grateful for the support of The Friends of the Museum who also contributed, to ensure the budget is suitable to attract high-calibre artists to make art with, or about, this unique and adaptable black pigment.


Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England
& Project Managed by Flow Contemporary Arts in collaboration with Claire Gulliver


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A LAST POST but not the end of the road…

On the 8th March 2014 the long awaited, new permanent Bideford Black display case was finally revealed upstairs at the Burton Art Gallery & Museum. After an exciting year of research, public engagement and workshops the Story of Bideford Black team, along with help from Murray Design[i], Myriad-UK[ii] and Kingfisher Multimedia[iii], have brought together a visually pleasing and informative addition to the already much respected Bideford museum. Production of the display case has been made possible by the Friends of the Burton following a bequeathal from the late Peggy Lines, a long time supporter of the Burton. The Mayor of Bideford, Simon Inch, Chairman of Torridge District Council, Tony Inch, Pam Biggs, Chair of the Friends of the Burton, and Tamsin Daniels of the Heritage Lottery Fund officially revealed the display case in front of a large gathering of people connected to Bideford Black and the project. The project has been most appreciated both as a much-needed document of a locally significant industry and also as an exciting vehicle to engage young and old with their local environment and history.

Mayor of Bideford, Simon Inch, Chairman of Torridge District Council, Tony Inch, and ex-Bideford Black Miner, Ron Pither, opening the new Story of Bideford Black permanent display (photo courtesy the Burton Gallery 2014)

The display, designed by Peter Ward and Warren Collum and put together by Murray Design, Myriad-UK and Kingfisher multimedia, utilizes artifacts, images, samples of Bideford Black and material gathered throughout the project, along with a touch screen audio-visual display holding stories and images that could not fit in the fixed display. Even as the project was coming to a close, people were coming forward with more information and artifacts that could unfortunately not be included. Joyce Webb, whose father had run Manley Tucker’s Paint Shop in Kingsley Road in the 1950’s and 60’s, offered a pot of paint from her shed along with some photos of the paint shop. (Unfortunately the paint turned out to be salmon pink rather than the hoped for Zats Black[iv].)
Mr W.H Gifford using the grinding machine at Manley Tucker Paint Shop in Kingsley Road. Photo also shows tins of 'Zats' black being stacked. (Image Courtesy - Mrs Joyce Webb)
Paint pot brought in by Mrs Joyce Webb mixed at Manley Tucker Paint Shop, Kingsley Road, Bideford.

Barry Hughes, of the North Devon Museum Trust, more lately revealed a set of key documents and images about Bideford Black donated to him by the last owner of the mines, Howard St Louis Cookes in the early 70’s, along with a shovel used in the mines that has been thankfully included in the display. The documents – a scrapbook of cuttings and memorabilia including a technical manual about the machines that ground the pigment at Chapel Park - were in turn donated to Mr Cookes by the mine’s previous owner in the 1930’s. Please contact the North Devon Maritime Museum[v] in Appledore for further information.

Despite the project officially ending with the completion of the new display it is sincerely hoped that people will continue to get in touch with the Burton Art Gallery & Museum if any new information or artifacts come to light. There is also a learning pack for schools to accompany the display, created by learning co-ordinator Sadie Green, so that children may continue to learn more about their local environment and history[vi]. Furthermore, the project has hopefully inspired artists to explore local earth pigments in their own environment and think more about where the materials they use comes from – already exhibitions at the Burton Gallery are including more work using local earth pigments. Along with last summer’s BIDEFORD BLACK 5 artists exhibition at the White Moose Gallery in Barnstaple, I have been contacted by a number of artists who have started to explore Bideford Black in their own work.
WINDFORM 1 (Bideford Black on board; 20x15cm; © Frances Hatch 2013)[vii]

Lastly many thanks to Tilly, Warren, and staff of the Burton Gallery & Museum, Julian Vayne, Sadie Green and Ros Ford, and to all who have contributed to a most worthwhile and enjoyable project.

‘‘Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible’’ Paul Klee

Pete Ward
Lead Researcher, The Story of Bideford Black

[iv] If anyone does have a tin of Zatz Black, made with Bideford Black, then there is a space waiting for it in the display! It has become somewhat of a holy grail for the project.