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

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.

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