Field Music help to paint the town in sound

Leckey Mark

Wearside band Field Music are playing a leading role in a new exhibition that opens in November at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

The popular indie band has been working since April on the Paint the Town In Sound exhibition, which explores the relationship between musicians and artists. The exhibition, at the Museum from November 21 to February next year, takes Field Music’s own collaborations as a starting point to explore wider trends.

Paint the Town In Sound has been developed as part of Sunderland Culture’s prestigious partnership with Arts Council Collection (ACC), the National Partners Programme. Last year

it was announced Sunderland Culture was one of only three ACC National Partners and the Museum had been chosen to host artwork from the acclaimed Arts Council Collection, an important national loan collection of modern and contemporary British Art.

The artworks in the exhibition, chosen by Field Music, are drawn from the Arts Council Collection and will feature work from Helen Cammock, Jeremy Deller,  Anthea Hamilton, Mark Leckey and Susan Philipsz. The exhibition also features a roster of artists and musicians born or working in the north east, including Simeon Barclay, Laura Lancaster and Narbi Price.

Mercury Prize-nominated Field Music consists of brothers Dave and Pete Brewis. Dave explained the band’s role in Paint the Town In Sound: “We were approached in April to see if we’d be interested in working on the exhibition and jumped at the chance.

“There is such a long tradition of cross-over between art and music, and this is particularly true in the north east.

“Pete and I started by looking through the amazing Arts Council Collection looking for artwork which linked music, pop culture and visual art. There were some brilliant pieces, like a project from Jeremy Deller about artwork inspired by – and about – The Manic Street Preachers.

“There are a lot of local bands with artists as members – such as Paul Smith from Maximo Park – so it’s not just about bands engaging with art through album covers and sleeves.

“I think people’s choices in music they like and art they like defines them as people – it almost creates a self-portrait. So it’s been a really fascinating project for us to work on – not least as it has involved me looking through 70 years of album artwork. You can see how the artwork has evolved through the decades, although it has to be said that the 90s artwork was rubbish!

“Through diving into this musical history I’ve come across some great stories, such as how Lindisfarne’s iconic Fog on the Tyne album came about. The album was to be called Stories, Dreams and Nightmares until a producer heard Fog on the Tyne and said that had to be the first single and should be the name of the album. The band then asked an old school friend to quickly create some artwork for the new album cover and they raided Newcastle Central Library for some inspiration. The artwork used for the album came from an engraving found in that archive.

“Paint the Town In Sound will feel like a traditional exhibition, but will include plenty of music videos and a huge display of historic north east album covers. We’re also developing a Spotify list of tracks from each of the albums featured,” Dave explained.

A programme of activities and workshops has been developed to run alongside the project, based on its themes and primarily aimed at young people and families. The programme includes an initiative with Sunderland’s Young Musicians Project whose members are putting together a portrait display of local musicians to be exhibited in the Museum’s Art Lounge. The programme will also include collaborations with Sunderland Culture’s Celebrate Different Collective and Arts Centre Washington’s Bright Lights exhibition for young artists

Rebecca Ball, Sunderland Culture’s Creative Director, said: “Paint the Town In Sound explores how music shapes our identities, be this through lyrics, use of visual art or fashion. The artworks in the exhibition offer a fascinating insight into the musical heritage of the region, and its relationship to class, politics and place.

“This is our second exhibition run in collaboration with the ACC, the National Partners Programme, and we’re grateful for their help, advice and support with such an exciting project. A huge thank you to goes to our friends at Field Music who’ve been brilliant to work with.”

The first exhibition as part of the National Partners Programme was Received Wisdom, which closes at the Museum on November 1. The programme has also created some exciting projects connecting the collection to communities – including the Art Champions and Art Crush. The free Art Crush app showcases works from the ACC and includes art by Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin, David Hockney, Mona Hatoum and Anish Kapoor. Art Crush is now available from the Apple app store or the Google app store.

Jodie Edwards, General Manager, National Partners Programme, said: “This is the first time we've had musicians curate an exhibition from the Arts Council Collection - it's really exciting to see what they have selected! Paint the Town In Sound will not only be a celebration of the links between music and visual arts, but will shine a light on the incredibly vibrant music scene in Sunderland and the North East.”

Councillor Linda Williams, Portfolio Holder for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council, said: “Music and art has always been a great part of Sunderland’s culture and community. This exhibition will showcase the talent that makes our city, and region, an exciting and vibrant place to be.

“It is a privilege for Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens to be one of three chosen to display the artwork from The Arts Council Collection, especially at a time when our artists need more support than ever. I encourage everyone to go and visit the Paint the Town In Sound exhibition and show their backing to the brilliant talent that will be displayed.”


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