‌'Walking, Looking and Telling Tales' (2018) and 'Conference for the Birds' (2019)

Artists: Mark Fairnington and Marcus Coates

Cherryburn is a small farmstead situated near Stocksfield, eleven miles west of Newcastle upon Tyne. Owned and managed by The National Trust, Cherryburn is the birthplace of the famous British artist and naturalist Thomas Bewick (1753-1828). Bewick is Northumberland’s greatest artist: a wood engraver who revolutionised print art in Georgian England. Today he is best known for his book 'A History of British Birds' (1797). Set in a tranquil position with views across the Tyne Valley, Cherryburn is still surrounded by the natural world that inspired Bewick’s work. The site comprises Bewick’s tiny birthplace cottage, a farmyard and a traditional 19th Century farmhouse - the later home of the Bewick family. The farmhouse is now a museum and print room with a collection of Bewick’s wood blocks. It also houses a library and an exhibition about the artist’s life.

Developed in collaboration with the National Trust, the artist’s brief for the MCAHE Cherryburn commission focused on the character and vision of Thomas Bewick. It invited the commissioned artist to make a new temporary artwork which responded to Bewick’s life and legacy, exploring the impact of his work on society during his lifetime and reflecting on how that might manifest itself today. Two artists were selected to make works in response to the Cherryburn brief, Mark Fairnington in 2018 and Marcus Coates in 2019.

Mark Fairnington with his installation, Walking, Looking and Telling Tales.

To develop his project for Cherryburn, Walking, Looking and Telling Tales, painter Mark Fairnington traced a series of walks around Northumberland and the local area, recording the landscape and conversations with people he met along the way. From these walks, Mark produced a series of sketchbooks and painted landscape miniatures that explored Bewick’s countryside from a contemporary perspective and made connections with Mark's own family story. To complete the project Mark created an installaton of the paintings in the panelled ‘half parlour’ of Bewick’s birthplace cottage. Mark’s installation was on public display at Cherryburn from 2 June – 4 November 2018.

Visit Mark’s commission blog to discover more about Mark’s research for the project or download the Walking, Looking and Telling Tales leaflet for further images and information.

Conference for the Birds - installation 

Following the the success of Mark Fairnington's project, MCAHE and the National Trust co-commissioned Marcus Coates to create a second new artwork for Cherryburn in 2019. 
Marcus’ audio visual installation Conference for the Birds (15 June - 3 November 2019) celebrated the lives of the birds Thomas Bewick depicted in his wood engravings. To create his work Marcus invited seven experts to take part in a conversation about British bird life today. Each expert taking the role of a different bird species. The group discussed topics of contemporary concern, from migration to predation, with each species recounting their day to day experiences. The audio recorded from these conversations was played back in Bewick’s birthplace cottage alongside seven oversized sculptural bird heads, with visitors invited to take a seat among the birds.
Download the Conference for the Birds leaflet for further images and information.

Marcus Coates lives and works in London. His work questions how we define our position as a species amongst others, asking ‘Who are we compared to birds, plants, insects, etc and how and why do we state this difference?' It brings attention to the lives of non-human species in the hope that we can see more clearly how we relate to them, what this can tell us about ourselves and our future relationship with nature. These questions have led Marcus to work collaboratively with many wildlife experts. Recent exhibitions and performances include: Wilderness, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany 2018; Animals and Us, Turner Contemporary, Margate 2018; The Land We Live In, The Land We Left Behind, Hauser & Wirth Somerset 2018; As Above, So Below, IMMA, Dublin, 2017; Arrivals/Departures - sculpture commission for Utrecht Centraal Train Station, Netherlands 2017; Ape Culture, HKW Berlin, 2015; Trafalgar Square, London 4th Plinth Shortlist 2013; The Trip, Serpentine Gallery, London 2011. 

Mark Fairnington is Reader in Painting at Wimbledon College of Arts. His work has resulted principally from research projects with museums and museum collections, sustaining a visual examination of the idea and image of the specimen. Mark has worked with the Imperial War Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum, the Horniman Museum and the Wellcome Collection. In 2002, he received funding from the Wellcome Trust to visit the rainforests of Belize with the biologist Dr George McGavin from Oxford University. An exhibition of Mark’s work, Fabulous Beasts, was mounted at the Natural History Museum in 2004. Unnatural History, 2012, was a retrospective at the Mannheim Kunstverein in Germany and Collected and Possessed was at the Horniman Museum in London 2016. His most recent solo show at Handel Street Projects, London was entitled The Worm in the Bud and included a commissioned short story from the writer Mary Horlock.