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Culture Awards 2009: Visual Artist of the Year

MATT STOKES is based in Gateshead and is represented by Workplace Gallery.

MATT STOKES is based in Gateshead and is represented by Workplace Gallery.

Stokes has exhibited widely across the UK and beyond and his work has attracted prestigious awards including winning the Beck’s Futures 2006, and the people’s vote for the Northern Art Prize, 2009.

His work across a variety of mediums often involves working with informal groups of people, linked to music subcultures.

This practice was evident in producing The Gainsborough Packet, a co-commission with London based gallery 176 and Newcastle Gateshead’s Baltic.

The Gainsborough Packet was the culmination of a year’s research and development.

It began with the artist’s discovery, in the Tyne & Wear Archives, of a letter written in 1828 by an ordinary man named John Burdikin living in Newcastle. Of the letter, he said: "When I read it for the first time it left a huge impact on me because it was so unbelievable. It is Burdikin’s life history and he picks out adventurous tales, which usually end up with him putting his life on the line."

When Burdikin laid out his life story, he unwittingly provided the basis for a script which would be made into Stokes’s nine-minute, Super 16 film.

"It was a busy year … starting with an exhibition of new work in Austin, Texas, in January. A few weeks later, a solo show at 176, London, which included setting up a club for four months that was a mix of nightclub, theatre, social club and village hall.

"Following that, I had a project with Foreground in Frome, Somerset, and then exhibitions to finish off the year, including being shortlisted for the Northern Art Prize.

"Between all these, I met some amazing people, and made some great friends."

Finalist - Catherine Bertola

BLAYDON-based Catherine Bertola creates installations, objects and drawings that respond to particular sites, collections and historic contexts.

Underpinning her work is a desire to look beyond the surface of objects and buildings, to uncover forgotten and invisible histories of places and people, as a way of reframing and reconsidering the past.

She often draws on the historic role of women in society, the home, craft production and labour.

She says: "It’s great to be shortlisted, and also a bit of a surprise especially as there are so many good artists working in the region at moment.

"Last year was an incredibly busy non-stop year, but I’ve made work in a lot of amazing places and with some great institutions and organisations, and hopefully this year it will continue.

"The last few months have been spent making work for a number of commissions and exhibitions across the UK and Europe.

"This has included making a carpet out of pins for the exhibition Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield; a series of handmade golden cobwebs for Tattershall Castle, in Lincolnshire; a solo show, Unseen by all but me alone, at Workplace Gallery, Gateshead, which featured an installation of golden cobwebs, three small films and a series of drawings of lace tights."

Finalist - Fiona Crisp

FIONA CRISP is known for making large-scale photographic installations that explore the relationship between photography and architectural space.

She says: "Last year saw the coming together of two major projects for me: the publication of a monograph, Hyper Passive, that charts the evolution of my work; and the launch of Subterrania at Baltic that comprised several series of large-scale photographic works made at various European locations over the last six years.

"I relocated from London to the North East with my partner and young children seven years ago and have received great support .

"The opportunity to present a significant body of work in the region meant a great deal and I am delighted to have been shortlisted for The Journal Culture Awards as a result."

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