Fiona Larkin in Middlesbrough Collection: Soft Structures at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
Location: MIMA, Centre Square, Middlesbrough, TS1 2AZ – Map
Exhibition dates: 19 September 2023 – 31 March 2024 – More info
Launch event and artist talk: ‘Art+ Social No.12’ – 21 September 2023, 17:00 – 19:00 – Programme here (No requirement to book)
Fiona Larkin’s newly commissioned work ‘Soft Power’ is exhibited in Soft Structures at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA). This co-commission between the Women Artists of the North East Library and MIMA was initiated in 2021, so it is with huge excitement Larkin’s work will be exhibited alongside pieces from the Middlesbrough Collection and new work by Ian Giles in this new exhibition reflecting on the connections and threads in the Middlesbrough Collection.
Through painting, video, textiles and a new publication, ‘Soft Power Soft Fictions’, Larkin’s work engages with the Women Artists of the North East Library Collection and the work of Ethel Guymer (c.1894–1983), held in the Middlesbrough Collection. Ethel Guymer was instrumental in keeping the Cleveland Art Society (formed in 1883) active in Middlesbrough and beyond. Employing empathy and intuition as her tools, Fiona Larkin focuses on the actions, events and circumstances surrounding the artworks and archival materials.
Soft Structures reflects on the invisible threads and undocumented connections that underpin creative lives and communities. These powerful structures can influence creativity in establishing pathways for future generations. Through drawing, painting, video, installation, textile and ceramics it presents newly commissioned artwork and pieces from the Middlesbrough Collection held at MIMA, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art.
The exhibition also includes new commissioned radio-drama by Ian Giles, A Reflection in Time, draws together LGBTQ+ individuals who have influenced the buildings, industries and communities of Middlesbrough. Through collaboration and speculative storytelling, Giles’s work unveils the hidden histories and untold stories intertwined with the town’s cultural and industrial past.
A third new commission, Until the End of the World, an AI-generated film initiated by Sarah Perks and Paul Stewart, will be developed in workshops during the exhibition and presented in 2024. Groups and publics are invited to articulate the dreams of the collection and to visualise them using machine learning, and offer present day and future audiences an alternative view on the Middlesbrough Collection, created between human and non-human agents.
Soft Structures also showcases ceramic pieces in the Middlesbrough Collection that examine the personal, professional and peer relationships woven through the collection. These connections can be traced back to the influential art education in the late 1960s and 1970s at the Royal College of Art and the Camberwell School of Art, where many of the artists met, studied and taught. Fostering a culture of innovative and progressive making techniques that changed British ceramics, these institutions nurtured a new generation of artists including Angus Suttie, Alison Britton, Sara Radstone, and Carol McNicoll.
Image credit: Voice Notes (hands clasped over knees bent) 2022 by Fiona Larkin