City by the Sea: Sunderland surfboard exhibition at THE BEAM celebrates life on the coast

A new exhibition using surfboards as a canvas for coastal-themed art is on show in Sunderland

By The Newsroom
Monday, 3rd June 2019, 10:52 am
Updated Monday, 3rd June 2019, 2:01 pm
Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for regeneration, Councillor Rebecca Atkinson (far left), alongside the commissioned artists.
Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for regeneration, Councillor Rebecca Atkinson (far left), alongside the commissioned artists.

City by the Sea brought together artists from the University of Sunderland with local and regional painters, and schools to create an exhibition to celebrate the opening of THE BEAM, the first new development on the Vaux site.

The artworks have been produced on eight surfboards, which have gone on display on the walls of THE BEAM, the first building on the former Vaux Brewery site.

The wowed visitors at two-day showcase of the centre event attended by a number of city businesses, the city’s creative community and other key players as part of a guided tour to show off the flagship building.

Surfboard montage (L-R) Kevin Petrie: Swimming Between The Piers At Roker, Kathryn Robertson: All Is Not Lost, Rosie Power: The Wear, Jessica Browne: We’ar Surfing;

Artists were recruited after an open call to the North East creative community in January 2019, to design striking boards that reflected the things that make Sunderland special: its proud industrial heritage, its seaside location and its ambitious plans for the future.

Creatives either produced scanned images of final works that were printed and transferred onto the boards or they worked directly on to the boards.

Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration attended the event to welcome guests and meet city artists.

She said: “This is a wonderful way to connect artists’ creativity with the city’s newest landmark building, and perhaps our proudest asset, its seaside; and the community, in particular young people, who will perhaps work on this site in the future.

Kevin Petrie: Swimming Between The Piers At Roker

“THE BEAM is a stunning building, that will offer occupiers a fantastic workplace – light, bright, airy and modern – and its riverside location and closeness to the seaside means that it will prove popular with people who are keen to exploit the wide range of activities on the doorstep – our stunning beaches are one of those assets and these stunning surf boards just point to our beautiful seaside that sits to the East of this landmark site.”

Special guests, including business people who may make use of the building – which will open when the first soon-to-be-announced occupier moves in – were invited to take a look at the displays and THE BEAM for the first time, after construction partner Tolent handed over the 59,427sq ft to grade A office space to owner Sunderland City Council.

The building is the first to have been completed on land once occupied by the city’s famous brewery, and work will start soon on the second building – City Hall - a multi-occupier hub that will house a number of organisations, including the City Council, and will improve the way people in Sunderland navigate through and interact with every day public services that can help them.

As well as the commissioned artists, students who designed the two schools boards were also able to visit the centre, to see their work in-situ.

Kathryn Robertson: All Is Not Lost

The children involved in designing the boards, from Broadway Junior School and Bexhill Academy, had the chance to show their families as well as members of staff from the schools involved in the project, the work they created, which stands alongside that of the professional local artists commissioned for the display.

Groups from year three and year six classes worked on designs and one winner was chosen from each school, with their designs then applied to the surfboards.

As part of the wellbeing at work theme, businesses that move into THE BEAM will be offered the chance to provide free surf lessons and other outdoor activities to their staff. Sunderland’s special location and access to adventure and water sports is part of a programme of wellness incentives, to encourage the people who work from the centre to live active lives.

Alex Charrington, a North East based artist, who is a keen surfer, created one of the pieces that is proudly displayed in THE BEAM’s reception area. His eye-catching work was inspired by Sunderland’s connection to Bede.

Jo Howell: Street Furniture

He said: “Bede is one of the most important people in North East history, so it was great to be able to create a piece with a connection to him. He was also the first person in Europe to write about the connection between the moon and the tide, so I thought that was really pertinent.

“My work features hand signals that are depicted in Anglo Saxon manuscripts, where monks shared their knowledge and ideas, and they are still used today in surf culture.”

A number of the artists are students or graduates of the University of Sunderland, and one piece, ‘Swimming between the piers at Roker’ was created by Head of the School of Arts and Design and Professor of Glass and Ceramics at the university, Kevin Petrie.

THE BEAM is one of a number of new buildings that will emerge from the ground in the city centre between now and 2030. A £20m investment, it will bring new jobs to Sunderland, and is part of an emerging city vision that will see £0.5bn ploughed into transforming the city centre for generations to come.

Academics and students from the university have contributed their talents to help produce five of the surfboards

They are:

Jessica Browne: We’ar Surfing

Kevin Petrie: Swimming Between The Piers At Roker

Professor Kevin Petrie is Head of the School of Art & Design at the University.

Known for work on glass and ceramics, Kevin is also passionate about drawing and painting.

He is also an open water swimmer which is a great inspiration for his paintings.

Kevin’s surf board design takes a detail from one of his paintings about swimming at Roker Beach with ‘Fausto Café Bathing Club’.

He said: “I’m not a surfer, but I imagine some of the sights and feelings of surfing are similar to swimming. Swimming in open water gives you have a completely different, almost 360-degree, view of the world.

“This is because your view is constantly changing as you look down into the water, breath from side to side and also look ahead. I have tried to express this dynamic experience in my surfboard design.

"It’s also great to see students and friends of the School of Art & Design involved in this great project.”

Jessica Browne: We’ar Surfing

Painter and PhD candidate at University, Jessica experiments with the material properties of paint, combined with her interest in landscape painting. Jessica’s design playfully pushes the audience to rethink the familiar cityscape of Sunderland.

Jessica said: “My plan was to create a painting that referenced the town in a way that isn’t often done, using a bright and vibrant palette.

“I wanted to produce a painting of the town the way it should be viewed, and the way I see it.”

Kathryn Robertson: All Is Not Lost

Kathryn studies Graphic Design at the University.

She said: “My surfboard design is an imagined cityscape of Sunderland with bits of the city both old and new alongside each other.

“This was part of my final major project at University which surrounds the theme of 'lost' in Sunderland, and aims to highlight what is gone and what remains.

“Included are things like The Grand Hotel and The Town Hall, both demolished in the early 1970's, as well as The Elephant Tea Rooms which still remains. This project also goes alongside a painted mural in The Priestman Building.”

Rosie Power: The Wear

University of Sunderland, Glass and Ceramics undergraduate and keen surfer, Rosie Power has created a surfboard design based on the River Wear. The hand drawn rippling lines have an op-art effect.

The work cleverly invokes a sense of movement and explores the way in which the river and the sea affect the shape of the landscape.

Rosie said: “Rivers are central part to any city, that’s why the design of my surfboard is dictated by the shape of river Wear, rippling lines that start from its banks.”

Jo Howell: Street Furniture

Photographic artist Jo Howell drew on her expansive archive of images of her hometown, Sunderland, to create this commission. Jo mixes handmade and digital techniques, working drawing and printmaking into her photographs to create bold and playful artworks.

Jo is an alumni of the University.

Rosie Power: The Wear