Approved: 05.08.2014

Steve Messam


Approved: 05.08.2014

I create temporary installations in mostly rural landscapes. The work is drawn from the layers of narrative that make up landscapes - their temporary nature resulting in them become part of that ongoing narrative.

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    Artist Statement

    I create temporary installations in mostly rural landscapes. The work is drawn from the layers of narrative that make up landscapes - their temporary nature resulting in them become part of that ongoing narrative.

    Once upon a time and never again.

    Using colour, shape, scale and sightlines, the pieces are designed to be experienced rather than merely viewed as images. As installations rather than sculptures, the pieces temporarily become part of the landscape, changing the way familiar places are viewed and experienced whilst exploring aspets which make the place what it is. Using lightweight materials - typically textiles - the pieces have a delicacy that permanent pieces can't. Their fragility results in subtle movements and sounds wich add to the experience. Robust and often technically challenging engineering adds to the illusion of effortless simplicity.

    Working within protected landscapes and heritage locations, the pieces are light in footprint and have no lasting environmental impact. All materials are subsequently recycled or reused.

    CV & Education

    Recent Commissions:
    Ravens - Stanbury, Haworth, West Yorkshire. July 2014
    Lookout - Dunmail Raise, Grasmere, Cumbria. June 2014
    Scope - Borrans Park, Ambleside, Cumbria. June 2014
    Artist in Residence - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland. October 2013
    En Paviljong som Lyssnar på Skogen - Sättra, Öland, Sweden. September 2013
    Poppy - Burneside Paper Mill, Kendal, Cumbria. UK. July 2013
    Carpet - Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, Northumberland, UK. June 2013
    Research Residency - West Pennine Moors, Lancashire. February 2013
    Red Souvenir - Bicester Village, Oxfordshire, UK. February 2013
    Brogued - Northampton, UK. October 2012
    Fairhaven Bubbles - Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, UK. July 2012
    A Study in Red - Sättra, Öland, Sweden. May 2012
    Twisted - Cromford Mill, Derbyshire. UK. May 2012
    Brockholes Souvenir - Brockholes, Nr. Preston, Lancashire. UK. March 2012
    Learning Walk - Kendal, UK. October 2011
    SevenSpires - Braunston, Northamptonshire. UK. August 2011
    Whooshy-Spinney - Wreay, Nr. Carlisle. UK. May 2011
    Lawnpaper - Blackwell, The Lake District, UK. June 2010
    Signs of Adventure - Cumbria. October 2009
    Fleur de Sel on Ullswater - the Lake District. September 2009
    Stowmartian Circles - Suffolk.  August 2009
    Cloud Cube - Lancaster University. July 2009
    Fleur de Sel - Spazio Thetis, S’Erasmo & La Certosa (Venice) June - August 2009.
    Drop - Cumbria, UK. September 2008
    Ploughed Up - Beal Farm, Berwick upon Tweed, Northumbria. November 2007
    Landscape Camper - Baltic Square, Gateshead Quays. October 2007
    Flagged-up - South Shields. September 2007
    German Souvenir - German Trade Centre, Pudong, China. June 2007
    Dotted Line - Robert Stephenson Building, Newcastle. December 2005
    Balls to Grasmere - Grasmere, Cumbria. March 2005

    Selected Exhibitions:
    Curlew Machine - The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham

    Cortex - Luxepack, Shanghai
    Aphrodite - ARTLIFE gallery, Venice
    Wonder of Wool - Gallery at Rheged, Cumbria

    Flow - Luxepack, Monaco
    Twisted Puzzle - Wirksworth Festival, Derbyshire
    Boxed - Luxepack, Shanghai

    Droplet - Luxepack, Monaco
    Tatton Park Biennial  May - September 2010

    Beyond Pattern Off-site piece ‘Clad’. Oriel Davies, Newtown, Powys.
    Fleur de Sel: Preservation & Documentation - Brantwood, Coniston, UK.
    Venice Biennale - representing NW England
    Aphrodite: Water + Art - Art Life Gallery, Venice
    ArtLand - Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham

    Scope London - courtesy of Saatchi Gallery. Lords Cricket Ground, London.
    Hung - Gallery Mwldan, Cardigan and Woodside Cattleshed,

    Eurasia One - Island 6, Shanghai, China
    Nuit Blanches - Exhibition Centre, Shanghai, China

    Landscape Bubble - Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria UK.
    Forward, Backward, Reloading. Island 6 Arts Center, Shanghai, China. (Shanghai Biennial)

    Here Be Dragons - border posts along the length of the Cumbria Pennine border. 

    Contemporary Surrealism - Brighton Contemporary Arts.
    Hebden Bridge Sculpture Trail - Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire.

    Finalist Art’08 award for ‘Drop’
    Nominated as Fellow of RSA for rural engagement in the visual arts - Dec 2008

    Bibliography (Publications)
    ‘the Independent magazine’ - 1st November 1997 Full page interview
    'Artist Links 2002-2006' 224pp Colour Publication (English/Chinese). Edited by Simon Kirby. Published by the British Council, China and Arts Council England.
    'FRED - the story of an art invasion' 88pp colour publication. Edited by Kate Brundrett and Hilary Thorn. Published by FoldPress. ISBN: 0-9549960-0-3
    'Sculpture Trail at Hebden Bridge 1995 - 2005' 40pp colour publication. Trudi Entwistle, Lisa Blezard and Paula Chambers. Published by The Sculpture Trail at Hebden Bridge / Dean Clough. ISBN: 0-9553587-0-1
    'Forward / Backward / Reloading' 32pp colour publication (English/Chinese). Edited by Thomas Charveriat. Published by Island6.
    ‘Eurasia One’ 68pp colour publication. (English / German / Chinese) Foreword by Andrea Neidhoefer. Edited by Rolf Kleunter. Published by Timezone 8. ISBN 0-9549960-1-1
    ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great If...’ 100 pp colour publication (English), John Thackara. Published by Design Council.  ISBN:1904335152
    ‘Art of England’ - January 2009 4 pp article and interview. ISSN 1744-1930
    Royal Academy Magazine - May 2010 - article
    ‘A’ Magazine - RIBA (NW) December 2011 - interview and article on design in protected landscapes

    2002 - Present
    Freelance artist, designer and curator

    2002 - 2009
    Director - Fold - a rural arts organisation promoting and providing access to contemporary art in the rural environment

    2004 - 2008
    Founder and Director - FRED - an annual festival of site-specific works across Cumbria.  With over 50 artists in excess of 100 sites annually it became Europe’s largest annual festival of site-specific art.

    Senior Producer - DOTT07. Producing the Sustainable Tourism and International Design Camp strands for the UKs first Design Biennial in the north east. For the Design Council and  OneNorthEast

    Project Manager - Skipton Renaissance weekend. Developing and managing all aspects of the  town transformation project which saw the centre of Skipton filled with artworks, performances and cafe culture for three days. On behalf of Chrysalis Arts and Yorkshire Forward

    1993 - 2002
    Freelance photographer and journalist. Based in Glasgow covering editorial features for the broadsheet weekend supplements and for the UK music press.

    1987 - 1993
    Photographic Technician. Senior technician for a specialist photographic laboratory in London. Part of a team which produced the first entirely digital magazine cover.

    Frequent presentations and lectures at academic institutions including Lancaster University, Teeside University, The Slade, London, and the Suzhou Institute of Art & Design Technology, China.

    Conference presentations on the role and value of culture and place, and art and sustainable tourism in the UK, Sweden and China.

    Workshops for architects and planners on ‘Colour in the Landscape’ and ‘Contemporary Design in Protected Landscapes’ in the UK and Sweden.

    Steve Messam is an artist based in the North of England. With his site-specific installations, he sets visual accents in rural or urban settings, which include historical relics and vacant architecture that make us perceive the familiar environment in a new way. He is also interested in space: the interaction of art and audience within confined and open spaces, the role of aesthetics and the physical experience. 

    His works include Beached (2007), in which he filled a beach with thousands of sandcastles and paper flags;Landscape Bubble (2006), a redundant building in the North Pennines encapsulated within a transparent globe, Drop (2008) -  a giant reflective raindrop the size of a three-storey building in the Lake District and Clad (2009) - a traditional timber-framed cottage wrapped in the fleece of 300 local sheep in Newtown, Wales for Oriel Davies. He created the first off-site installation at the 2006 Shanghai Biennial and created a number of site specific installations across the Venetian Lagoon during the 2009 Venice Biennale. 

    In 2002 he established ‘Fold’ - an arts organisation which aimed to provide and promote access to quality contemporary art in the rural environment. From its small gallery space in the sheep market town of Kirkby Stephen, Fold showed the work of hundreds of artists, both in the gallery space and in the wider landscape. In 2004 he created FRED - an annual art invasion across Cumbria - one of Europe’s largest annual festivals of site specific work. Between 2004 and 2008 over 300 artists produced new work in over 350 locations outside the gallery environment and was seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors.

    As an artist Steve Messam has worked primarily outside the gallery environment for the past 18 years. He has a particular interest in the cultural reference points inherent in the work of artists living in rural communities and exploiting the assets of landscape, agriculture and community for challenging the preconceptions of contemporary rural arts practice.