AN EXHIBITION of work by Leonardo da Vinci has inspired a range of projects across Sunderland.

Next February, 12 drawings by the Italian master will be on show at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens as part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

Sunderland is one of only 12 UK venues chosen by the Royal Collection Trust to simultaneously host the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life Drawing exhibition, which will feature a total of 144 of the Renaissance master’s drawings

Now Sunderland Culture has unveiled a series of community, schools, adult learning and family programmes all inspired by Leonardo’s work as an artist, inventor and scientist.

Jo Cunningham, Exhibitions, Collections and Archive Manager at Sunderland Museum, explained: “We’re thrilled Sunderland was chosen by the Royal Collection Trust to host the exhibition and we’re sure people across the city will be eager to see the drawings in February.

“We’re using the drawings and the high-profile exhibition as a catalyst to inspire and educate through a programme of projects and activities for people of all ages.”

One such project, funded by Sunderland Council’s Washington Area Committee, is already underway – Andrew Tift, a renowned portrait artist famous for his paintings of leading politicians, has been working in three Washington residential homes to produce 15 portrait drawings of local pensioners. Andrew’s portraits will be on show as part of the exhibition in late February. Participatory artist Richard Bliss is working in the same care homes delivering a series of art sessions as part of the same project.

Meanwhile, MA students from the University of Sunderland are working with FabLab to create their own inventions inspired by Leonardo. Students were asked to respond to the question ‘if Leonardo was alive now, what would he create?’ Their finished work will go on display in the World Art case at the Museum during the exhibition’s run.

Another initiative will be an exhibition of drawings from the Museum and Winter Gardens’ own collection. These will include drawings by David Scott which were used to illustrate Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The schools programme includes the provision of resources for Leonardo-themed in-gallery and classroom activities; drawing and inventors’ trails; school visits and assembles delivered by museum staff; and a British Science Festival themed week with Leonardo-themed workshops (March 11- 18).

The family programme includes: a Leonardo-themed art week during February half-term (February 18 – 22); a Museum code-cracker trail during February with clues and puzzles linked to Leonardo’s drawings; an Inventors’ trail for families at the Museum, which will run from March to May; a takeover by the Dominic Wilcox Little Inventors project during the Easter holidays; a catapults family workshop on Wednesday, April 17, and a series of animation workshops led by local artist Sheila Graber. There will also be monthly exhibition sessions for families with children who have additional learning needs or learning disabilities.

The adult learning programme will include: a free talk by Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust on Wednesday, February 27 at University of Sunderland’s Murray Library Theatre (6.30pm – 8.30pm) and then a guided tour of the exhibition by Martin the following day (11am); a botanical illustration workshop at the Museum on Saturday, April 27 and life drawing classes exploring nude, drapery and theatrical costume on Sundays, March 3, 10, 17 and 24 (12.45 – 4.45pm.

Leonardo, who lived from 1452 to 1519, painted some of the most famous images in European art, with the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper among his most famous pieces.

The exhibition at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens will include examples of all the drawing materials employed by Leonardo, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metal point. It will also present new information about Leonardo’s working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using a range of non-invasive techniques, including ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence.

The exhibitions will be on shows at venues across the country from February 1 to May 6. The drawings will then be brought together to form part of an exhibition of more than 200 works at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, in what is described as “the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in over 65 years.”

The drawings reflect the Renaissance master’s interest in painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany. Charles II acquired 550 of the polymath’s drawings, which had been bound into a single album, and they have remained in the Royal Collection since the 17th century.

After the Buckingham Palace exhibition, a selection of 80 drawings will travel to the Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, in November 2019, the largest group of his works to be shown in Scotland. The display will run from February 1 to May 6, 2019. The other venues are Ulster Museum, Belfast; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery; Bristol Museum & Art Gallery; National Museum Cardiff; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Leeds Art Gallery; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester Art Gallery; Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Southampton City Art Gallery.


THE Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens has the potential to bring ‘huge benefits’ to the venue and the city.

That’s the hope of Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Culture, the organisation set up two years ago to co-ordinate and promote cultural initiatives across the area.

From Friday, February 1 visitors to the Museum can study 12 drawings by the Renaissance master, loaned by Royal Collection Trust. Sunderland is one of a dozen venues across the UK chosen by the Trust to stage simultaneous exhibitions of Leonardo’s work to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.

There is also a range of associated workshops, courses, guided tours and family activities taking place throughout the duration of the exhibition, which ends on 6 May.

The Museum, one of the top five most visited attractions in north east England, is also taking the opportunity to put on public display a number of artworks from its collections, some of which have not been on show for many years.

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the remarkable drawings of perhaps the world’s most famous and visionary artist. The partnership with Royal Collection Trust helps cement Sunderland firmly on the national cultural map and events such as this can provide huge benefits for our city’s reputation and also the local economy.

“Visitors come for the main attraction but while they are here, they also spend money in shops, bars, cafes and places to stay. This can give a real boost to local businesses.

“I am sure that during the exhibition there will be many people making their first visit to Sunderland Museum, Library & Winter Gardens and perhaps the city itself. Our aim is to use the event to show what we can offer and encourage them to come back in the future.”

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director for Sunderland Culture, said she hoped the exhibition would act as a way of bringing in new visitors.

“There is already a really strong link between Sunderland Museum and its local community, but A Life in Drawing provides the perfect springboard to attract those who have never been to the venue before.

“Sunderland is the only location for this exhibition in the north east and also the only one between Leeds and Glasgow. This means the potential is there for bringing visitors to the city from not just across the north east, but further afield.

“The exhibition also provides the Museum with the ideal setting in which it can showcase works from its collections, many of which have links to Leonardo.”

Recent exhibitions hosted at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens have included the BP Portrait Award from the National Portrait Gallery, Grayson Perry: Julie Cope’s Grand Tour, from the Arts Council Collection and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

The exhibition at the Museum & Winter Gardens will include examples of all the drawing materials employed by Leonardo da Vinci, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metal point. It will also present new information about Leonardo’s working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using a range of non-invasive techniques, including ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence.

Leonardo, who lived from 1452 to 1519, painted some of the most famous images in European art, with the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper among his best-known pieces. Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will give the widest-ever UK audience the opportunity to see the artist’s work.

The other venues involved are Ulster Museum, Belfast; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery; Bristol Museum & Art Gallery; National Museum Cardiff; Derby Museum & Art Gallery; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Leeds Art Gallery; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester Art Gallery; Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Southampton City Art Gallery.

Tickets for ‘A Life in Drawing’ can be purchased either from the Sunderland Museum shop or via www.sunderlandculture.org.uk


AN innovative arts project working in three Washington care homes aims to tackle isolation and help residents explore their heritage.

Sunderland Culture commissioned artist Richard Bliss to work in Washington Lodge Care Home, Washington Manor and St George’s Residential Home in a project called Art School. The project is part of a wider Washington Health and Heritage Project, funded by Washington Area Committee and Public Health through Sunderland City Council.

Richard explained: “The inspiration for the Art School project came from the foundation year of university art courses, which gives students the chance to try a wide range of art-forms and approaches to discover what they really enjoy and have lots of fun. I wanted the residents to have this experience and to really enjoy the process of making art.”

Richard is running art sessions with the care home residents with the themes of place and memory.

Jennie Lambert, Learning Officer at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, explained: “More specific themes are also being explored in the sessions – including glass and light, the 1960’s (when Washington was founded as a New Town), shopping, the seaside, clothing from the past, toys and games and celebrations.

“Residents will be given objects and photographs from the Museum’s collection, then use sensory and tactile materials to create artworks inspired by the chosen theme. This approach helps all individuals to take part, regardless of ability. Residents’ families, care home staff and volunteers are being encouraged to take part to help build an even stronger sense of community in the care homes.

“The project has the dual aims of tackling social isolation among the elderly and supporting individuals to explore their history and heritage.”

To support the project, Sunderland Culture staff are working with Carla Raine, health and social care lecturer at Sunderland College, to engage a group of social care students to work as ‘intergenerational advocates’. The students are working at each care home to support residents taking part in the project.

Carla said: “This is an exciting opportunity for our health and social care students to further develop their knowledge and experience in reducing social isolation. It is a project in which they will gain an understanding of the importance of building relationships in order to promote wellbeing.”

Jennie added: “The students and residents will work together 1: 1 or in group conversations, helping residents with limited mobility to try different art activities and contributing their own memories and ideas relating to the themes. In this way the residents and students will develop new friendships while also developing their skills. The project will include an element of training for staff and students in the settings to share arts practice and build a legacy.”

The project will culminate in a series of celebratory events in the care homes in late January 2019, with completed work exhibited and family and community members invited along. Selected works and digital images of the project will also be displayed at Sunderland Museum, Library & Winter Gardens in February 2019 along with a celebration event to bring together residents from all three care homes.

Richard’s work complements another project ongoing in the same care homes. Respected portrait artist Andrew Tift has been working since early summer creating a series of drawn portraits of residents and audio recordings for display at Sunderland Museum, Library & Winter Gardens. Andrew’s work is in support of the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition, from 1 February – 6 May 2019, and is also part of the Washington Health and Heritage project.

Cllr John Kelly, Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a fantastic project designed to bring people together at the same time as helping older people to draw on their vast wealth of memories to create artworks around the people and places they remember from when they were younger.”

* Next February, 12 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci will be on show at Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens as part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.


A PHOTOGRAPHIC exhibition created by a former soldier turned lecturer will open at

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA) in the New Year.

Craig Ames served in the British Army for three years, which included a six-month tour of West Belfast where he was an Evidence Photographer alongside his role as a combat soldier.

He now works as a Senior Lecturer in Photography at the Northern Centre of Photography at the University of Sunderland and is a much-respected photographer who has work in the national collection of photography at the V&A Museum in London.

He has exhibited at NGCA previously, and his new exhibition, Kill Zones, goes on show in the Collections Gallery on Tuesday, January 8.

Alistair Robinson, Programme Director for NGCA, said: “We are really pleased to show Craig’s work as part of our newly-refurbished Collections Gallery. The Collections Gallery gives visitors the opportunity to see extraordinary works the NGCA has acquired over three years, alongside our main exhibitions.”

The exhibition is a series of photographic works of ‘Mil-Sim’ (military simulation) gameplay arenas in the UK.  Mil-Sim players try to create authentic combat experiences, based upon the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This is achieved by the use of highly detailed replica weapons, wearing authentic military uniforms and employing standard military tactics.

Craig explained: “Kill Zones explores Mil-Sim’s fluidic relationship with reality and fantasy and how, in turn, pockets of the British landscape have been transformed in order to become theatres of recreational conflict.

“I was fascinated by these people who make such an effort to replicate a reality and I wanted to explore the fantasy world they create and how it compares to the reality I’ve experienced.”

In order to do so, he registered with a replica gun club and completed a training course to give him access to Mil-Sim sites in the north and south of England. He visited 12 sites in total, and was ‘staggered’ at the number of people who use the Mil-Sim sites.

​Craig left his home town of Bishop Auckland to join up at 18 and a vague interest in photography was sufficient for him to be ‘volunteered’ into the role of Evidence Photographer.

His tour of West Belfast was in 1991, and as an Evidence Photographer he took pictures of scenes of crimes and weapons or explosive finds. He concealed a camera in his chest webbing and would take unofficial pictures while patrolling the streets of Belfast in an armoured Land Rover and on foot. In doing so, he created a unique perspective of a soldier’s view of Belfast during The Troubles.

“I really shouldn’t have been taking those pictures, but I felt it important not just to take the pictures I was told to, but to also document my experiences in what in effect was a war zone. I wanted to capture how in many ways the streets were immediately recognisable, the same architecture, the same houses as I was used to, but in a completely different and dangerous context,” Craig explained.

“I couldn’t do this officially, so took the pictures unofficially, but had no plans at that stage to exhibit any,” he added.

After leaving the Army, Craig decided to study for a career in photography, graduating with a degree in photography from the Kent Institute of Art and Design in Rochester, and then a Masters Degree in Photography from the University of Sunderland.

A decade after leaving the Army, he asked if he could return, this time taking photographs as a civilian. Perhaps because of his soldier past, the Army agreed and he started with his old regiment on the fateful day of September 11, 2001.

Pictures of his second stint with the Army were used in a book and his early work drew heavily on his personal experiences as a ‘foot soldier’ in the military.

​Now his practice also encompasses his wider research interests, particularly contemporary representations of conflict and the military.  Working in collaboration with British Armed Forces veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan alongside veterans’ organisations and charities he is also concerned with the ‘unseen’ consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

More recently, his work has returned to the home-front in response to Brexit and the rise of nationalism, while he is also researching the topics of drone technology and the weaponisation of Artificial Intelligence.

Kill Zones is supported by Arts Council England, NEPN and NGCA.

The NGCA, which moved into the ground floor of National Glass Centre earlier this year, is open daily between 10am and 5pm and entry is free.

For more information on Craig’s work, go to www.craigames.com


THE artist behind a stunning new exhibition at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA) has revealed the processes behind his latest work.

Internationally-renowned artist and photographer Dan Holdsworth’s Continuous Topography exhibition opened last week, and another solo exhibition, Spatial Objects, will open at NGCA in January 2019.

Dan has made his name through creating large-scale photographs and digital art characterised by innovative use of traditional photography techniques and has dedicated the last five years to creating both exhibitions.

Continuous Topography, will be at NGCA until January 6, 2019 and is his first moving-image work, after 20 years of working with large format analogue cameras.

He explained why he moved away from static imagery: “I started making the first moving image works using 3D modelling and point cloud models of limestone rock formations in the Swiss Jura in 2014, and have been developing these new Continuous Topography works, from photographic aerial surveys. In that sense I haven’t moved away from the photographic images, and see the moving work as a natural extension of the still works.”

His new artwork has involved working in collaboration with academics, scientists and researchers: “I started working with the geology department at Northumbria University in 2011, and since 2014 I’ve been working closely with Geology PhD student Mark Allan. Over that time we have made several trips to the French and Swiss Alps to make photographic aerial surveys of mountains and glaciers using helicopters and drones.

“The process called ‘photogrammetry’ involves making a photographic survey of an area, taking hundreds of images. These photographs are then processed to create 3D models of the landscape and then I work with the models back in the studio to create the artworks, still and moving images.

“The intersection of art and science is something that I have explored in my work now for nearly two decades. The recent work has been more direct, collaborating with scientists has enabled me to work with new scientific tools but also just as important to this has been the conversations.

“I didn’t start out on this journey with an explicit objective, I had some ideas, but I had no end point in mind, I just had an intense curiosity to see what the possibilities would be of trying to work in these new ways, and along the way the work developed. In summary the most important thing I take away from the experience is the significance of the curious mind.”

Dan went on to explain the time and effort needed to research and complete his new exhibition: “The research for Continuous Topography started in 2014 with the first expedition to survey some of Mont Blanc’s glaciers around the Chamonix Valley. We spent seven weeks hiking around the Bossons, Argentiere, Bionnassay Glaciers. We created an enormous amount of data from these expeditions and I have been working since then to create the works you see in Continuous Topography.”

Curator Alistair Robinson said: “The first visitors to the exhibition have been astonished by these virtual landscapes, with one remarking, ‘The exhibition is incredibly beautiful – and moving, knowing that these landscapes are disappearing.’ “

While Continuous Topography is on a minute level, his second exhibition, Spatial Objects (January 18 – March 17, 2019) sees images blown up to a huge scale. Rendered in the colours of the RGB digital palette, Spatial Objects presents a series of individual works of a single pixel marking a GPS co-ordinate of the Crater Lake, a protected National Park in the western United States.

The NGCA, which moved into the ground floor of National Glass Centre earlier this year, is open daily between 10am and 5pm and entry is free.

Dan Holdsworth was born in Welwyn Garden City, but now lives and works in Newcastle. Galleries which have public collections of his work include Tate Gallery, London; the V&A, London; the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna and the DG Bank Collection in Munich.


A JOINT exhibition in an iconic Sunderland building is celebrating the city’s proud heritage in a new way.

Artists Ian Potts and Richard Fletcher are bringing Sunderland’s history to life with their Lost and Found exhibition in Mackie’s Corner, at the crossroads of Fawcett Street and High Street West.

The exhibition uses both ultra-modern and traditional ways in which to celebrate Sunderland’s rich heritage.

Teacher turned artist Ian is using old photographs, workshops, maps and paintings to evoke memories of places and people, while former journalist turned artist Richard is using much more modern methods – Virtual Reality and smartphone technology.

Ian explained: “Richard and I are essentially doing the same thing – but where I’m using clippy mats and pencils, Richard is using the very latest technology.”

“My element of Lost and Found is in two parts. Firstly I’m using VR headsets for people to explore melded images created by old and new photographs of places in Sunderland. We’ve combined old and modern views of the same locations. The second element is an interactive game in which people can use their smartphones to look at a map of Sunderland’s Heritage Action Zone and answer questions on locations,” explained Richard.

The two artists were commissioned by Sunderland Culture who are programming exhibitions and events into Mackie’s Corner through its Great Place scheme before the historic building is redeveloped next year.

Sunderland Culture last year secured £1.25m of National Lottery funding from the Great Place Scheme, a joint fund from Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities.

Sunderland Culture Producer Helen Ross explained: “We thought the commission would go to one artist, but Ian and Richard came up with similar ideas through very different approaches and I thought it would be fascinating to produce a joint exhibition. I think it has worked really well and the artists have learned from each other.”

Richard agreed: “Ian’s knowledge of the city and his contacts have enabled me to produce better content and I hope I’ve helped Ian bring more interactivity to his work.”

“We’re hoping people will pop in and our work will spark conversations and memories. They may see a name, a street or a photograph that stirs a forgotten memory and then the conversations will flow,” said Ian, who will have his Mackem Map of memories on display as part of the exhibition. “People will be able to add to the map, should they wish to do so,” added Ian.

Richard was a local newspaper reporter until the summer, since when he has worked in some of the region’s largest tourist attractions making visits easier and more enjoyable through the use of virtual reality and digital experiences.

Lost and Found will be open between 10am and 3pm at Mackie’s Corner on the following dates: Wednesday, December 12; Thursday, December 13; Friday, December 14; Saturday, December 15; Thursday, December 20; Friday, December 21; Friday, January 4; Saturday, January 5 and Saturday, January 12. Friday, December 14 will be a special music open day with live music performed by local musicians and bands.

Mackie’s Corner was built in 1845 on the site of a large house owned by Dr William Clanny, inventor of the miners’ safety lamp. The building’s first tenant was Robert Mackie, a hatter.

Mackie’s shop attracted passers-by as his workers could be seen through the windows making the hats. The clock in the dome was installed a few years later and Mackie’s Corner became a favourite meeting place for Wearsiders.

The building is part of the wider Hutchinson buildings that were bought earlier this year by Sunderland property developer Henry Kirtley and his daughter Alex.