North Tyneside Art Studio (NTAS) is a charity based in North Shields that has been using art and creative activities to improve the lives of people experiencing mental health issues since 1991.
They provide creative opportunities for as long as they’re needed, in an inspirational and accepting space, that offers escape from everyday life, builds connections with others and increases people’s resilience and confidence.
De Morgan collaborated with NTAS when the exhibition ‘Two Rare Spirits’ was on display at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. Just as the project begun, the world went into lockdown and drawing for better mental health and wellbeing was never needed more. NTAS adapted quickly and the artists were able to join the artists for online sessions and engagement, before the exhibition was able to reopen between lockdowns.
The individual responses are stunning artworks based on the De Morgan Collection. But more telling are the narratives provided by the group, who benefited greatly from the drawing sessions and visiting the De Morgan exhibition. Some artworks are provided here and we hope that you will enjoy them.
Arbo de Vivo Ceramic
I decided to make a tiled panel, using some of William De Morgan’s designs, alongside my own interpretation.
The tree is central to the design, and is symmetrical. The leaves and flowers are simple interpretations of some of the tile designs that were in the exhibition, with the birds used to mimic some of his more fantastical creatures. I also kept to a similar colour palette, and used both underglaze and simple glazes to try to recreate the unevenness of some of the original glazes.
I thoroughly enjoyed and engaged in the Evelyn De Morgan projects that we had offered to us during lockdown and continue to enjoy her work. For me the interest was twofold, a genuine interest in her sketches and painting (latterly her poetry too), but also her story. It’s been a really rich and rewarding experience, mainly at first encouraging me to sketch because I love her details, such as draping and figurative work. After this my painting experience was enhanced by trying to paint my own Dryad. What really held me was her place in our history, the struggles she faced as a woman of her age and how she overcame those boundaries. My current painting projects are influenced by her work and others and I enjoy following the De Morgan Foundation online.
I really enjoyed taking part in the De Morgan sessions and then seeing the real thing in the Laing Art Gallery. William De Morgan’s ceramics were so beautiful but my particular interest were the paintings and charcoal drawings by Evelyn. I didn’t know complicated drapery could be so precisely and naturally shown on a piece of paper! Or that the pastel colours could be so subtle. It almost made the Renaissance painters look like amateurs! Both artists used colour vividly and beautifully.
In our workshops I enjoyed drawing the nude model followed by the clothed one in the same pose to work out how fabric would fold, fall or drape. Understanding the underlying anatomy of the pose made drawing cloth on a body easier.
There is so much to admire and inspire in the De Morgans’ work: technically superb whether people, animals, plants or nature, colourful, attractive (even when dark themes were referenced), wide scope of topics coming from history and myths, allegorical and symbolic items. There is a wealth of inspiration to be found in their work and their story even if its not in your style.
Being involved in the De Morgan project has been a positive influence.
I have been encouraged to think about artistic styles, design, composition, colour and use of symbolism to give narrative.
Evelyn De Morgan’s paintings tell a story about society in her time. She uses colours to suggest feelings and mood. Sometimes creatures are depicted to suggest actions and reactions.
Figures are shown in poses that evoke a particular mental state. She refers to social injustice. Championing women’s equality with men and for all people in society to have basic human rights.
Awareness of Evelyn De Morgan’s artistic process helps me when thinking about how to compose a painting. I now think about how symbolism can help develop narrative.
Taking part in the De Morgan project got me more involved with other studio members, I participated in workshops, attended the De Morgan exhibition at the Laing Gallery and created art inspired by her work.
I am now more aware of the power of colour and symbolism and feel confident to use symbolism in my own compositions.
I was inspired by the William De Morgan exhibition, and decided to work on some tiles, the media I used was black liner pen . I was particularly inspired by the sketches Lewis Carroll used in his publishing ‘Alice in Wonderland’ . I also used the pattern work ‘theme’ and drew onto my canvas , which was already primed with acrylics.
Yvonne Clark’s response to the De Morgan exhibition is a profound personal one. She explains,
“Being inspired by the Laing exhibition has sustained my mental health. It has helped me unearth an old passion for art. My art has been crucial for my survival throughout lock down. This De Morgan project has given me purpose and hope. Living, grieving and shielding alone has been hard. Evelyn De Morgan’s messages through her art live on and can give hope to us for the future.”
Representation of The Passing of the Soul at Death
Pastel on paper
This beautiful piece by De Morgan is very special to me.
At a time when I had lost my mother just four months previous to the Laing Art Gallery De Morgan ‘Two Rare Spirits’ exhibition visit. I had been troubled about my mother’s passing and was struggling with my spirituality. I doubted the afterlife.
Seeing this painting and what it represented strengthened my belief.
The last stage of my mother’s passing, she reached out her arms and tried to lift herself, as if she was being greeted by somebody.
I now feel a deep connection toward this painting and I live in hope that my mother is with her family again.
Representation of In Memoriam
Printed image shaded with pastel
The painting by De Morgan In Memoriam, spoke to me. It represented me, totally bereft, heavy, in pain, having lost my mother four months earlier.
I have always had a fascination with the Pre-Raphaelite, but had not seen any of Evelyn De Morgan’s work.
My introduction to this wonderful piece was when I was researching the poem “Remember me” for my mother’s funeral in May 20.
Night and Sleep by Evelyn De Morgan surrounded the verse…. I was mesmerised, drawn into the rich colour and tones. It brought me a sense of peace and comfort.
Collage Mixed Media
I wanted to work on Evelyn’s husbands Tiles as it was marvelous to view these at the Laing exhibition.
My idea was to be the discovery of the tiles, found whilst updating an Edwardian property. I wanted the piece to looked distressed, as if hidden behind layers of old wallpaper ripped and torn.
I found some William Morris craft papers I had and distressed them. I also used an image of William, used to look like an old photograph found.
Bound and Gagged 1885
This shows a female form draped and reclining on the moon and is bound with ropes.
Evelyn was hinting through pseudo science, that the female cycle of menstruation was linked to the cycle of the moon, bound to earth. It represents female oppression by bondage, everything that Evelyn fought against. She was a feminist and supporter of suffrage, she worked to portray this message through her paintings.
Freed from Bondage 2021
In today’s society woman have been freed from the ties that bound them to menstruation and childbirth. With the advent of contraception in the 1960s, this opened up a whole world of feminine equality, Evelyn would have been amazed at what had become the norm for women in 2021.
“This has been a really inspiring project for our members, so thank you again for involving us”
Artistic Coordinator, North Tyneside Art Studio
We rely on your generous support to care for and display this wonderful collection