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Object in Focus: No. 33 Untitled Puddle Painting (The Hole) by artist Narbi Price

Untitled Puddle Painting (The Hole) by artist Narbi Price, ASHMM 2019.6

Woodhorn Museum

In 2019 Woodhorn Museum was awarded funding from the Nerys Johnson Contemporary Art Fund to purchase the artwork Untitled Puddle Painting (The Hole) by artist Narbi Price.

This painting is one in a series of 30 works painted for ‘The Ashington Paintings’ exhibition, held at Woodhorn Museum, 26th May – 16th September 2018. This solo show by artist Narbi Price was created in response to his study of The Ashington Group, or ‘Pitmen Painters’.

Picture of Untitled Puddle Painting (The Hole) by artist Narbi Price

Narbi Price (b. 1979) Untitled Puddle Painting (The Hole), 2018, Acrylic on board, ASHMM 2019.6
Image copyright Narbi Price.

‘The Hole’ in the title of the piece refers to the infamous ‘Ashington Hole’, a site in Ashington earmarked for re-development, years after its once thriving coal mine was closed (in 1988).  The plan was abandoned after control of the local council changed, and the money went elsewhere. The site was left empty for many months, and became a source of frustration, protest and concern for residents. Narbi noted that during his many visits to the town, from 2015 onwards, he saw ‘The Hole’ undergo various stages of evolution, baked dry, filled with mud, and latterly obscured by heavy metal hoardings.

The painting represents a local place with a complex history of community, loss of identity and major economic change. The last pit in the area closed in the late 1980s, leaving Ashington in flux: no longer the Biggest Mining Village in the world; no longer any mining, no longer a village, and there is literally a hole in the centre of the town. The painting can thus be viewed as a meditation on people and places being overlooked and left behind, and represents a way of engaging with audiences who feel the same way.

In ‘The Ashington Paintings’ series, Price took inspiration from the post-industrial landscapes of South East Northumberland. In particular, the sites of the Ashington Coal Company collieries: Ashington, Woodhorn, Linton, Ellington and Lynemouth. Through his works the viewer is invited to consider the loss of community and erasure of defining historic edifices – which feature prominently in the works of the ‘The Ashington Group’.

Price’s work is a social commentary. This artwork is the product of many hours spent walking the streets of Ashington, at times in the footsteps of ‘The Ashington Group’, through a changed landscape they would have barely recognised, but in a socio-political climate that increasingly they might have.

When explaining his process he remarked “… an oddness in standing on a clean, perfect road in a business park, armed with the knowledge that you’re in the middle of a vast colliery, or in watching swans glide over a lake knowing that you’re on the site of the one-time biggest slag heap in Europe.” ‘Untitled Puddle Painting (The Hole)’ and the other paintings in this series are as much, if not more, about the ghosts of Ashington as they are about the town today.

You can see the other paintings from ‘The Ashington Paintings’ online on Narbi Price’s website. https://www.narbiprice.co.uk/the-ashington-paintings

This artwork was acquired with support from the Nerys Johnson Contemporary Art Fund (NJCA Fund). You can find out more about the artist Nerys Johnson and her legacy on the website. https://nerysjohnson.com/

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