Theresa Poulton
Welcome to my web page and thank you for taking time to view my work and learn a little about my practice as a freelance artist.

2016 Review

From the onset, 2016, was a productive year, my art practice flourished and in some instances changed direction - mainly because of the 'Khyal:Music and Imagination' project with Durham University Music Dept and GemArts.

Alongside my art/studio practice I also have several art related jobs. At times the lack of stability can be somewhat problematic but I believe that this diverse and challenging way of surviving is part of what makes this way of life interesting, for instance, a chance conversation over a coffee with a Turkish stranger led to weekly private art lessons for his two children.

I have taught children in a village in West Bengal, India, where I only knew a few Bengali words, devised and delivered a Stanley Spencer portrait workshop at the Hepworth, Wakefield and for several years I have enjoyed posing naked for art students as a life model and also help with mock, panel, interviews for University; fully clothed of course... the list goes on.

Thankfully, my teaching experiences with adults with mental health and complex needs at North Tyneside Art Studio continued throughout 2016 and I am very excited about the prospects of working with staff and studio members in the new year. Being accepted, trusted and invited back by the staff and service users truly means a lot to me, watching the development and progression in the work of people with complex needs is extremely rewarding. A sense of humour is essential, I learn as much from them as they do from me and that definitely includes how to laugh at oneself.

The very end of the year saw a slight change in my role as an artist, I was fortunate to be involved with a group art project, with artist Paul Richardson-Chute and Suzanne Prak from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM). As part of TWAM's Recovery RICH (Recovery Identities through Culture and Heritage) programme, we worked with residents in Elliott House, a Changing Lives property, creating a site specific work in their new gym.

The workshops, referencing Victor Pasmore, a Newcastle based artist, were intended to create abstract biometric forms through the physical involvement of the participants, by using their arms in motion to define the shape of the forms.

I collaborated with Paul, my position was to respond automatically and spontaneously to Paul's concepts and visual outcomes, in other words whatever came from his drawings and paintings I would respond, generating abstract geometric forms. These forms would be symbolic of the energy expended in mental and physical exercise.

The contrasting styles complimented each other, calm and vibrant.

The mural/collaboration was designed to celebrate the life of a former service user whose life was tragically affected by the problems which some people in society endure – it was a humbling experience to say the least.

Teaching life drawing is a passion of mine, I teach both academically and on a lesser academic level I deliver classes to Stag and Hen parties for various companies throughout the UK and this year, with the support of Big Local enterprise schemes I am pursuing the possibility of running my own business teaching life drawing for adult parties – this new venture is a work in progress.

Influence of Khyal Collaboration – Conceptually and Aesthetically

With regards to my own practice, there has been a noticeable change in the aesthetics of my work, anyone familiar with my paintings prior to the Khyal project will certainly recognise this shift, in my opinion that's a positive result.

I approached recent, 'KHYAL' and 'Memento Mori' (2 Steps Forward 1 Step Back) works in a different way than in the past; although some decisions relating to the formalist qualities in painting; line shape, colour and form remained the same, this time, colour choices were much more considered. When I say, 'considered', I don't mean that I used colour studies, I never have, nor do I record colour mixes – I suppose all of my works are elaborate colour studies.

Initially, preliminary drawings were used; 'KHYAL's were text based - a series of geometric shapes, which, when combined, form the word KHYAL, whereas the 'Memento Mori' series were informed by a coffin template which is a symbol of my own mortality. In both series of works, all of the combined forms were used repetitively; reversed, mirrored, symmetric and asymmetrical.

With particular reference to 'colour relationships, exploration and experimentation', a set of rules and challenges were devised; my main aim was to reduce/avoid colour repetition. Was it my intention for colours to be of a similar hue, saturation, tonal value, primary, secondary or tertiary? Would the segments of colour work in a harmonious or discordant manner - either way, how would I achieve this?

Another of my painting challenges was to create a sense of movement and rhythm within the works, so iridescent and luminous paints were applied to change, optically, with the shift between natural and artificial light.

Based on my knowledge of colour theory I decided to trust my intuition, work more impulsively; caring less about the final outcome or about pleasing others

Once a decision had been made about applying a colour I then had to respond to that choice; blocks of opaque and areas of translucent colour were used to create illusory spaces, in small sections paint was applied, layered and scraped back to reveal what colour lay beneath. In total contrast, multiple layering was, two, three and more - each additional colour affected the adjacent colour and inevitably the overall aesthetics of the paintings.

As a result of these thought processes and personal limitations I had developed several works where there was virtually no colour repetition in any of the geometric sections – of course coincidence had a role to play in this serendipitous game.

KHYAL - Progression report.

The workshop was delivered as part of the Durham University based AHRC - funded project Khyal: Music and Imagination, the aims were to stimulate new forms of artistic production based on interactions between performers, musicologists and visual artists and to promote public engagement with music and visual arts.

Preparation began in February, 2016, however the Laing Art Gallery, November show was the first of a series of rolling national exhibitions which will continue throughout 2017. The exhibition was very successful and feedback was extremely positive. We had a total of more than 800 visitors (which I thought was great, considering that the exhibition was open for only about 10 days – with the gallery being closed on Mondays).

An important part of the project was to devise a workshop which would enable Yr 7 students to develop an understanding of diverse cultures through the arts; it would provide an opportunity to reflect on cross-modal experiences; by offering children the prospect to have their artwork exhibited alongside that of professional artists. Also providing an opportunity to relate to an ambitious but realistic challenge and encourage the development of their confidence.

Although the visual art session was devised by myself, ethnomusicologist Prof Laura Leante agreed to present the 'Khyal' workshop with me as a combined music and visual art session. In order to guide students' listening, Laura introduced the session and focused on the history of Khyal vocal performance. Throughout the session she used audio recordings by Surashree Ulhas Joshi and with the support of the students she demonstrated how a performance is delivered, showing the students the instruments at the same time, encouraging them to experiment with the tabla and harmonium.

I was responsible for the visual aspects of the workshop: in groups students began by selecting an instrument then proceeded to make a series of representational drawings of the object. After listening to the selected track, using coloured card which related to the students emotions, abstract drawings were enlarged, copied and cut out, creating several individual abstract forms.

Students then proceeded to work in groups, co-operatively they created a new, multi coloured, wall based installation.

Laura and I recognised the importance of creating a combined workshop which would fuse together two alternative, creative genres: Khyal music and abstract art.

After a series of discussions we agreed that the workshop should be participatory based and that all students would be involved as much as possible. Through a series of interactive, musical, and visually creative experiences, we believed that the students would develop new creative skills and gain a greater understanding of the rich history of Khyal performance.

Observing how the students responded positively to Laura's part of the workshop and watching the individual groups working collaboratively creating the final installation, reinforced my belief that the students involvement was beneficial for their growth and development; I feel confident that we were successful in our aims.

At the start of the session I was a little concerned about how the interaction between the students, Laura and myself, would develop as some of the group seemed rather reluctant to be involved.
After being prompted by their teacher their confidence increased.
Apparently artists have worked with students at Kingsmeadow before so one would think that students would be comfortable in this environment?
Whilst Laura delivered the musical section of the workshop I was able to observe the dynamics of the group, this, I saw as a positive opportunity as it gave me time to recognise who, in such a large group, would need slightly more assistance.

Throughout the workshop students were quite confident with their creative skills and knowledge, some were extremely inquisitive, other's slightly apprehensive.
In general most students responded in a positive manner and worked well in their groups, when uncertain they asked for support.
Initially, for some of the group members, abstraction was difficult to comprehend; they were more familiar with representational art nevertheless after they questioned the concept of abstraction, and I had explained its definition, once again they were fully involved.

Based on the dialogue between the whole group I think that the Yr7 students genuingly enjoyed being part of the Khyal project, they learnt about a genre of music that, with the exception of one, no-one had any previous knowledge of.
Once they relaxed and became less self-conscious I believe that they thoroughly enjoyed the music lesson; in particular the interaction with Laura and physically playing the instruments. They definitely learnt about a diverse and interesting culture, new listening skills and how to clap to the beat of a Raga.

In relation to the creative aspects I think that they enjoyed pushing themselves; their creative and expressive boundaries.
Working collaboratively seemed to be of interest to many of the students, developing an understanding of alternative ways of being creative and learning to be patient and considerate was a large part of the process.
I think that the final outcome is a visual reference of those combined experiences of the students.

There were several positive comments from both staff and students throughout the session, it was difficult to record these comments during our workshop as I was constantly engaged with the process and physically working with the students.
Although the concept of the workshop was structured and meticulously planned, there was room for improvisation.
Working in this manner allows the students the opportunity to dictate the pace too.
As a group we did adjust the session, allowing the students more freedom; several students told me that they enjoyed working in this way.

One female student seemed a little distracted and not as keen to be involved. Unfortunately, I didn't notice this until the final collaboration, after asking her why she was reluctant to be involved she told me that English was her second language and that she felt somewhat isolated. Had I noticed her earlier I would have tried my best to involve her more, fortunately this was the only negative incident - one which I couldn't have prepared for.

I always enjoy the challenge of working in new environments with different groups, encouraging participants to develop their confidence, artistic skills and knowledge, no matter what age, mental or physical ability, their social or cultural background.

Working on the Khyal: Music and Imagination project at Kingsmeadow School was no exception; all involved, Durham University Music Department, GemArts, Kingsmeadow staff and particularly the wonderful students with whom I worked made this collaboration possible. I trust that the staff and students of Kingsmeadow School feel the same.

During the project I made several preliminary pen and pencil works on paper and two final commissioned paintings; the concept, including my aesthetic process was recorded both visually and audibly as part of a documented interview between myself and Prof Laura Leante, images and accompanying text were also selected for the exhibition catalogue.

Several of the works which translate, through abstract geometrism, my inner visions of the subtleties of Rag Ragashree, a Khyal Evening Raga performance, including subsequent Memento Mori works were a progression from the Khyal paintings using a coffin inspired template, symbolising my own mortality. These progressive works were shown in the Annex, NewBridge Studios, Newcastle, November as part of a recent Colour Group of Great Britain (Northern Chapter) group exhibition. See my Exhibitions page.

The show was designed to raise the profile of the newly ratified, Northern Chapter of the Colour Group (GB). Colour Matters was a pop up show, jointly curated by Helen Schell and myself, the exhibition featured the work of five North East artists whose practices focus on the use of colour: Susi Bellamy, Alex Charrington, Michael Chippendale, Helen Schell, Theresa Poulton.

North Tyneside Arts Studios

The Hepworth, Wakefield

Colour Group GB

Durham University Music Dept


Journal article Collusion of Colours, Jan 28th 2014


The Newbridge Project


The Customs House, South Shields, Tyne and Wear

Newcastle University MFA Final Show 2013


The Atkinson Gallery, Millfield Summer Show 2013