Ruth Smith: Ground Works

An installation of recent work in collaboration with Scarborough School of Arts

Plot 128, Ruth Smith, installation view, 2016

Plot 128, Ruth Smith, installation view, 2016

Saturday 12 November – Sunday 18 December
Fridays – Sundays 11.00am-4.00pm and by arrangement.
Admission is free.

‘I expand the boundaries of painting, installation, performance, words and walking. I play with the edges of where processes, experience, memory and environments overlap.’

Ruth Smith’s work draws inspiration from the shifting landscape and our engagement within it, often focusing on places that exist in a state of on-going process or growth such as allotments and building sites. Works drawn from these sites seek to distill and draw the eye back to fleeting curiosities that hint at our involvement within such landscapes. Ruth explores these sites through observations, personal written accounts and a process of deconstructing the compositional elements and physically re-presenting the fragments through sculptural painting and the loose play of found materials. These reconfigured landscapes hold the potential for dwelling and exploring, creating a whisper of somewhere beyond, whilst simultaneously demanding our attention ‘in the now’.

Ruth Smith is the holder of a new Fine Art Fellowship at Scarborough School of Arts at Yorkshire Coast College and Crescent Arts. Ruth recently graduated from The Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, and will lead students here to produce work within this exhibition.

Below is a video made by Ruth showing one of the student walks that Ruth led during her fellowship. This video forms part of the exhibition at Crescent Arts.


An Empty Vessel


An Empty Vessel, video stills, Webb-Ellis, 2016

An Empty Vessel, video stills, Webb-Ellis, 2016

Friday 30th September – Sunday 30th October
Fridays – Sundays 11.00am-4.00pm and by appointment
Admission is free
Museums at Night Celebration Event
Thursday 27th October
7.00pm – 9.00pm

Artist duo Webb-Ellis will transform the gallery at Crescent Arts into a living, evolving, generative installation exploring what connects us in an age of increasing alienation.

The artists will work with visitors to the gallery to create a growing web of connections and associations that will culminate in the creation of a new audio-visual installation for Museums at Night, premiering simultaneously at both Crescent Arts and The Nunnery Gallery in East London.

The audio-visual installation will be presented in The Nunnery Gallery in Bow, east London, alongside drawings, music and holy water collected by local ‘pilgrims’ from an ancient sacred well in Valentines Park in Ilford. Inspired by Susan Hiller‘s ‘Homage to Joseph Beuys’ series, which collects water from sacred or once-sacred sites around the world, Webb-Ellis will lead a 7 miles pilgrimage to collect water from the well. Both ancient and post-modern, this secular pilgrimage will explore the hidden potential of ordinary things and experiences, and will culminate in the Museums at Night event.

At Crescent Arts this generative installation is a great opportunity to make visible the process of creating a work of art, and to explore the themes behind the work in greater depth. The gallery will contain research material (images, books, text, writing, drawings, sound and video etc.) as well as the means to produce more material (computers, camera, microphone, printer) and these will be available to visitors to use, working with Webb-Ellis to add to the growing web of connections and associations.

Artist-led, family friendly pilgrimage

St. Hilda’s Holy Spring, Hackness
Saturday 8th October
11.00am at Crescent Arts

The pilgrimage takes walkers from Scarborough to Hackness, then return by public transport with water drawn from the well. Bring a vessel of your choice to collect water which will be included in the installation at Crescent Arts. A digital map will be available for download from our website soon.

An Empty Vessel Workshop

Saturday 15th October
1.00pm – 5.00pm
Fee: members £20 / non-members £30

Join us on this workshop to explore how artists create meaning in an increasingly rhizomatic and non-linear environment. The workshop will have a practical element and will cover activities and ideas such as; storytelling, memory and association, collage, the editing process, fact and fiction and digital detritus. Please see our workshops page for booking details.

The Museums at Night Celebration

Thursday 27th October
7.00pm – 9.00pm
Admission is free

Instead of an ‘opening’ we’re hosting a public event in the gallery space on the evening of October 27th as part of Museums at Night to coincide with the London opening of An Empty Vessel at The Nunnery Gallery at Bow Arts. The audio-visual installation will be installed at both The Nunnery and Crescent Arts in different forms, premiering simultaneously across the two locations.



18th June – 24th July

Photograph, Crescent Arts, 2016

Photograph, Crescent Arts, 2016

Sat 18th June – Sun 24th July
Fridays – Sundays 11.00am – 4.00pm
and by appointment.
Admission is free.

Portraits can hold our attention like no other form of representation. This may depend on who’s in the portrait or who created it, how it was made, when and where it was made, and why. Most of us have personal albums of portraits that we continually add to and share with others especially, these days, through social media. It seems a vital part of how we navigate the world and our lives.

If we think of portraits we naturally think of faces. It would be strange, and difficult, if we did not have the facility to recognise faces or could not interpret and respond to facial expressions as a normal part of our day to day activities. From the moment we started to create images, the portrait came into being through visual representations and likenesses of ourselves and those in our immediate circle or wider society.

This exhibition explores portraiture and features an intimate community of portraits made by participants in a recent workshop at Crescent Arts. We have expanded this with a collaborative installation by our resident artists which poses further questions about the nature of portraiture; more specifically the self-portrait. There’s also an open invitation to visitors to draw their own portrait as part of experiencing the exhibition.

Resident artist Ruth Miemczyk devised a portrait drawing workshop that asked participants to adopt different approaches to creating a portrait, giving more consideration to the process than we might otherwise. It began by drawing from observation, working with a live model. This activity concentrated on observing, mapping and plotting the features of the subject and capturing this with pencil on paper. While there was no intention to allow individual expression to influence the process, the resulting drawings are easily distinguished by the ‘signature mark-making’ of the individual. The intention to capture a tonal portrait without the use of line, still using only pencil on paper, revealed more scope for individual expressive qualities in the drawing. Participants were then asked to create an ‘imaginary’ self-portrait which does not rely on external features or observation. Instead the drawings set out to objectify interests, influences, feelings, emotions or psychological aspects of each individual. Seen together these drawings start to reveal complexities in our relationship to portraiture, combining both ‘other’ and ‘self’ within any given portrait.

Many of the earliest surviving portraits seen in our museums and galleries depict notable figures down the ages and are quite likely to be idealised, more symbolic and representative of cultural identity, status, position, wealth, achievement, immortality or sometimes deity. Most of these tendencies persist in contemporary portraiture and if we visit The National Portrait Gallery or look at stamps, coins or banknotes we can find examples. While the main purpose of such portraits may not have been to describe individual features closely, the attempt to create a likeness was inevitable. Recognition of the subject is clearly important and is also reflected in more intimate portraiture. Ancient Greco-Roman funeral portraits, for example, are fascinating in that their subjects are often in the prime of youth and appear in good health, so the portrait would seek to evoke a personal memory which in turn relies upon a strong ‘likeness’ captured at an ideal time of life or at a good moment – a forerunner of photography or digital imaging.

Photography, and more recently digital imaging, might be thought to have replaced other media, painting and drawing for example, in offering the facility to create a good likeness. This may be true, but also draws attention to our more complex relationship with portraiture. There are plenty of examples of the photographic portrait that seem to offer more than ‘superficial likeness’ and we persist in differentiating between portraits that aim for a physical likeness and those that set out to reveal other, perhaps more insightful, characteristics of the subject.

We welcome schools and colleges to the exhibition and will be happy to make arrangements for your group to visit at a time to suit you. We can accommodate a group of up to twenty at any one time. Please email us to request a group visit with the subject ‘visit’:

Self Portrait, pencil on paper, Ryan Gibson, 2016 (Cropped for website)

Self Portrait, pencil on paper, Ryan Gibson, 2016 (Cropped for website)

Resident artists at Whitstable Biennale

Saturday 4th - Sunday 12th June 2016

Parlor Walls film still, Webb-Ellis, 2016

Parlor Walls film still, Webb-Ellis, 2016

Resident artists, Webb-Ellis, will present their new audio-visual installation, Parlor Walls, at Whitstable Biennale from 4th – 12th June 2016.

Made over the course of two years, the project has seen the duo working in and around their studio at Crescent Arts, and in collaboration with young people at Yorkshire Coast College and Stephen Joseph Theatre.


Parlor Walls takes Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 as a starting point to explore alienation in the digital age, and the strangeness of contemporary human experience.

Made up of documentary, performance and online videos gleaned over two years, Parlor Walls oscillates between the mythological and the everyday. White clowns, YouTube pseudo intimacy, metal detecting and the atavistic journey of the eel combine in an experimental inquiry into the real, loneliness, desire, memory and touch.

Whilst Fahrenheit 451 presents a distinctly dystopian vision, Parlor Walls harbours a quiet optimism, calling in the oldest of stories to propose new ways of understanding our place within an interconnected world.

Music by Paul Michael Henry with ecologist and writer Alastair McIntosh.

Kindly supported by Whitstable Biennale, Crescent Arts, University for the Creative Arts, Yorkshire Coast CollegeStephen Joseph Theatre and YVAN.

With special thanks to Stuart Cameron, Daniel Cutmore, Matthew De Pulford, Christopher Ellis, Gareth Evans, Lara Goodband, Sue Jones, Daren Kearl and Geraldine Malone.

Webb-Ellis’ studio at Crescent Arts is subsidised by Arts Council England.


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Scarborough Winter School 2016 – The Exhibition

Saturday 9th April – Saturday 14th May

Scarborough Winter School 2016, Leeds College of Art, Photograph, Suzanna Garner

Scarborough Winter School 2016, Leeds College of Art, Photograph, Suzanna Garner

Saturday 9th April – Saturday 14th May
Fridays – Sundays
11.00am – 4.00pm
Admission is free

Have you ever wondered what goes on in art schools, but didn’t like to ask? Are you thinking of applying to art school but feel confused by the choices? Here’s a chance to get a greater sense of what art education is all about. Scarborough Winter School 2016 was co-hosted by Crescent Arts and Yorkshire Coast College in February, in partnership with Leeds College of Art, University of Leeds (Art and Design), University of Newcastle Faculty of Fine Art and Northumbria University. Students and lecturers came together for a day of networking and debate and to test drive activities devised by the colleges.   Our aim was to examine the legacy of the post-war Scarborough Summer Schools first run in 1953 by Victor Pasmore, Tom Hudson and Harry Thubron, which led to the creation and development of the Art Foundation Course.

The Scarborough Summer Schools of the 1950s were essential to art education in the UK, translating radical Bauhaus ideas into a curriculum for the UK known as Basic Design. These summer schools fed into the National Advisory Council on Art Education’s Coldstream Report (1961) and the establishment of the Dip. A.D.  (subsequently BA) as a ‘liberal education in art and design’.  The Scarborough Winter School 2016 revisited some of these original ideas, with a view to evaluating some of the principles of art education today.

The proposal followed on from The Art Party Conference 2013 which Crescent Arts presented with Bob and Roberta Smith at The Spa with over 1,200 participants converging on Scarborough from all over the UK to express deep concerns over the continuing marginalisation of arts and creativity in primary, secondary, further and higher education. Scarborough Winter School 2016 was a further stage in a process we intend to develop, contributing to the case for creativity and the arts as integral to education.

We hope the exhibition offers a platform for further activity and discussion about the value of art education – its teaching, learning, philosophy and practice through workshops, debate, exhibition, events and communications. You can view a short video of documentation of Scarborough Winter School 2016 on this website.


Get Together: Art Teachers, Students and Artists
Wed. 27th April 7.00pm
Discussion: Art Education and what it’s all about.

We welcome schools and colleges to the exhibition and will be happy to make arrangements for your group to visit at a time to suit you. We can accommodate a group of up to twenty at any one time. Please email us to request a group visit with the subject ‘SWS visit’:

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Justin D L, work in progress, photograph Webb-Ellis, 2015

Justin D L, work in progress, photograph Webb-Ellis, 2015

Saturday 6th February – Sunday 20th March 2016

Introducing four new resident artists:
Justin DL – Ruth Miemczyk – Charlotte Salt – Janet White

Fridays – Sundays 11.00am – 4.00pm
Admission is free

Footnotes 2 presents the work of four artists who recently took up studios at Crescent Arts. The exhibition is an introduction to their work and, whilst there is no central theme, it explores associations between the works, hinting at common concerns. The work in the exhibition spans a range of media and approaches including painting, sculpture, ceramics, mixed-media and the (re)appropriation of collected or found objects, material and images.

The painter Ruth Miemczyk, whose solo exhibition you may have seen at Crescent Arts in autumn 2015, presents new paintings that she has been working on since arriving in her studio here. These new paintings continue her practice to explore an abstract visual language of colour, geometric shape, scale and gesture. She seeks to create a strong sense of space in each work arrived at through an intuitive, though highly rigorous and restrained, process of painting.

Justin DL draws upon photographic images and materials, often for their personal meaning or relevance, and which form the basis for drawings which he then processes digitally. The process offers abstracted, pixelated, visual fragments. Justin translates printed out versions of these processed images into paintings which re-introduces the ‘hand of the artist’, with a transposition in scale transforming ‘fragment’ into ‘field’. The intention of cutting up and reassembling these paintings extends the process of re-appropriation and places in question the notion of a ‘finished state’ of the work.

Charlotte Salt works with materials, images and objects which she finds and collects from a wide range of sources – the internet, junk shops, markets, scrap yards. Her interest in the objects or materials that she collects and assembles might focus on their history, values they might be perceived to embody, or perhaps the associations they can provoke. Intuitively, she sifts through and manipulates the materials to heighten their associative qualities and drawing upon tensions between quick gesture and labour intensive processes such as the use of ceramics or textiles. Her work draws on contexts and concerns relating to expression, feminism, labour, narrative and memory.

Janet White also incorporates found objects and materials in her work. She has, for some time, been exploring a particular agricultural site as the source of material which she collects as it is unearthed in the normal course of farming and managing this landscape. The field is also a site for her to plan and map through walking in the landscape, allowing for documentation of this activity which hints at cyclical and seasonal behavioural patterns. Time is a strong element in her work. The present in the form of her activity, interventions and documentation collides with the past (recent or otherwise) as embodied in fragments which she retrieves from the earth and which are abstracted by the process of wear and tear.

In Footnotes 2 we’ve brought elements of these artists’ work together to explore associations, create visual dialogue and to reveal some common or collective concerns. I hope this approach extends the possibilities and enjoyment of creating and experiencing their work, not only for the artists but also for visitors to this exhibition.

Stuart Cameron