A metaphorical torch is now shining its ‘New Light’ in some of the North of England’s artistic corners, and a few of them are surprisingly dark and desolate.

Laid bare in the Tullie House Museum and Gallery in Carlisle is the fourth biennial New Light Prize Exhibition, an exposition of paintings, sculpture, prints and drawing, from the hyper-real to the hypnotically abstract, all by contemporary artists. Some of the chosen 72 artists are noted Royal Academicians, some new talent – all of them are Northerners.

The exhibition has already travelled across the North and to London with a successful show at the Bankside Gallery down the road from Tate Modern, but now it’s back on Northern turf, basking in the gorgeous lighting of the Tullie House Gallery till the end of January 2019.

The artworks, all for sale – some at four-figure prices that might stick in the beak of your average culture vulture – include a Dreaming Hare, a Human Bridge, a three-in-one portrait of Northern acting legend Tom Courtenay, and an intensely moody, Turner-esque oil-on-board abstract landscape called Subterrain by Bolton-born landscape painter James Naughton. Naughton describes the exhibition’s artworks as “incredibly varied, yet together they create an atmosphere which is palpably whole”.

James Naughton, Subterrain, 60x80cm, Oil on BoardBut for all the unity and atmospheric warmth of the Tullie Gallery lighting, artist Emerson Mayes, the CEO of New Light, says this year’s exhibition has a “darker and harder” feel to it, which may reflect how society views itself at the moment. “A number of works use both the urban and rural landscape to explore ideas of desolation and abandonment; some deal with surveillance and social control, whilst others have an ‘emptiness’ to them that can be disturbing.”

New Light is not just about floodlighting its artists’ careers, though – the organisation is a charity, built on the belief that the visual arts deeply matter to all of us and that contemporary art should be accessible to everyone. One of its initiatives, Art for All, embraces talks, open workshops and school projects. “Both Art for All and New Light,” says Naughton, “are vital, especially at this time. Opportunities for young people to value how substantial our culture is and experience the freedom of creativity should not be limited in any way.”

By Matthew Connolly

Main image: Glenn Ibbitson, Human Bridge


Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Castle Street, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8TP. Open Daily: Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm

New Light Prize Exhibition – Shining a Light on Northern Art runs until January 27, 2019