WELCOME to the next chapter in the story of Navigators Art, the York group of artists that found a temporary home at the Piccadilly Pop Up Collective studios and gallery in the old York tax office.
Given notice to vacate the expansive HRMC building in Piccadilly by December 28, to enable redevelopment to start, they have ridden the blow they always knew was coming by mounting an exhibition in the café and on the first-floor corridor gallery at the City Screen Picturehouse in Coney Street until April 15.
For their first post-lockdown project, two founder Navigators, Steve Beadle and Richard Kitchen, have invited fellow artist and teacher Timothy Morrison to join them in the Moving Pictures: From Fan Art To Fine Art exhibition.
Presumably that show title is a nod to films being moving pictures, Richard? “Of course!” he says. “And that’s why we’re glad City Screen wanted us to show there. But the title is deliberately ambiguous, and we’ve responded to it accordingly. There are works that relate to cinema and other media but also many of them interpret ‘Moving’ in other ways.”
“Moving” has always been part of Kitchen and Beadle’s artistic endeavours, first as part of a group of MA student artists at York St John University that set up Navigators Art in 2019. Then, as postgraduates, they worked at The Malthouse, the studios and social space set up in a derelict warehouse in The Crescent in November 2019, and latterly at Piccadilly Pop Up, where they exhibited as part of a team and initiated community engagements, such as mentoring young emerging artists from York College.
“Now, the redevelopment of Piccadilly has prompted us to look to resurrect Navigators as a channel for making and showing work,” says Richard, who has taught literature and theatre in Britain and Spain, as well as pursuing his cross-disciplinary artistic practice, fuelled by drawings, paintings, photography and poetry.
“My collage work is influenced by the impact of time, nature and people on the environment,” he says. “It finds value in the unloved and the discarded and suggests we can make sense of a world in crisis – and perhaps re-make it, better – by editing together fragments of experience that offer us hope.”
Richard should have been exhibiting elsewhere in April but the exit from the Piccadilly premises brought him an additional consequence. “I was selected for York Open Studios 2022 but I was later disqualified because we lost the studios in December and the York Open Studios admin team said it was too late to find me another space,” he says.
Nevertheless, the Moving Pictures show gives him an April window, alongside Hull artist Steve Beadle, who pursued a more abstract direction while studying Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan and York St John University but has returned to a more familiar portrait and figurative style, inspired by characters in the films and popular entertainment that inspired him to make art in the first place.
Based in York, he works in oil, gouache, watercolour and pencil, creating framed originals and prints and framed originals, and he is always available for portrait commissions.
Moving Pictures’ third artist, Timothy Morrison, has exhibited widely across the UK and in Schleswig Holstein and his work is in the collection of the V&A Museum, London. In 2011-2012, he curated the ArchitekturalReinstallationestival festival at various sites in York. At City Screen, he is exhibiting two “Modern Altarpieces”.
“Art is the religion, and they are ideal for private devotion in the home,” he says, describing works that display a narrative of travel, enlightenment, longing, memory, central urban experiences, metro systems, Magnetic Fields (Champs Magnétiques) and constructivism. “The pictures can’t move, but our eyes and thoughts can,” he propounds.
Delighted to be exhibiting at City Screen, Steven says: “The café wall is wonderful; that old brick. Very textural, very organic. Bigger works in particular benefit from being displayed there.
“The upstairs gallery is a more traditional white-wall area, ideal for smaller pieces as you can get right up close. Some of our work rewards a look at the details. We were lucky to be offered both spaces at the same time, which is quite unusual, especially as it coincides with the York Open Studios season.”
Looking ahead, Richard and Steven hope to open up the Navigators Art group to others and to establish a fluid collective of artists, writers and other creatives.
“We encourage enquiries from potential collaborators, particularly those who are less established and have no regular platform for displaying work,” says Steven. “Navigators can be found on Instagram and Facebook as @navigatorsart.”
Richard adds: “We’re trying hard to forge ahead as a working unit after the disappointments of losing the Piccadilly studios and consequently York Open Studios too. The group is growing, and we’ll be curating the visual art aspect of York Theatre Royal’s Takeover week from May 9.
“After that, we’re thinking about a series of themed exhibitions featuring a variety of artists and disciplines and we’ll be seeking appropriate venues. We’d welcome suggestions and offers.
“We also want to revive Wordhoard, an event celebrating art and the spoken word, which Steve and I started when we were at The Malthouse studios but went on hold when Covid struck.”
Is there any likelihood of a new home for the artists that gathered in Piccadilly? “There is no news yet,” updates Richard. “We’d love to hear out of the blue that there’s a brilliant empty building just waiting for us! Please email email@example.com.
“Steve and I became the main motivators at Piccadilly in terms of community outreach, events and promotion. Some of the others weren’t really involved beyond their own interests, which undermined the collective ideal.
“When it came to an end, however unfortunate it was, it felt like the right time. However, we’d like to host some of the younger artists again who miss their studio space and can’t afford normal rent rates in York.
“It’s a thousand pities that a building like the former HRMC tax office that housed us can’t be taken over and maintained as a vibrant arts centre and community resource. That’s really what we’re after; that’s our ideal. Resources for residents!”
Over the two years at Piccadilly, each week’s artworks, whether painting, drawing and sculpture, or collage, murals, graffiti, street art and photography, went on public view on Saturday afternoons as part of a scheme run by the charity Uthink P.D.P.
“What we miss most, aside from the working space, is the interaction with visitors to the gallery on Saturdays,” says Richard. “For us, it wasn’t just a chance to sell our work. We came to realise that the true value of 23 Piccadilly was in what you couldn’t put a price on.
“Namely, the joy we gave to people who didn’t know what to expect; the safe place of escape and motivation we represented for the unfortunate and the down at heart; the inspiration we gave to other artists; the proof we provided of what can be achieved without money or other good fortune.
“Almost without knowing it, we took it beyond its initial premise and turned it into a very special environment with a part to play in people’s wellbeing and motivation as well as its cultural impact. That’s what we hope to continue to represent in this city and encourage in other creatives here and elsewhere.”
Navigators Art’s Moving Pictures exhibition runs at City Screen Picturehouse, York, until April 15. Admission is free.