Exit Piccadilly Pop Up, but Navigators Art gains new momentum with Moving Pictures exhibition at City Screen. What next?

Cillian Murphy’s Thomas Shelby, from Peaky Blinders, by Steve Beadle in Navigators Art’s Moving Pictures exhibition at City Screen Picturehouse, York

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.”

That Old Devil Moon, collage, by Richard Kitchen

“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.

When it was beautiful: Marcelo Bielsa in his now-terminated days at Leeds United, by Steve Beadle

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.

Modern Altarpieces, by Timothy Morrison, inviting “private devotion” in the cafe at City Screen

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.”

Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, by Steve Beadle, in the Navigators Art show at City Screen

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 navigatorsart@gmail.com.

Brave New World, by Richard Kitchen

“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.

The poster for Navigators Art’s Moving Pictures exhibition

“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.

Uthink Pop Up Piccadilly studios & gallery to close with final art events this weekend

Art attack: Shark, mural by Replete, at Piccadilly Pop Up, Piccadilly, York

THE Uthink Piccadilly Pop Up art studios and gallery must vacate their temporary premises in York,by the end of the month after being served notice by the re-developers.

In 2019, the charity Uthink PDP (People Developing People) took over York’s former tax office headquarters at 23, Piccadilly, when it was sold by City of York Council and began renting out space to York artists.

“Since August 2020, we’ve opened to the public every Saturday to showcase our work, give or take a plague or two,” says Richard Kitchen, one of Piccadilly Pop Up’s founders and artists.

“We now comprise 15 artists, including some who have exhibited elsewhere, some who have been selected for York Open Studios, a handful of young artists, from York College, on our mentoring programme, and a nationally renowned graffiti artist and muralist.

“Our work ranges from painting and drawing through abstract art and collage to photography, sculpture and installation. There’s even some poetry.”

To mark the “suddenness of the circumstances” behind the closure, Pop Up Piccadilly’s final events will be held this weekend to “celebrate all we have achieved during our tenancy”. On Saturday, public opening will be as usual, from 12 noon to 6pm; on Sunday, a festive market and extended art exhibition will run from 11am. Admission is free.

A morning-till-evening special exhibition, “commemorating our beloved building” with photographs, art, spoken-word contributions and possibly a sound installation or musical performance, was under discussion for December 21 but will not go ahead.

“We’d be very happy to see you this weekend, especially if you haven’t visited us before,” says Richard. “We were gaining quite a reputation for enterprise and innovation and were much loved and admired by many of our visitors.”  

Can Piccadilly Pop Up find permanent home rather than be a snap, crackle and pop-up?

Art attack: Shark, mural by Replete, at Piccadilly Pop Up, Piccadilly, York

EACH Saturday, Piccadilly Pop Up’s artists and writers at the old Tax Office at 23, Piccadilly, York, open up their shared studio as a gallery.

From 12 noon to 6pm, the public can view and buy paintings, drawings, graffiti, murals, fine art, sculpture, prints, postcards, collage and poetry. Entry is free, no ticket or booking is required, and Covid safety precautions are in place.

Piccadilly Pop Up is operating as part of Uthink PDP (People Developing People), a charity that is borrowing the building from City of Council until its redevelopment.

Uthink does all kinds of social work up and down the country, not least renting such premises to artists at affordable rates to help fund its activities.

Halloweenery, mixed-media collage, by Richard Kitchen

“Eventually, however, we will be given one month’s notice and lose our studios,” says Richard Kitchen, one of the pop-up founders and artists. “Suitable premises are increasingly hard to fin​d, let alone afford, both despite and also because of the amount of redevelopment going on in the city.

“Many artists in York have private means, but what about those who don’t? Some of us at Piccadilly Pop Up work there full time, the complication being that we do not necessarily make ‘commercial’ work, yet depend on sales to make a living. 

“Our angle is that living artists are a vibrant part of the cultural attraction of York and should be valued and nurtured. We feel the council would benefit from providing for creatives who show initiative and enterprise as part of the city’s resources. Artists are an asset!”

Ey Tony, mural, by Patrick Dalton

After that rallying call, CharlesHutchPress felt compelled to pop down questions aplenty for Richard [@richardkitchenart] on the present and hopefully the future of Pop Up Piccadilly as he seeks to address what he calls “an imbalance in the council’s priorities”.

When did Piccadilly Pop Up start and who has been the driving force?

“The charity Uthink PDP moved into the vacant former Tax Office at 23 Piccadilly two years ago, putting on a photographic exhibition and some workshops and renting studio space in the building to artists until its redevelopment.

“Since then, quite a few artists have joined and some have gone, mainly due to Covid. Now there are four core artists working there, who have been running the Saturday open days off and on since August 2020.

Bare Bones, ink and watercolour, by Steve Beadle

“We’re a team. Steve Beadle and I look after promotion, publicity and networking; Terry Aaron takes on the upkeep of the building and Patrick Dalton designs our flyers and posters. Some tasks require more time than others, but it takes everyone to make it work.”

How long do you have left at the former Tax Office before needing to move elsewhere?

“All we know is that at some point we will be given one month’s notice to clear out. Uthink took over the premises from the council on a temporary basis but it has now been sold to developers.”

Despite being a pop-up, will the aim be to have a permanent base?

“We hope so. It’s as permanent as possible in Piccadilly although sadly it can’t be permanently permanent. The name was chosen because Uthink often do pop-ups in various cities and we weren’t sure how long we’d be there.

Will Whittington’s corridor mural at Piccadilly Pop Up

“It sounds a bit lightweight, but people know us by that name now, so it’s better not to change it until we have to move. We open the entire first floor as a public gallery every Saturday.”

How may an artist become involved in Piccadilly Pop-Up?

“Most of the display space is spoken for right now, certainly the walls. We make a lot of work and some of it’s quite big! We have a couple of students from York St John helping out on Saturdays and they also have some pieces on show. One will be renting studio space with us too.

“We do show work by guest artists sometimes and we like to encourage people and make new connections, so the best thing would be to get in touch and enquire via facebook.com/piccadillypopupart.”

Portrait, from a photo series, by Gary Pate

How many artists are involved at present?

“Eight people work and/or exhibit there, including the four core members. Between us, we produce a wide range of work: painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, murals, graffiti, street art, photography, prints and even poetry and history books!!”

What is the mission statement of Piccadilly Pop Up?

“As well as supporting Uthink’s own practice, I’d say our mission is to enhance cultural life in the city, to promote art as a living, relevant force and to make it accessible to as wide a range of people as possible.

“By doing that, we’re not only providing entertainment and stimulus but also contributing to people’s wellbeing and positive outlook in terms of mental health and social values. We’re showing what can be achieved when a creative, community-minded enterprise takes over a space that is otherwise going to waste. We’re setting an example for others to follow.

The Natrix, oil painting, by The Medicine Man

Who is involved in the Uthink PDP charity? 

“PDP stands for People Developing People. Uthink started as a charity in 2012, giving opportunities to disadvantaged young people and the homeless to encourage and enable them to find their feet.

“Among other good works, it takes over buildings like ours and rents studio space to local artists at affordable rates. It started operating in York in July 2019.

“Gary Pate is the managing director and our main contact. We’re privileged to be part of such a generous, forward-thinking, grassroots organisation and proud to contribute to its work. We give Uthink a percentage of any sales we make.”

Clown Girls, monoprint, by Molly Owen

How will you make your case to City of York Council for premises for York artists?  Sadly, Bar Lane Studios have closed, but PICA Studios run from Grape Lane and Westside Artists have formed a collective, with Southlands Methodist Church as a fulcrum. What would suit you best to complement these studio spaces?

“These are our thoughts at the moment: Uthink rents out studio space at deliberately affordable rates, which means we can make the work we want to make without necessarily bowing to commercialism.

“The irony is that we tend to sell a lot less than other galleries, partly because our work differs from what one normally sees in York galleries and pop-ups, and partly because Piccadilly – at least beyond Spark: York – is slightly off the beaten track, unless you’re a Wetherspoons client!

“So, it’s all a bit ‘Catch 22’. We’re quite unique in that, unlike many artists in York and elsewhere, most of us do not have private means or other jobs and cannot afford the rents that other places charge. We aren’t ‘weekend artists’.

Tree, gouache and watercolour, by Steve Beadle

“Two of us do a dedicated 9-till-5 stint (or more) at the studio every day and one often works late at night, but it’s all unpaid. We either compromise and make stuff to sell – the production line of making variations on what you know is popular – or we stay true to ourselves, value our integrity and creativity, and risk getting nothing in return.

“It’s not that the work is weird or bad or ‘difficult’, far from it, but it isn’t mainstream. I’d say we’re a very interesting place to visit for that reason and we should appeal to a wider audience than regular gallery-goers, but because of our location it’s not that easy to attract visitors.”

The solution is…?

“Could City of York Council develop the mindset to see artists like us as assets to the city and its cultural appeal? We think we can contribute a lot to a positive experience of the city for both tourists and residents.

Needle, spray paint on board, by Replete at Piccadilly Pop Up

“With all the development going on and what many residents see as an emphasis on money-making and tourism at the expense of much else, could a few buildings be earmarked by the council for use by artists, at least temporarily?

“At the moment, organisations such as Uthink and Blank Canvas find such places when they can and charge what they feel is appropriate, but there are surely more opportunities out there.

“If it were an initiative on the part of the council to offer premises to genuinely needy and enterprising artists at rock-bottom rates, there would be so many vibrant things going on. Why not promote art as a living, thriving, meaningful cultural force in the city that can enhance being in York for residents as well as visitors?”

Over to you, City of York Council. Pass on the baton, not the buck.

In Memory Of Ken, detail from a collage by Richard Kitchen

Here are the key Instagram links for the Piccadilly Pop Up enterprise: