Bluecoat is delighted to reopen two solo exhibitions by former residency artists – Jonathan Baldock and Frances Disley – which originally launched 12 March 2020 before closing due to the nation-wide lockdown.

Jonathan Baldock


Thu 30 Jul – Sun 01 Nov 2020

Bluecoat is delighted to resume Facecrime, a solo exhibition by Jonathan Baldock. The artist was the Freelands Foundation artist in residence at Bluecoat in January 2018. While we often think of ceramics as useful objects, such as vases and bowls, Facecrime presents a vision of clay as a means of communication.

At the centre of the exhibition is a landscape of ceramic columns, some over four metres high. Originally inspired by cuneiform-inscribed tablets – an early system of writing – dating from 2500BC, the exhibition explores the potential of clay to create communication tools that still connect with us today.

Featuring expressive faces and stamped emoji symbols, the columns emit audible groans, whistles and chuckles through concealed speakers. The columns are also adorned with weaving, basketry and glass drawn from different eras of labour, folklore and storytelling.

The exhibition title is inspired by Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984 – a ‘facecrime’ being an ‘unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself’ suggesting that there was something to hide. Throughout the exhibition, rectangular ceramic tablets feature expressive faces built from the most basic elements.

Marie-Anne McQuay, Head of Programme at Bluecoat, said: “We are so delighted to reopen Facecrime, an exhibition of beautifully handcrafted ceramics that allude to ancient and modern forms of communication. We like to think that Baldock’s whistling, humming and laughing ceramic faces have been having conversations together in our absence.”

Facecrime is commissioned by Camden Art Centre with Tramway. The work was developed through the Freelands Lomax Ceramics Fellowship and is funded by the Freelands Foundation. The 2020 installation at Bluecoat is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation.

Frances Disley
Pattern Buffer
Thu 30 Jul – Sun 01 Nov 2020

As part of Bluecoat’s ongoing commitment to supporting outstanding Northern artists, we were so pleased to present a solo show by Liverpool-based Frances Disley back in March 2020 and are equally thrilled to have the chance to run her show in full.

Disley is interested in the things we do to feel better about ourselves, while shunning the elitism often found within the self-care industry, with its obsessions with conventional beauty, ideal body mass and self-regard. Pattern Buffer explores the potential of the gallery space to create a restorative environment. Relaxing film works combine with specially selected plants and comfortable seating to create a welcoming setting focused on the wellbeing of the visitor.

The exhibition features an alternative mindfulness guide; hairdressing as video art, and plants which survive from moisture in the air. The grid of the Holodeck, a device from Star Trek (The Next Generation) covers the gallery floor and walls, inviting participants to engage with different fantasy environments.

With the kind permission of the artist we have removed some elements installed in March including hand printed textiles and specially commissioned jigsaws. The artist intends this to remain a restorative and restful space and has added new elements – a playful Guided Visualisation plays on the hour and with an additional atmospheric soundtrack running across the space. The artist has also been back on site to make the show verdant once more including additional plants that she’s nurtured over lockdown.

Marie-Anne McQuay, Head of Programme at Bluecoat, said: “Even as we opened her exhibition in early March Frances Disley was incorporating a hand sanitiser into her vinyl wall paintings. This was done with her customary pragmatism, style and dedication to care for others. I’m so pleased we can reopen Pattern Buffer and audiences can experience a new version of this restorative and restful exhibition”

Frances Disley’s exhibition is supported by Art Fund

Opening information

Gallery hours: Thursday – Saturday, 11am-4pm

Free entry, pre-booking recommended.

Our gallery is currently operating reduced hours which may change over the coming weeks. In accordance with government guidelines we are also operating timed ticketing to ensure social distancing in our building. Please pre-book your visit where possible here or contact us directly to arrange a time to visit the exhibitions.