Art destruction

As one of the UK’s richest artists prepares to burn thousands of his paintings, Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Teesside University and author of Solvent Form; Art and Destruction, shares his views on the destruction of art in the Guardian.


Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley

Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley is the course leader for MA Fine Art at Teesside University and supervises PhD students doing practice-based research in Fine Art as well as teaching on both the MA Fine Art and the BA Fine Art. He gained his PhD in Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought (PACT) at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and in his own practice as a visual artist he focuses on an instability in the art object and the intersection between practice and theory.

His book, Solvent Form, explores the destruction of art, both in terms of objects that have been destroyed – lost in fires, floods or vandalism – and the general concept of art operating through object and form.  He examines events such as the warehouse fire at Momart in 2004 and works indirectly destroyed by art thief Stephane Breitwieser, ultimately proposing the idea of solvent form (hinging on the dual meaning in the words solvent and solvency) whereby art, while attempting to make secure or fixed, likewise undoes and destroys through its inception.

Artist Damien Hirst recently revealed that he will be burning thousands of his paintings at his London gallery to show art as ‘currency’. His announcement has brought both condemnation and praise from the art community – Dr Pappas-Kelley would argue that all objects of art hold their own destruction latent within them. Commenting in the Guardian on the Momart warehouse fire which destroyed about £30m of British art, he suggests that such an event is good for revealing the way art metaphorically trips on the carpet. Of the fascination with fire and destruction in art events like this, Dr Pappas-Kelley observed, ‘In theory no one is neutral at these specific fires – you either set it, are attempting to put it out or are watching the spectacle of it.’

Image by bedneyimages on Freepik

Hirst, who dominated the art scene in the 1990s will burn his paintings over several weeks, culminating in a final blaze during the Frieze Art Fair in London. Whilst some suggest that this is nothing more than a great publicity stunt, Hirst hardly needs the money, purported to be the richest living artist in the UK. Others see it as something more, an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ act of destruction that creates opportunity for a creative phoenix to rise from the flames.

Dr Pappas-Kelley is currently working on further book projects – one a collection of manifestos commissioned by contemporary artists and thinkers, the other a collection of short reflection pieces on works by contemporary artists such as Janine Antoni, Uta Barth, Terrence Koh, and Kiki Smith. He brings his wealth of knowledge and research activity into the classroom, informing teaching and benefiting students of Fine Art at Teesside.


Find out more about Fine Art at Teesside University:

BA (Hons) Fine Art

MA Fine Art

I am NOT a failure

Words on clearing and a secret revealed by Angela Lawrence, our Associate Dean for Marketing and Recruitment


One of the first WhatsApp messages I received on A Level results day this year was from a friend to tell me that her colleague’s son had not met his grades and he was devastated. It’s so hard to hear these words – devastated, destroyed, heartbroken.  My “go-to” response is to quote from Winston Churchill, who said

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”

Whichever way you look at it, this years university applicants have had a rough ride. They never experienced GCSE exams, but then had to take A Level examinations.  They without doubt had a less than perfect learning experience during lockdown despite all the very best efforts of their teachers – it was just not the same as sitting in a classroom alongside friends each day. So to not get the results they hoped for probably feels like yet one more kick in the teeth following a uniquely unorthodox two or three years of study.

I’ll let you into a secret. I went through clearing, way back in the 80’s. It was actually my own fault – I didn’t work as hard as I should have done for my 4 A’ Levels and if I’m honest, I wasn’t completely surprised to find out that I hadn’t got the grades I needed to get in to my chosen uni. Nonetheless I felt that fear and devastation that so many applicants tell us they feel. Fortunately, my parents hit the clearing lines and it wasn’t too long before I had a couple of offers to choose from…roll forward several decades and I’m now close to completing a Doctorate. I am NOT a failure

Things have changed so much since then. Clearing is so much more accessible and such an easy process. Clearing is not seen as failure, but as opportunity. We’re told that there are far more applicants in clearing this year and I can speak from experience and say that our lines  were incredibly busy on A Level results day. We’re also speaking to lots of mature students, many of whom are realising that their dreams too can be fulfilled.

It’s hugely satisfying to know that we are turning devastation into delight and heartbreak to happiness through clearing.  So if you didn’t get the results that you hoped for, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, don’t see this as failure but as a new opportunity, and in Churchill’s words, have the courage to continue!


Teesside University’s clearing hotline

01642 738400

Art & Design Courses

Media & Journalism Courses

Music Technology Courses

Performing Arts Courses

Discover YOUR opportunity in clearing 

 

Panama calling for intrepid illustrator, Amy

A Senior Lecturer from the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University experienced the trip of a lifetime, visiting the Panama to capture the life stories of animals in her drawings and illustrations.

Illustrator Amy Dover

Amy Dover has written the following blog telling a brief story of her travels.


Panama has one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world where species from both North and South America live, from strange bugs to colourful toucans, howling monkeys, sleepy sloths and prowling big cats. Naturalists, artists, and illustrators have travelled to be inspired by nature in Central America for 100s of years.

Toucan in tree

But, what was once drawings made of new discoveries, are now drawings of a world which is fading due mostly to the impact of the developed world. I was incredibly fortunate to be given the opportunity to experience an artist’s expedition to learn from the nature and communities there and create artwork telling the story of animals that live in this biome.

Monkey in tree

In a remote area of Panama between the sea and one of the world’s most dangerous jungles lives one of the last surviving indigenous communities of central America. With special permission from the tribal council, I went on an artist’s residency to live in this community and learn about their unique relationship with nature. The Kuna’s (of sometimes called Guna’s) live across their own district and islands known as the Guna Yala (Kuna land).

The Kuna community

The community that I went to live with are located close to the Columbian boarder next to a jungle known as the Darién. To reach it involves a very small plane into the jungle and a boat over some quite ferocious waves.

Kuna collecting bananas from the jungle

The residency involved many treks into the jungle exploring the flora and fauna, the sounds and smells. I lived within the community for three weeks learning about the mythology, lifestyle and artwork they embroider into the women’s clothing. Creating drawings and printmaking in this environment produced unusual results, with a conscious effort to conserve and not take anything from nature.

Magnificent birds of prey

Travelling on to The Smithsonian Tropical Research Island, I was trekking with an expert learning further about nature through their jungle in quite intense heat. We were followed around for hours by a troop of monkeys who never showed themselves, but you could smell their sweet fragrance in the trees above. The island also echoed with the sounds howler monkeys who’s chorus can be heard for up to three miles. The water around the island hosts a community of crocodiles who could be seen on the banks, as well as many tropical birds and raptors.

Amy trekking through the jungle

Panama city is unusual as it has both tropical and dry forests, the exploration of this showed how closely nature can live to humans. I next  ventured to the islands of Gamboa which is a tropical area close to Panama city, and met some quite gregarious monkeys as well as more crocodiles, birds of prey and a greater collection of mosquito bites. It also hosted the spectacular sloth rescue where these ancient creatures lived their slow lives eating flowers.

Sleepy sloths
Sketches and notes

This was a hugely inspiring trip and I will continue to make work from this adventure, which will be exhibited early next year, as well as the release of a book. The trip would not have been possible without the support of both Teesside University and Newcastle University as well as numerous private clients and Craghopper’s for the clothing.


Amy Dover is Course Leader of BA Illustration as well as Senior Lecturer on BA Graphic Design and MA Visual Communication. She is also a PhD candidate.

Illustration courses at Teesside University:

BA Illustration

MA Illustration

Fine Art students exhibit across Middlesbrough

This August sees a number of fine art students from the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University exhibiting their work for the general public to see


Friday 19th August sees the opening of an exhibition at Parkside West  featuring the work of MA Fine Art students. Titled ‘FEMELLE’, the exhibition is a showcase of the work of female artists including:

  • Amy Austin
  • Charley Duffy
  • Robyn Fyfe
  • Vanessa Langford
  • Donna Morris
  • Evelyn Rodgers

Amy, Charley and Donna all completed BA Hons Fine Art degrees in the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University before progressing on to study their masters in Fine Art.  Along with Robyn, a studio holder at Auxiliary, they have all been accepted onto teacher training courses in September, with a view to sharing their creative talents with the next generation of arts students.

Vanessa is an experienced Community Arts Practitioner of 20 years. She is looking forward to working towards showing her work in the local area on completion of her MA.

Evelyn also completed a BA (Hons) Fine Art at Teesside University and she has plans to develop her sculptural and textile practice, working towards exhibiting locally after her MA studies.

The exhibition opens to public viewing at Parkside West, Middlesbrough TS2 3LF at 10am on Friday 19th August, closing at 4pm. On the 20th August the exhibition is open between 10am and 2pm.

Another Fine Art student, Ellen Ranson, is currently exhibiting her most recent work, inspired by a fellowship in Venice, at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough until 20th August. Ellen is an abstract expressionist painter who works on large canvases, using bright colours and layers to create a sense of depth on the canvas.

Ellen Ranson