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Collusion of colours; ART.

IAIN BUIST Their backgrounds are different and they studied at different universities, but a mutual love of colour has united Susi Bellamy and Theresa Poulton. David Whetstone met the artists ahead of their first joint venture he sky is grey, inclining towards black.

TIt ought to be really gloomy but there are two rays of sunshine in the room. Theresa Poulton and Susi Bellamy are recent graduates of MA fine art courses at Newcastle and Northumbria universities respectively.

Today they are positively radiant with possibility as they prepare for their first exhibition together. "We see this as a conversation in colour and feel it could be the first step in an exciting collaboration," says Susi.

They are living proof that the buoyant optimism one associates with students finally loosed into the real world is not confined to those whose 21st brithdays are still a recent memory.

Susi and Theresa are both 50, or at least Susie will be on February 13, coinciding with the exhibition at the Gallery North Project Space at Northumbria University. I don't even have to ask because this age-related information is cheerfully volunteered.

The pair are happy to blaze a trail for other would-be mature students.

"This is what you can achieve at 50!" declares Susi. "I couldn't have created the work I'm doing now when I was 21 because I bring to it my whole life and experiences."

Theresa was born in Liverpool but has spent time in Cumbria and on Teesside. She now lives in Tynemouth. She implies that she has done a lot of jobs but she spent a significant period as a teaching assistant working with kids with special needs - demanding work involving much relationship building.

But art was always there in the background.

"I'd always wanted to study it but not as a hobby," she says, and then smiles: "The number of people who say it must be lovely to do this as a hobby!

"It came to the point when I wanted to do something else and that's when I decided to go and study art properly. But never did I think I would get to where I am today."

Theresa graduated from Sunderland University with first class honours in 2011 before deciding to further her studies at Newcastle University.

Recently, she has taken on a studio at the NewBridge Project - a burgeoning hub of artists based in a former office block on Newcastle's New Bridge Street - and she has also been selected - along with fellow Newcastle graduate Gareth Hudson - to exhibit at the Customs House in South Shields in April.

Susi's background is in the glamorous end of the media. She lives in Northumberland now but was born in Cardiff and studied fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion before going on to work for Conde Nast. She was fashion editor at Company magazine and then fashion and beauty editor at glossy stablemate Brides. As she says: "I worked with David Bailey and Lord Snowdon and Kate Moss and spent 10 years organising fashion shoots." She then moved to America, leaving the magazine world behind, and took up painting and drawing to fill a creative gap. That, though, was "more of a hobby". Back in the North East she embarked on a degree course in fine art at Newcastle College, but didn't complete it.

"My husband was sent to Florence for six and a half years," explains Susi, but not in the tone you imagine 18th-century women adopted when their spouses were deported for stealing a sheep.

Susi made the best of a bad job, "painting and etching and soaking up the Florentine Renaissance". She then threw herself into the MA course at Northumbria, based at its new home at Baltic 39.

If colour was a source of fascination in fashion, then it remains so in art. "The work that I did for my degree show was based on the fashion colour palette," says Susi who keeps a keen eye on the new season catwalk shades as she develops her interest in colour through abstract art.

In Theresa she recognised a kindred spirit even before they had met properly. "I went to the interim MA show at Newcastle University and there were these amazing paintings by Theresa. I was completely drawn to them so I contacted Theresa and said, 'There's something about your work, a kind of synergy'. I had a gut feeling that we were meant to work together."

Theresa, fortunately, was equally enthused by Susi's work, and open to a chat. This became a serious conversation and developed into the exhibition which is to take place at Northumbria University, where Susi is one of a select few to benefit from the facilities of Graduate Studio Northumbria.

Susi, with her fashion background, has become a committee member of the Colour Group of Great Britain, a charitable gathering of people from various disciplines involving colour.

Theresa finds inspiration in the work of installation painters such as the German Katharina Grosse, whose paintings spill over floor and ceiling, completely transforming a space.

"In my final degree show I had three spaces to work in and it was nice to expand beyond the boundaries of the canvas."

Susi says her work started off figuratively but moved towards abstraction. "It became about the colour," she says. "I was inspired by the likes of Mondrian and the Bauhaus artists."

This group, fascinated by design and typography, were influential in Germany before the Second World War. Picking up the Bauhaus baton, Susi has become increasingly interested in the relationship between 2D and 3D, as you will see from some of the works in the forthcoming exhibition. Like Theresa, she is keen to break from the convention of the 2D rectangle.

Whether these two artists continue to work together remains to be seen but for now they are clearly enthused by their mutual interests.

And it's not just because of their age. "When you first walk in a room and everyone is the age of your children, initially you think: is this going to work?" says Susi.

"But all that disappears once the art takes over. They become part of your group and you don't really see them as being young."

At least, having experienced a bit of the world, the more mature students are sure of their interest and commitment.

The joint exhibition, Two Angles on Abstraction, will take place at the Gallery North Project Space, Northumbria University, Sandyford Road, Newcastle, from February 11-13. Find more about the artists on and at

there were these amazing paintings by { Theresa. I was completely drawn to them


Artist Susi Bellamy who, together with Theresa Poulton, below, is holding an exhibition at Northumbria University.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 28, 2014
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