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Visual & Material Culture

Meet our staff

Visual and Material Culture at Northumbria provides a dynamic hub for researchers and students engaged with the historical and theoretical analysis of art, culture, design and architecture. Members of the group specialise in cultural production across Europe, Japan, Australia and North America.  Our research focus allows us to offer expertise in a range of interdisciplinary fields, and our staff deliver teaching across the following subject areas:

  • Fine Art
  • Fashion Design
  • Graphic Design
  • 3D Product Design
  • Industrial and Interior Design
  • Conservation
  • Creative and Cultural Industries Management

The group acts as a forum to bring together arts researchers across the university and offers a year-long programme of events relating to current issues in visual and material culture research.

Members’ recent research subjects include:

  • Borders and borderlands
  • (Multi)cultural heritage
  • Community and participation
  • Activist aesthetics
  • Feminist politics in art
  • Scottish documentary photography
  • Cultural organisations and institutions
  • Japanese-European fashion exchange
  • British-Australian cultural exchange
  • Sound art

Newcastle is home to one of the most exciting contemporary art scenes in the UK and we maintain teaching and research partnerships with local galleries, museums and heritage institutions.

Each semester the group convenes a series of seminars where staff and students can share their research and debate current issues in the field. We regularly host external speakers and events aimed to enhance the experience of our postgraduate students. We welcome expressions of interest from potential doctoral researchers working in these fields.

Banner Image: Chattri Memorial, Brighton. S.Ashley

Recent Staff Research

Susan Ashley: PI (Multi)Cultural Heritage: New Perspectives on Public Culture, Identity and Citizenship—2017-2019

AHRC Leadership Fellowship (AH/P008984/1)

Caption:(Multi)Cultural Heritage workshop 3 on Impacting. Darius Setsoafia photoThe project seeks to understand the ways that immigrant and ethnic communities engage with their heritage through public cultural expressions organised outside of mainstream institutions - including creative or exhibitionary or museum activities. The research draws attention to how and why organisations express cultural heritage, with heritage not always understood as buildings and objects, but as arts, traditions, characteristics and ways of thinking drawn from the past. Seven partners are engaged with the project as case study sites and as co-researchers Sangini, Vamos, GemArts, Everyday Muslim, The Angelou Centre, the Manchester Jewish Museum and the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.


Julie Crawshaw: Stretched: Expanding notions of artistic practice through artist-led cultures

Swedish Research Council (2015-2018):

PI Jason E Bowman (Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg).

From the fostering of the solo-exhibition, the history of artist colonies in the C19, through alternative space and DIY movements of the 60s and 70s, to the contemporary conditioning of the neo-liberal, artist-led activities have sought to place decision-making powers, regarding the conditions of art making into the hands of artists. Artists have provoked critique and generated change regarding the circumstances and conditions that inform the development, representation and sites of artistic practice - both in terms of production but also of display and circulation, not only of art-works, but also of artists themselves. To explore the nature of artist-led practice, as Co I of Stretched, I have undertaken ethnographic fieldwork in tandem with artist-led projects in Sweden.

James GillrayMatthew Potter: PI The afterlife of Georgian political cartoons


Philip Leverhulme Prize (Awarded November 2012: running October 2013-September 2015).

I am currently undertaking research into the legacy of Georgian political prints, exploring how they have been collected, exhibited, reproduced, and quoted by artists. At the core of this project is an interest in the historical process of how past visual cultures are used in subsequent ages.


IMAGE: James Gillray, The Plumb-pudding in danger - or - State Epicures taking un Petit Souper (26 February 1805), Published by Hannah Humphrey


Co I Fashion And Translation

Elizabeth Kramer: Co-I Fashion and Translation: Britain, Japan, China and Korea


AHRC funded network (2014-2015)
Dr Sarah Cheang, Royal College of Art (Principal Investigator)

Fashion and Translation brings together those who are interested in looking at the way in which fashion operates as an intermediary between Britain, Japan, China and Korea. While spoken and written language can impede cross-cultural communication, fashion is a conceptual, visual and material language that speaks across geographical boundaries. Given the distance and lack of shared language, these material interactions have been fundamental in informing and sharing ideas of ‘Japaneseness’, ‘Chineseness’, ‘Koreaness’ and ‘Britishness’. Notions of national identity continue to remain crucial to fashionable dress as cultural expression, and cultural stereotypes also still abound.


IMAGE: Photo reproduced with kind permission of the Victoria and Albert Musem


Northern Peripheries Visit To Skara BraeYsanne Holt: PI Northern Peripheries


Arts & Humanities Research Council


The Northern Peripheries network brings together a group of visual artists and scholars from discrete arts disciplines (fine art and photography, art history and film studies) as well as from the humanities and social sciences (anthropology, archaeology, human and cultural geography) in order to explore historical, present and future representations and practices in relation to a series of locations – primarily edges, borders and island locations in the UK ‘north’. A central focus of the network is to examine the legacies of over-layering narratives of sites that have commonly been regarded as ‘remote’ and ‘marginal’ and to question essentialising preconceptions.


See website at


IMAGE: Northern Peripheries visit to Skara Brae, Orkney



Chattri Memorial ceremony, Brighton UK, 9 June 2014. Photo by authorSusan Ashley: PI Memorializing as valuation: Examining public culture at the Chattri Sikh Memorial, Brighton


Arts & Humanities Research Council


This research aimed to broaden the discussion of cultural value by studying the Chattri Indian Memorial near Brighton, a site of public culture that hosts and embodies marginal, unfamiliar and vernacular cultural heritage practices in a complex form. It sought to understand both memorialising and ‘outsider’ symbolic activities as culture, and situate these as values people produce in and for themselves in unspoken ways.


To view a short video from the project click here.


IMAGE: Chattri Memorial ceremony, Brighton UK, 9 June 2014. Photo by author

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Research Staff Profiles

Our students learn from the best – inspirational academic staff with a genuine passion for their subject, whose teaching is shaped by world-leading and internationally excellent research.

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Upcoming events

DynaSun 2024
TaPRA Conference 2024

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