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'Cornford & Cross: Where is the Work?'

Cornford & Cross
Where is the Work?

Exhibition dates: 2 December 2005 - 28 January 2006

Matthew Cornford and David Cross have worked together since meeting at St Martins School of Art in 1987. Since that time they have created a unique body of work made both in the public realm and for galleries. In the main, their way of working has been to respond to a particular context or situation, by examining the problems that arise out of it. Accordingly, each of their projects has been radically different, not only in form but in function. Equally, the artists have not worked in a single media, but produced sculpture and installations, worked with video and photography, and created one-off events and sound works. This exhibition brings together the artists' full range of works for the first time, alongside profiling their unrealised projects. The latter take the form of invited or speculative proposals for particular sites.

One particular focus for the artists has been creating site-specific and commissioned projects for public spaces. Where is the Work? is the culmination of the artists' architectural and sculptural interventions in the public realm. Often, these have been provocative, testing the limits of what shape artworks can take and how they contribute to our quality of life. As almost all these projects have been deliberately temporary, the artists' intention prior to undertaking each has been that they would be experienced primarily - and indeed located in - their photographic legacy. Accordingly, the newly commissioned large-scale photographs here, and the accompanying texts, reveal the variety of the artists' practice, and the story of each work.  This is the first of three distinct exhibitions staged at NGCA and Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, and Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance.

"We have been working jointly since 1987 when we met as students at St Martins School of Art in London. We don't have a set method or approach to our work; instead we tend to wander about, until we hit upon an idea. Although we are in constant dialogue, most of this is unrecorded and leads to no measurable result.

"The form of a project may develop, but we keep intact its core proposition, which exists most clearly in language. For each project, we write and often re-write a text. If a proposal is approved, then the text serves as the basis of an agreement or contract of sorts. If a project remains unrealised, then the proposal stands. Throughout, the texts 'anchor' some of the possible meanings contained within a work, as well as 'relay' meanings from the surrounding context. This method of counter-pointing different aspects of a situation partly reflects our own differences in opinion.
"We don't work in a studio and this has had an important influence on our practice. To begin with, we took it upon ourselves to find opportunities to make and show work, and became interested in going out and looking more closely at particular environments. At first, because our early installations were grounded in one place, we thought they were 'site-specific'. But as each project developed through a series of encounters, actions and debates, we found ourselves responding not just to physical sites, but also to social situations and historical moments.

"Because most of our works have been temporary, and made in specific locations, more people encounter them through reproduction than through first hand experience. So photography is central to our practice - we plan our projects in terms of their photographic possibilities, document the work in progress, and stage summarising shots of each completed work. Although we wouldn't describe our photographs simply as 'documents', we do trade with the notion of an indexical relationship between the image and lived experience.

"Our interventions are often disruptive to everyday life, so realising them calls for close interaction with the organisations and people who occupy places and influence events. We are often in need of expert help and advice, and have worked with many highly skilled people from disciplines including architecture, aviation, filmmaking, software engineering, and town planning. Every art project we have carried out has encountered obstacles, which were only overcome with the flexibility shown by people prepared to take risks, go beyond conventional interpretations of their roles, and become active participants."

Cornford & Cross 2005


She, 2004. Proposal for an eternal flame, running on fossil fuel to be installed next to the the Maiwand Lion statue, Forbury Gardens, Reading, Berkshire. Commissioned by Art at the Centre.

Where is the Work?, 2004. Fabrication of iron grille, Whitton Castings, Charlton, London. Commissioned by the Contemporary Art Society Special Collection Scheme with funds from the Arts Council Lottery. This work is permanently placed in the South London Gallery.

New Holland, 1997. Structural steel, steel cladding and sound system. Installed outside the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norfolk For EAST International, Norwich Gallery.

'Childhood's End'
Commissioned by Film & Video Umbrella
Part funded by Norwich School of Art and Design, first shown at Norwich Gallery, Nov - Dec 2000. Childhood's End uses a highly skilled pilot and an expensive fighter jet to draw a political statement in the sky.

Utopia,1999. Renovated ornamental pond, food colouring, fountains. Exhibition: In the Midst of Things, curated by Nigel Prince and Gavin Wade. Bournville, Birmingham.