SIX winners have been commissioned to create a new piece of light art for Lumiere Durham this November in Durham as part of Artichoke’s Brilliant competition.

Brilliant received a record 272 applications, with a fifth of applicants identifying as deaf or disabled, black or a person of colour, supporting the scheme’s mission to broaden the diversity of those working in the medium of light art.

The winners, supported by sponsors EMG Solicitors, will now develop their artworks in close consultation with Artichoke’s producers, who will provide production advice and technical support to turn their vision into a reality.

Their work will be shown alongside international artists at Lumiere, which is commissioned by Durham County Council and takes place in Durham from Thursday November 18 to Sunday November 21.

The Brilliant winners from the North-East include: Steph Whalen, a student at East Durham College who previously took part in Artichoke’s Lift Off project and volunteered at Lumiere 2019; Erin McDougle, a Newcastle-based graphic designer and Paul Jex, who studied Fine Arts at Newcastle University and is a practicing artist alongside working for an architectural construction firm.

The other region winner was Northern Butterflies, a creative charity based in Cramlington, Northumberland, who work with adults with learning and physical disabilities and those experiencing mental health issues.

The two Brilliant winners from outside the North East will develop artworks strongly inspired by the region. Manchester-based artist Daksha Patel will explore the growth of Durham through the city’s historical maps, whilst duo Tendayi Vine (Bristol) and Bea Wilson (London) will create a piece inspired by the River Wear.

Louise Dennison, Artichoke’s head of learning & participation, said: “We are absolutely delighted by the number and diversity of applicants who have applied to Brilliant this year, not only from the North-East but from across the UK.

“The six winners presented ideas to the panel that were imaginative, beautiful, and ambitious.”

Brilliant can provide both a stepping stone into the world of large scale public art for winners, as well as enhancing the Lumiere artistic programme for audiences by presenting light art pieces created by unique, diverse voices. I warmly welcome our six winners to the Lumiere artist alumni, and can’t wait to work with them to bring their ideas to fruition.”

Amy Harhoff, corporate director of regeneration, economy and growth at Durham County Council, said: “One of the key aims of Lumiere is to create unforgettable and inclusive experiences for our communities across County Durham, while raising aspirations by providing truly life-changing opportunities.

The Brilliant scheme is a key part of this as it offers a platform for developing and local artists to see their ideas realised at the UK’s most prestigious light art festival hosted in Durham City.

“I am delighted the competition attracted a record number of entries this year from artists from diverse backgrounds. We are absolutely committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity at all our cultural events that take place throughout the year. Lumiere is an internationally recognised festival, but it is about our county and we are committed to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to get involved. I would like to congratulate all of the winners and I look forward to seeing their visions brought to life.”

Emma Gaudern, Managing Director, EMG, said: “As long-time supporters of Lumiere, we’re absolutely thrilled to be sponsoring Brilliant this year. As a business based in Durham, we know how important Lumiere is to our whole community."

About the Brilliant winners

  • Steph Whalen is a special effects artist from Spennymoor, County Durham, with skills in media, art and theatrical and media makeup. Currently, Steph is studying within East Durham College’s Creative Industries Department, and will be attending The Northern School of Art later this year to study a BA in VFX & Model Making. During Lumiere 2019 Steph collaborated with other students and expert creatives from Guildhall School of Music & Drama on the piece Lift Off which inspired her to apply for BRILLIANT. The opportunity to produce her first solo project will expand her skills and raise awareness for hidden disability. He said: “As part of Lumiere 2019, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to collaborate with fellow students from East Durham College and expert creatives from Guildhall School of Music & Drama to produce a piece of video projection mapping light art called ‘Lift off’. Now, working on producing my own piece of work for Brilliant not only gives me an amazing set of new skills to move forward with, but will also hopefully also inspire others with hidden disabilities to believe that their dreams are worth chasing.”
  • Northern Butterflies is a creative charity based in Cramlington, Northumberland founded by Samantha Goodlet. The group has engaged many people in meaningful, creative activities promoting social inclusion and interaction. Learners attending Northern Butterflies range from 18 years to 75 years of age. It enables potential and improves wellbeing for those experiencing mental health struggles who also have a learning disability. Facilitated by Samantha, the members will create a series of giant gardening tools inspired by the community garden they were given during the pandemic, which has become a space for art and learning, as well as a place to grow plants and vegetables. Northern Butterflies said: “We applied to be part of Brilliant to have the opportunity to showcase our creativity, learn new skills and for the amazing experience. We are so excited to be part of BRILLIANT, to have our ideas lit up and be seen by thousands of people. This opportunity is magical for us to stretch our creative wings and fly. We can share our new skills with others in our local community and showcase our artworks in other community outdoor settings in Cramlington.”
  • Paul Jex is originally from Newton Aycliffe, now based in Gateshead, and completed a Master of Fine Arts at Newcastle University in 2018. He has exhibited throughout the UK and in 2019, he was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries, exhibiting at the South London Gallery and Leeds City Art Gallery, which subsequently acquired one of the selected pieces She. By looking at the mechanisms and methodologies of art, Paul explores the interaction and relationships within the art world, which include its institutions, involvement with mass media and crucially, the role of conversations and anecdotes. For BRILLIANT, Paul will work alongside his twin brother Keith to create an illuminated sign that points to towns across County Durham, allowing visitors to connect with their hometowns. He said: “I work full time and do my art practice in my spare time. The past year, it’s been impossible to find headspace for creativity, which I’ve found very challenging. But when the open call for Brilliant was released, I knew there was an opportunity to channel my creativity and focus on a project that can be shared as something positive and optimistic, towards the end of a challenging and difficult time. I live 40 minutes’ drive from my family, and I have seen them no more than four times in twelve months. Being selected for Brilliant is my way of connecting with my loved ones, and I hope the work resonates with people who were in the same situation. I’ve been to every Lumiere event, and to be involved this year is very special.”
  • Erin McDougle is a graphic and brand designer based in Newcastle. Her work typically involves branding for businesses, but in her spare time, she can be found crafting illustrations and lettering. Working with light art for the first time, Erin will create a trail of illuminated magpies through the city. She said: “I have always been a huge fan of public art and the way it can resonate with so many audiences. Brilliant is an amazing opportunity to create something I would have never otherwise have the means to create. The Lumiere Festival is such a key event in the North East and to have ideas from local and emerging artists come to life is crucial for bringing a focus to the creative scene here. It’s a great way for local and national creatives to have their work uplifted.”
  • Daksha Patel is a Manchester based artist whose work engages with mapping, measurement and scientific visualization. Her current residency with Invisible Flock at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is part of the Liverpool Biennial program and explores Lidar scanning technologies. Recent residencies and exhibitions include: King’s College London, Life Science, University of Dundee, Dundee Contemporary Arts; Paper2 Gallery, Watermans Arts and the Horniman Museum & Gardens. Her artwork for Lumiere will draw on research into historical maps of Durham - both geographical and geological - in order to explore the growth of the city.
  • Tendayi Vine and Bea Wilson are friends and colleagues who have previously worked together on a number of immersive installations. Tendayi works as an artist and educator in London, whilst Bea is a production designer based in Bristol. Their first large-scale public artwork will take inspiration from the River Wear and the restorative power of nature.