Mark Fairnington at Cherryburn


Project Info


  • Mark Fairnington


  • National Trust
  • Contemporary Visual Arts Network
  • Arts Council England

Mark Fairnington was commissioned as part of a programme called Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience (MCAHE), to make a work in response to Cherryburn, birthplace of the Northumberland engraver Thomas Bewick, born in 1753.

MCAHE was an interdisciplinary research project from 2018-19 led by staff at Newcastle University in collaboration with the University of Leeds; as well as the following project partners: National Trust, The Churches Conservation Trust, English Heritage, Arts&Heritage, Contemporary Visual Arts Network, Arts Council England.

Judith King, Director of Arts&Heritage said: “This [Thomas Bewick] extraordinary craftsman, England’s most respected printmaker, resonated strongly with Mark – so much so that this 21st century artist has produced an entirely new body of work, different from his previous, exquisitely detailed paintings of the natural world. His new landscapes for Cherryburn demonstrate how much can be gained from a visual dialogue between two artists, even though they are separated by time.”

For MCAHE 2018, painter Mark Fairnington traced a series of walks around Northumberland and the local area, recording the landscape and conversations with people he met along the way. From these walks, Fairnington produced a series of sketchbooks and painted landscape miniatures that explored Bewick’s countryside from a contemporary perspective and made connections with Fairnington own family story. To complete the project Fairnington created an installation of the paintings in the panelled ‘half parlour’ of Bewick’s birthplace cottage.

“I’m really pleased with the installation, I think it looks like it’s supposed to be here, and it looks like it’s been here for a long time and that’s what I wanted. I wanted it to be a benign intervention.” – Mark Fairnington

“[…] factors (of geometric emphasis and the play of light) elevate the work beyond merely brilliant technical documenting. The hyper-realism, however, is also wholly eclipsed by a more important factor of authenticity – which, as with Bewick, admits authentic speculation as well as authentic witnessing, and is rooted in Fairnington’s prodigious hours of direct contact (through walking and talking) with the riversides, trees, wildlife, residents and eccentric travellers he encountered in this highly particular place.” – Dave Pritchard, Corridor8

Download the Walking, Looking and Telling Tales leaflet for further images and information.

Walking, Looking and Telling Tales was on public display at Cherryburn from 2 June – 4 November 2018.

Click here to watch a film about the installation.

Cherryburn is a small farmstead situated near Stocksfield, eleven miles west of Newcastle upon Tyne. Owned and managed by The National Trust, Cherryburn is the birthplace of the famous British artist and naturalist Thomas Bewick (1753-1828). Bewick is Northumberland’s greatest artist: a wood engraver who revolutionised print art in Georgian England. Today he is best known for his book ‘A History of British Birds’ (1797). Set in a tranquil position with views across the Tyne Valley, Cherryburn is still surrounded by the natural world that inspired Bewick’s work. The site comprises Bewick’s tiny birthplace cottage, a farmyard and a traditional 19th Century farmhouse – the later home of the Bewick family. The farmhouse is now a museum and print room with a collection of Bewick’s wood blocks. It also houses a library and an exhibition about the artist’s life.

The Artist

Mark Fairnington is Reader in Painting at Wimbledon College of Arts. His work has resulted principally from research projects with museums and museum collections, sustaining a visual examination of the idea and image of the specimen. Mark has worked with the Imperial War Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum, the Horniman Museum and the Wellcome Collection.