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Exhibition in honour of late north-east artist Sally Madge

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Published on 20 February 2023

Sally Madge exhibition piece
Sally Madge exhibition piece

The work of a renowned north-east contemporary artist and University of Sunderland lecturer who died during the COVID-19 pandemic is being celebrated in a new exhibition. 

Sally Madge sadly passed away in 2020 after contracting the virus – she was 74.

A retrospective exhibition Sally Madge – Nowhere Better Than This Place has opened at Newcastle Contemporary Art (NCA) in tribute to Sally’s work, which is rooted in the re-making and re-using of every day mundane domestic objects and rituals in such a way as to touch on deeper layers of experience.  

Sally lived in Newcastle and before retirement taught at Sunderland, first as a Lecturer (Art and Design Education) from 1985 until 1998, then as Senior Lecturer (Visual and Performing Arts) from 1998 until 2006, and finally as an Academic Tutor and Visiting Lecturer (Foundation Studies in Art and Design) from 2006 until 2011.

Mike Collier, Professor of Visual Art at the University of Sunderland, taught alongside Sally for many years.

“Sally was such a strong, creative, honest, fearless and dynamic woman – a one off,” he said.

“She influenced and inspired a generation of students with her intelligence, sensitivity, curiosity and passion for life. Teaching with Sally was never boring – she was always challenging both staff and students alike with her thinking and activism; there was often a twinkle in her eye and a hint of mischievousness! Sally had a unique knack of being a serious and dedicated teacher (and she taught properly) whilst still managing to maintain an anarchic disdain for institutional bureaucracy. 

“As one of my friends said recently, she was a regional treasure. I learnt so much from her and I miss her support very much.”

The free exhibition, which runs until Saturday 25 February, has been organised by Director and Curator of NCA Dr Helen Smith, Sally’s companion and collaborator Tom Jennings and a group of artists and curators who have worked closely with Sally. 

Dr Smith, who is also a Lecturer in Professional Practice at the University of Sunderland’s School of Business and Management, is using the exhibition to form part of her own research, which is based around cultural and creative industries.

Dr Smith explained: “In this particular project I am exploring how creative women, like Sally, often work across their domestic and professional spheres. How might understanding this more fully inform deeper insight into how women develop their professional practices around family and caring responsibilities?”

As part of the exhibition, Dr Smith has organised a public discussion tomorrow (Tuesday 21 February) – Feminist Practices: What Do We Know About How Sally Made Work? – exploring how women artists make work between and about our domestic and professional spaces.

Dr Smith added: “Sally was socially and politically engaged – and aware of others whose lives aren’t always easy. I hope people coming to the exhibition leave with an insight into the work of an artist who was interested in what it is to be human: both fragile and robust.”

More information on Sally’s work can be found on her website.