The Outsiders Newcastle gallery presents a gala showcase of Ashes and Diamonds, an art exhibition by acclaimed painter Darren Coffield examining the minerʼs strike of the early 1980s. A series of talks and live performances will accompany the artwork itself.

Coffield is noted for his fine art portraiture, such as his painting of Nova magazine editor and 60s scenester Molly Parkin that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. But for Ashes and Diamonds Coffield has employed urban art influences “to communicate with the grandchildren of the miners and their families.” As a result the work is sometimes stark and uncompromising, simultaneously echoing the sombre nature of populist agitant art during the 1980s.

Inspired by former Derbyshire miner John Dunn, Coffield has created many of the pieces on display using coal obtained from the National Union of Mineworkers branch at Maltby Colliery in South Yorkshire which was officially closed in April 2013.

Some pieces feature incendiary motifs in a stencil art style including the word “scab” hanging from the gallows. A stirring poster evocative of mass entertainment posters, commemorates The Battle of Orgreave in which miners were attacked by police, "Work" is a study of a coal plant in a democratic style reflecting the personal attachment many miners had with their place of employment. The emotive subject matter of such works as "Clockwork Orgreave" has been of particular relevance recently given the inquiries into police brutality and cover-ups at events such as Orgreave and Hillsborough.

Coffieldʼs portraiture is nonetheless significantly represented. Portraits include NUM president Arthur Scargill, his right hand man Peter Heathfield, and Scottish minerʼs trade union leader Mick McGahey. Entirely new portraits for this exhibition include that of Yorkshire NUM picket David Jones, who died, aged 24, from injuries sustained during picketing around Ollerton Colliery in Nottinghamshire. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is also represented – in the form of a life-sized bust made from resin and coal dust, and a portrait in rust on iron.

The exhibition is a snapshot of the moment heavy industry died in Britain, at a time when its absence is being felt at a national economic level. A proportion of proceeds will be donated to the Durham Miners Association, for the restoration and maintenance of its archive of trade union banners.

Gallery director Steve Lazarides is a keen collector of political art. He has worked closely with politicised street artists including Banksy, Zevs and BORF. His personal collection includes an extensive body of propaganda and revolutionary posters, from throughout history to the present day.

Darren Coffield was born in London in 1969. He studied at Goldsmiths College, Camberwell School of Art and the Slade School of Art in London where he received his Bachelor of Fine Art in 1993. He has exhibited widely in the company of many leading artists including Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Patrick Caulfield and Gilbert and George at venues ranging from the Courtauld Institute, Somerset House to Voloshin Museum, Crimea. His work can be found in collections around the world.

In 2003 his controversial portrait of Ivan Massow, former chairman of the ICA, in full fox hunting costume was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Portraits of George Galloway and Molly Parkin followed, and most recently a depiction of former Miners Union leader Arthur Scargill made entirely coal dust. In the early nineties Coffield worked with Joshua Compston on the formation of Factual Nonsense - the centre of the emerging Young British Artists scene. A new book by Coffield about this period in British Art, Factual Nonsense: The Art and Death of Joshua Compston is to be published in the UK in 2013. Coffield lives and works in London.

The Outsiders Gallery
77 Quayside
Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 3DE United Kingdom
Ph. +44 (0)19 12212560

Opening hours
Tuesday - Saturday
From 12pm to 6pm