The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-
Constructing Exchange | Tony Charles and Jamie MacDonald
ARTSHED, Glaisdale, North Yorkshire, 9 July to 6 Aug 2022
A review by Annie O’Donnell
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Constructing Exchange, the second exhibition in ARTSHED GLAISDALE’s opening season, is the first time that work by artist and gallerist Tony Charles and photographer Jamie MacDonald has been presented together. It is a clear demonstration of mutually significant concerns around aesthetics, narrative, and process. Here, MacDonald’s photographic documentation of industrial dissolution focuses not only on the fragmentation of geometric structures but also forms a trope for us to understand the lost workplaces and lifestyles of the people who populated them. For Charles, construction, deconstruction and (re)construction forge a personal industrial chain through the very act of painting.
The road running from Middlesbrough’s landmark Transporter Bridge to Northern School
of Art in Hartlepool forms the daily commute for colleagues Charles and MacDonald.
It bisects a head-
Where the river Tees finally glides to meet the North Sea lies Able Seaton Port (ASP),
one of the world’s largest dry docks, noted for its decommissioning of oil rigs and
the controversial international ‘Ghost Ships’. The ever-
Jamie MacDonald Untitled Rig (ii) (2017) 1 of 7 framed prints, each 31 x 24cm © Jamie MacDonald
After its arrival on here on the ‘Iron Lady’ barge, Jamie MacDonald tracked the top-
MacDonald’s seven silver gelatin prints, Untitled Rig (2017), are a non-
Jamie MacDonald Untitled Rig (vii) (2017) 1 of 7 framed prints, each 31 x 24cm © Jamie MacDonald
Moving closer to the black and white images, details of the excising of vertical and horizontal elements become more apparent. The prints disrupt our perception of the surface texture of the real world, unveiling things that cannot be seen by the naked eye at a distance. They highlight the extent to which the geometry of the structure had been abraded by forty years in extreme sea conditions and trigger thoughts of wet/dry and smooth/rough, as presented through the powerful gaze of the photographer. The surface, tone and weight of the works themselves have been tightly controlled through location shooting and darkroom alchemy to make prints that reveal and perhaps conceal MacDonald’s vision of photographic images as material objects in the world. They also replicate the sensations felt when confronted with Delta on land, its collection of box modules resembling a behemoth sculpture. 
Jamie MacDonald Rig and Road (2017/2022) 106 x 76cm pigment print on Innova Fibagloss (Classic) on aluminium © Jamie MacDonald
Certainly, here in rural Glaisdale, the alien quality of the rig structure becomes emphasised and Rig and Road (2017/2022) a larger pigment print by MacDonald takes on the quality of a bizarre double portrait . Its mounting on aluminium also lends it an objecthood and presence different to his framed prints. Compositionally, the eye is led into the image by the serpentine shape of the road in the foreground, the texture of which to the left resembles shallow water. Fences on either side funnel the viewer through to the waiting rig with its drilling derrick and cranes. The partially deconstructed Delta seems to have gathered around itself a variety of tall metal attendants, the like of which travel regularly up and down the river. Overhead power lines run diagonally, slicing the image.
Tony Charles Fettled Layers (2019) 244 x 122cm gloss paint and resin on aluminium © the artist
Tony Charles’ academic research recognises his previous experience in the steel industry
as being inherent in his praxis, serving as both an overarching lens and providing
Measuring an industry-
Charles and MacDonald’s work shares this flayed quality, an attempt to scratch below surface appearances to reveal hidden narratives and to propose new.
Tony Charles Accumulative Shift (2019) 30 x 180cm, work in 9 panels, 30 x 20cm gloss paint and resin on aluminium
Similarly, the nine smaller aluminium panels of Accumulative Shift are of a standard industry size. Again, through addition and subtraction, each painted panel has a diagonal strip of unpainted aluminium running downwards from left to right or perhaps upwards from right to left. Their formal similarity to Fettled Layers emphasises their shared relationship with repeated industrial signage around a site. Their unpainted shapes appear to be forced increasingly lower/higher by an accumulation of painted material above/below as the sequence progresses. Viewpoint is all important. The works have a sense of movement, of shifting, but the title also carries ideas of team shift patterns that regulated family life on Teesside for many years.
Tony Charles Still Life Unpainted (2022) dim. var. steel and aluminium
Grouped on a high window ledge, the six elements of Still Life Unpainted cast shadows
on the floor below which somehow do not resemble them. The ‘process-
Tony Charles Still Life Unpainted (detail of the series) © the artist
To view work by appointment:
 95% of all decommissioned vessels globally are currently scrapped by ‘beaching’ in Southeast Asia, where unsafe working practices and the improper handling of hazardous materials are common.
 A 24,000 tonne jack up rig sited between Shetland and Norway (388 nautical miles away from Seaton) a place not unfamiliar to men working as roughnecks, drillers and engineers as part of the Teesside Diaspora.
 97% of the topside material (largely ferrous or stainless steel) was recycled
or reused. Non-
 Teesside is after all the area where Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s Tees Valley Giant Temenos (2010) is sited (built from excess steel stock from international oil and gas pipelines), and where Claes Oldenburg’ and Coosje van Bruggen’s Bottle of Notes (1993) references both maritime history and steel production.
 Perhaps a wounded Martian tripod from H. G. Well’s 1898 ‘War of the Worlds’, squatting on the land
 The unpaintings are the most recent in a long line of works using the industrial materials, tools, and processes for which he has become known, including the knotting of steel wool for large outdoor installations and the manufacturing of rust to produce patterned ‘rugs’ on floorboards from demolished houses. Their ambiguous titles can also be read as directly referencing industrial activities.
Installation shot of Constructing Exchange © the artists
Despite situating their practices within defined disciplines, Tony Charles and Jamie
MacDonald’s ‘diverse visual languages’ intersect in Constructing Exchange to produce
abstracted visions of man-
ARTSHED GLAISDALE, Summer 2022