Metro Fleet Art

Alongside three other amazing artists I have won a unique commission to create major works for the interior of the Tyne and Wear Metro’s £362m new train fleet.

Metro will be the first urban transit system in the world to feature permanent art inside trains when the new fleet enters service next year, thanks to a project led by operator Nexus and funded by Arts Council England through its National Lottery Project Grants programme.

Four artists have been chosen following an open call for submissions, and each one will go on to create a major new work to cover the full height and width of carriage end walls, right through the fleet of 46 trains being built for Metro by global train manufacturer Stadler.

Nexus is sharing a video introducing the artists and exploring more about the project which you can view here:

Nexus received more than 120 submissions from around the world, in response to an open call for artists to respond to the theme of ‘place’ in North East England. The final four artists were chosen by a panel bringing Nexus employees from train operations and the fleet project with community arts professionals from the region. 

The four works the Metro artists create will be reproduced onto the train walls by Stadler as part of the manufacturing process at its factory in St Margrethen, Switzerland.   The first new Metro train is set to arrive in North East England at the end of this year and will enter service in autumn 2023 after rigorous testing.

Nexus has ordered 46 trains from Stadler which will transform reliability and the customer experience, cut Metro’s use of high voltage power by at least 30% and allow a higher frequency service across the system.

Two works of art will appear on each train, at each end of the open-plan layout of carriages, with each work appearing 23 times across the whole fleet as a result.

I’m really looking forwards to the final design and have been researching key figures of the North East’s rich history to document on the illustration.

The commissioned artists from left to right:
Sofia Barton, Sarah Gibbeson, Hazel Oakes AKA Nocciola the Drawer, and Bryony Simcox

New Matchbook Series

I’ve always wanted to draw a matchbook in contrast to the matchboxes I do. This design was the first to pop out of my head as it were. The shy bairns get nowt print was quite popular lately so I’ve used the saying again, this time adding a LIT match and of course the Geordie icon – the magpie sitting right next to it.

To buy this print see my Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SofiaBartonArt or to commission a design get in touch via the contact form.

Durham University Art School Prize 2020/2021 Heroism

I recently did a talk for Durham University’s Summer in the City Festival Art Prize Art School event talking about the minority suffragettes in British History who helped pave the way to women being able to vote. It was a great few weeks seeing all the different talks and discussing what heroism means to so many people. Super excited about being a judge for the Durham University’s Art School Prize for 2020/2021 too!

The talks (including the one for Minority Suffragettes), workshops & activities can be found here: https://sitcfestival.org/art-prize-art-school/



Art in Action Trail Map for the BALTIC

It was so lovely being able to create a fun family day map for the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art ! It took a while and a couple of walks, and lush support/check from some Baltic staff who are familiar with the walk too to get it just right 🙂 You can colour it in and add your own doodles.

Here’s some photos of the walk from BALTIC to Staithes. It’s FULL of things to see like the art sculptures and of course the bridges on the quayside.

Go here for more info: https://baltic.art/art-in-action-trail

Fuel up with free hot drinks, juice and snacks in BALTIC Front Room at the beginning or end of your adventure.

You can begin this Art in Action Trail at BALTIC Gateshead (NE8 3BA) or Dunston Staiths (NE11 9DR). You can collect a free map from both locations.

From your starting point, follow the green route marked on your map. You’ll discover creative activities that can be accessed from a digital device along the way.

You can head to BALTIC to use the free WiFi before your walk. This will mean you don’t need to use your data to stream the activities.

You may want to bring headphones to hear the video and sound works on the trail.

The trail takes approximately 40 minutes (about 2 miles) to walk, plus time to stop, play and take part in activities. Hope you have fun if you try it out !

Making my first Matchbox Book

A video showing how a matchbox book was created. Artwork celebrates South Asian suffragettes and hidden figures in history ( part of the Narivad series) and a sneak peak into the makings of a matchbox book for the North East English Coast.

Materials used: Watercolour paper, ink, glue, black paint, white card, Stanley knife, ruler and scissors.

‘Boro Through Time’

A massive thank you to Navigator North for making this happen with Middlesbrough Council.

Each matchbox artwork celebrates Middlesbrough through nostalgic memories.

‘Erimus’ shows the skyline of the city, in golden and blue tones matching the blue from the new coat of arms in 1976. In the spirit of growth and progress, Middlesbrough chose ‘Erimus’, mean ‘we shall be’ as its motto.

‘The bathhouses’ depicts the old building on Gilke Street, designed after Roman baths, bringing with it Victorian luxury of the time.

The ‘football’ matchbox shows how the city has grown around the sport which has been celebrated around Middlesbrough’s stadium with Middlesbrough FC.

Community captures the spirit of Middlesbrough through festivals such as orange pip, celebration, love of food and the unity of all the various people who live there.

‘Toyshop’ was designed around peoples memories of Romer Parrish, an old toyshop which was likened to the likes of Narnia.

See the photos of the installation below. Each artwork is printed on metal plates.

Fishy on a Dishy

Following the nursery rhyme Dance to your Daddy, sometimes known as “When the Boat Comes In” is a nursery rhyme first published in 1849 in “Songs of the bards of the Tyne” by Joseph Robson. It became popular again in the 1970s when a modern version of the song was used as the theme song for the BBC serial “When The Boat Comes In”, so much that nowadays most people know the modern lyrics of the song.

This is where the inspiration came for this folk song on a fish tin !

Cultural Symbology: Indian Matchboxes

An Old Matchbox from India with the original Tiger Symbol

Tigers occupy an important place in the Indian culture, and are the National animal, also called the Royal Bengal Tiger. Since ages, it has been a symbol of magnificence, power, beauty and fierceness and has been associated with bravery and valour. The tiger also has a significant place in Hindu mythology as the vehicle of Goddess Durga.

Using the old matchbox as a point of reference, and inspiration I designed a drawing based on Risograph colours. The two tigers dance opposite each other with some basic lines and lightning bolts to decorate. I have several premade shapes of matchbox templates that I use, and focus on this type primarily for animals. When the box is drawn closed, the focus then changes to the design rather than the matches.

Did you know at a cost of one rupee, these economical and disposable matchboxes are often found empty and discarded on the roadside near truck stops and littering the footpaths around chai stalls and cigarette shops? Purchased from convenience stores, these ubiquitous objects are commonly used in homes to light stoves, the pious havan or diyas for religious rituals and lighting cigarettes or their cheaper counterparts, the beedis.

I came across my first matchbox when I was a little girl with my grandfather’s collection. Many people collect these and his came with him (before he accumulated more from overseas) from India. I think he missed where he originated from, and in a way these were his memories. One of these matchbox labels featured an illustration of a killer whale with the word ‘Dolphin’ written above it. Another early find had a photograph of three ‘Famous’ kittens in a wicker basket. Looking back, I think that my first connection with Indian matchboxes was that aside from being great examples of disposable design, the choice of visuals and text seemed quite random and this often made me smile. As visual signifiers, many of these designs embody personal memories. Collectively the visible scars of the battered boxes tell a story, mapping the places and collective experiences.

The imagery on these boxes include Hindu symbolism, historical figures, Bollywood actors, foreign brands and cartoon characters, everyday objects, consumer goods, aspirational items, and a variety of popular and exotic animals. The disparate visuals, meanings and juxtapositions that are present through the collection encapsulate quite perfectly the heterogeneous and hybrid visual culture seen in many parts of India today. As cultural artefacts these matchboxes tell us about national identity, modernity and tradition, gender roles, religion and globalisation and how these themes often merge and co-exist.

Stay Fierce Tiger Matchbox by Sofia Barton 2021

Baltic 39

Excited to be a part of the Open Call at Baltic 39 in Newcastle and be exhibiting a painting called Death XIII. This was a continuation of work after my co-investigator role at the Newbridge Project. The canvas is 30cm x 30cm, a background diagonally divided into blood red and black, holds a two toned (divided) circle in the centre. In a halo of gold, a plague doctor stares out to the side of the painting. Two sacred hearts, one a watchful eye symbolises the passivism of the media and public. The second sacred heart symbolises action and survival. The figure in the centre is a personal response to Covid-19, how hopeless it feels, and an echo of the earlier history we were taught about Spanish Flu. There are many parallels of what happened in history that are similar to present day. The title ‘Death XIII’ relates to the tarot card, as Death is one of the major arcana and holds a tremendous amount of symbolism, of great change.

This painting will be for sale, and be going on exhibit November 2020 – January 2020. Catch a sneak peak below !

Durham Illustrations – Free Colouring sheets

I did a few illustrations for Durham University’s Summer in the City Workshop I made, called ‘Create at Home’. The video shows you how you can create art effortlessly and inexpensively at home. You don’t need any specialist equipment (unless you fancy it)

Below are the colouring sheets I made for it. Get Colouring ! See more and watch the Workshop at: https://sitcfestival.org/virtual-workshops/