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Artist Gayle Chong Kwan unveils 38 metre commission
Gayle Chong Kwan, Arripare, 2013.

STOCKTON-ON-TEES.- The installation of a new landmark artwork in Stockton-on-Tees, by acclaimed artist Gayle Chong Kwan, launches REFOCUS the biennial Castlegate mima Photography Prize.

Gayle Chong Kwan’s large scale photographic work, which is over 38 meters wide, will be officially unveiled on 18 October 2013, and is sited at the prominent riverside location of Stockton-on-Tees’ Castlegate shopping centre. This commission has come about through a collaboration between mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art); Lathe Investments Limited and Angelo, Gordon & Co, the owners of Castlegate shopping centre; and Stockton Borough Council.

Chong Kwan was invited to produce the inaugural commission by an esteemed panel of selectors: Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph; Professor John Kippin, Lecturer in Photography, Sunderland University; Greg Hobson, Senior Curator of Photography, National Media Museum, Bradford; Kate Brindley, Director, mima; Reuben Kench, Head of Culture & Leisure, Stockton Borough Council; and Tim Cornford, Asset Management Director, Lathe Investments Limited. The commission launches REFOCUS: The Castlegate mima Photography Prize, a new biennial prize for photography.

Chong Kwan comments: ‘I am thrilled to be invited to be the first artist to exhibit as part of REFOCUS: The Castlegate mima Photography Prize, and delighted to have the opportunity to respond to such a fascinating and inspiring area, to create a work on such an ambitious scale and prominent site, and to bring photography beyond the gallery into the public realm.’

Following a period of local historical research and engagement with local residents, Chong Kwan has created Arripare, a mythical island - an alternative version of Stockton and the surrounding areas - seemingly hovering between arrival and appearance or departure and disappearance. Combining complex multiple techniques of documentary photography, collage and sculptural construction, the island is rooted in the context and history of its location and the river which runs alongside it, and yet enveloped in mist, the island could be located in the past, present or future, sighted in the midst of a vast ocean or be hovering somewhere in the clouds.

This commission, and the ongoing Prize, aims to re-position photography as a medium which is able to work on multiple levels – as transitory, but also long-term, as something that is a democratic tool, but also an artform. The artwork, which will be on display over a two-year period, is intended to connect with Stockton residents and visitors through visual art, engaging people’s curiosity, creating a talking point across generations, different cultures and demographics.

REFOCUS: The Castlegate mima Photography Prize launches concurrently with The Social: Encountering Photography (18 October - 16 November 2013) the first festival of international contemporary photography and lens-based media in north-east England, bringing together new commissions and UK premieres of work by John Kippin, Simon Roberts and Sarah Pickering, amongst many others.

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