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Art exhibition transforms market stall

Some of the pieces created by University of Cumbria fine art lecturer Martin Fowler for his forthcoming Supermarket installation

A new supermarket is opening this weekend and whilst the items on the shelves will be up for sale all won’t be quite what it seems.

For ‘shopkeeper’ Martin Fowler is an artist who wants his new installation ‘Supermarket’ to allow people to explore their feelings around commodities and the value placed upon them.

As part of his PhD, Martin has spent the last two years re-creating, making and sourcing hundreds of individual items ranging from tins of beans to cans of lager to bring his exhibition to life.

His supermarket will open to the public in the Market Hall, Carlisle on Saturday (13 April) and 46-year-old Martin will be there each day until the exhibition closes on 18 April.

University of Cumbria fine art lecturer Martin Fowler with some of his Supermarket items

“I want to challenge the usual conventions of art, art galleries and exhibitions,” said Martin, who is a senior lecturer in fine art at the University of Cumbria’s Institute of the Arts. “I want it to be accessible to the person on the street. There will be a lot of people who’ve never visited an art gallery and so I want to take my work to the people.”

Growing up in Portobello, Edinburgh and paying regular visits to his grandparents Jimmy and Jessie Newlands sparked Martin’s idea to set up the shop.

He said: “My grandfather was a docker and shift worker. I never saw him without him smoking a cigarette. When I was about 7 or 8 it was his birthday and my mother told my sister Jennifer to make him a card.

“I found that card again a couple of years ago and she’d drawn a cigarette and a can of Kestrel. It was a fantastic portrait of him. It was a part of his history, Edinburgh history and it got me thinking about the associations we make with items, how we make that history and how things change over time.

“There’ll be lots of items on the shelves that are meant to be like the regular items you’d recognise but there’ll be some which have a twist like the Tennants cans that when you turn them round will have images of feminists on them and not the images of the Lovelies from the Seventies.”

The project has already crossed generations, with Martin working alongside his two young children – daughter Lexie, who is eight, and five-year-old son Beau.

Martin said: “I’ve been able to make many items with my children. They’ve come into my studio and just got on and made things and done things I’d forgotten how to do. It has been brilliant spending time working with them.

Martin originally studied Fine Art in Carlisle when he was 18. He went on to study at Glasgow School of Art and Winchester Art School before entering the world of academia.

He has 20 years of teaching experience, seven of which were as an art teacher within the Scottish Prison Service.

Find out more about Martin and his fellow fine art tutors here.

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