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  4. Michelle Atherton

Michelle Atherton

Senior Lecturer in Fine Art


I am an artist, researcher and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art working with images, temporal states and contingency. The starting point for the artworks is often lens-based taking an experimental approach to such concerns as the resistance of space in and through the image.

The artworks take a range of forms often incorporating video, photography, sound, collage and text, drawing, and sited interventions which informs my interest in multidisciplinary teaching.

My work is shown widely throughout Europe in variety of contexts including galleries and museums, festivals and conferences, and as live projects and through publications. My work has been supported by the Arts Council and Arts and Humanities Research Council.

  • About

    My artworks and research-led practice involves working with images, temporal states and contingency. The starting point for the artworks is often lens-based, taking an experimental approach to such concerns as the resistant space in and through the image. Part of my research is exploring the rhetoric of the image, its materiality and our encounter with it. The work is critically focused on grappling with the negative, not in terms of valourisation, rather through a rehabilitation of its role in art practice.

    The artworks take a range of forms often incorporating video, photography, sound, collage and text, drawing, and forming sited interventions. This multidisciplinary approach allows me to deploy a number of artistic strategies and informs my approach to practice teaching. The works aim to function critically as a series of after or pre-images.

    The work has been exhibited throughout Europe including Kunstraum and Atelierhaus Salzamt Gallery, Linz, Austria; Tatton Park Biennale UK; Kino Babylon, Berlin; Zeppelin Museum, Germany; RAF Cosford, UK; Linergallari Tallinn, Estonia; and the Dagmar de Pooter Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium. Recent conference contributions include at the Department of Art and Art History and the College of Liberal Arts, Arlington University, Dallas (supported by the Institute for Sustainability and Global Impact); 6th Space and Place Global Meeting, Mansfield College, Oxford University, Oxford; the WaterWheel World Water Day Symposium, an international conference with participating researchers, artists and activists from twenty-five countries; and Water: Image Conference at University Plymouth.

    My writing has appeared in such art journals as EROS and Contemporary Issues Magazine and I have been an art reviewer for Modern Painters, Art Monthly and Contemporary Arts Magazine. My work has been supported through the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Arts Council UK.

  • Teaching

    Subject area

    Fine Art


    BA (Hons) Fine Art
    MFA and MA Fine Art
    Postgraduate Supervision PhD


    MFA Studio Methods

  • Research

    Current research projects

    Trilogy (working title)

    A research project using the tourist trip as a methodological starting point for artworks culminating in a trilogy of video works. Here travel becomes a means to gather foundational material and as a springboard for making works that refer back to the complexity of our experiences. To date the series encompasses the completed works Dreams of Flying and ARP (Absorbing red photons) with the final piece in development having been initiated through a recent studio residency at BANFF, Centre for Arts and Creativity, Alberta Canada.

    Stimulated Heritage Laboratory is an interrogation at the limits or outer reaches of heritage in today’s culture, situated beyond the identification of obvious monuments and well-established frameworks. The aim here is to navigate away from stabilising features of traditions and to test more disruptive heretical boundaries in formulating art works and curatorial practices that inhabit the more unofficial and ephemeral sites. This research is undertaken through partnerships, to date with Jette Gejl, artist and academic at the Department of Art History at Aarhus University, Denmark, and TC McCormack, artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Sheffield Hallam University. 

    The Image Research Group with Rose Butler

    A practice-led screening and discussion group centred on current debates around the image, primarily through its lens-based form, in terms of production modes, divergent materialities and the methods and particularities of circulation. This open group brings together Sheffield artists, recent graduates and current researchers including postgraduate and undergraduate students from Fine Art at Hallam to engage with regional partners.

    Agency Lab 

    An artist-led research organisation set up to enable artists to connect with institutions, individuals and processes. We host interactions across different locations and sites to offer a reflective and open platform for equal exchange in generating art projects. Our aim is to sit apart from any existing hierarchical systems when building a creative network. Agency Lab works on two levels – one in terms of its organisation as a research project, in and of itself, and the other in terms of creative networks that enable longer-term projects to develop over time through the Agency, which has to date involved artists, academic staff and students. We have established relationships with institutions and organisations in mainland Europe and in Boston USA, where a colleague and I delivered a research paper and workshop Artists-led organisation: Agency-Lab and the Era of Dissolution, exploring the importance of speculative space within art practice, research and organisational structures at the ‘International Conference on Opportunities in the Arts: Expanding Worlds’, Boston University College of Fine Arts.

  • Publications

    A list of publications is available from the institutional repository, SHURA

    ATHERTON, Michelle (2017) BAiR Spring Residency, BANFF Centre for Arts and Creativity, Alberta, Canada

  • Other activities

    I am currently the undergraduate external examiner for Fine Art at Plymouth University.

  • Postgraduate supervision

    Discursive production of amateur filmmaking: An investigation into how the meanings and potentials of amateur filmmaking are shaped by networks of commercial, institutional, and amateur texts
    Reclamation Ground: Creating subversive place to explore frames of power, gender and resistance
    Spatial Practices: Image, Ideology and Production in Retail Space

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