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Workshop Events

Just This: zen approaches to drawing, poetry & music

Saturday 19 November 10am - 4pm NewBridge Gallery

Join us for Just This – a day exploring the relationship between Zen and art with workshops, discussions and performances, that draw on learning from Habit, Ability! Its open to all, regardless of prior experience with poetry, art and music!

Just This: Between Zen and the Arts – Workshops, Discussion and Performance

Saturday 19 of November

10am – 4pm

10am – 1.15pm
Workshops (Poetry, Drawing and Musical Improvisation)
Free Admission, Book in Advance via Newbridge Project, Vegan Lunch provided.

2pm – 4pm
A live, 90-minute performance (live collaboration by the contributors)
Donations welcome but not required.

Just This is a day of exploration of the relationships between Zen and the Arts, focussing on the practice of 3 Contributors; Catherine Dee (Visual Artist) Alex Reed (Poet) and Shunyata Improvisation Group (Musicians).

All of the day’s activities are aimed to work equally well for everyone, regardless of prior experience. Everyone is welcome.

Just This will offer a meditative and immersive experience for audience members and workshop participants; where people can enjoy and reflect upon art coming from a place of stillness. The contributors have prepared for the day by considering each other’s work and the values of The NewBridge Project, as well as learning emerging from the recent Habit, Ability! exhibition.

The contributors will share their reflections on how Zen practice and aesthetics have influenced each of their artistic practice and explore connections between Zen and Art providing workshops, where the audience can discuss and participate in the art practice.

As part of the day the contributors will create a collaborative performance combining their work together. In the gallery, we will present art by Catherine Dee, and Shunyata Improvisation Group will create spontaneous music whilst Alex Reed will read his poetry. A ZenZine has also been produced by Catherine Dee as a takeaway for the audience.

Particularly we will explore how space and restraint in art can be a meeting point for creative practioners, while simultaneously maximising the potential opportunity for reflection in the audience. The day will link to the Japanese theme of Ma (a pause in time, an interval or emptiness in space. Ma is the fundamental time and space life needs to grow) providing periods of silence and stillness as part of the natural flow, allowing a deepening sense of space and time.

More Information on the Day

10am – 1.15pm: Workshops and Discussion

Booking Required

The morning will begin with some introductions to the contributors work and a discussion. There will then be 3 simultaneous workshops in drawing, music improvisation and poetry, followed by further whole group discussion to share learning from the workshops.

FREE – Booking is required for each workshop, they happen at the same time so it will only be possible to attend one.

  • About Catherine’s Drawing Installation and workshop: Based on ‘The Newbridge Cherry’ (sadly cut down in October this year) ‘Come see the cherry trees of a water constellation’ explores the impermanence and porosity of trees, climate, and water by following Zen-structured approaches marking fragments and symbols in transitory graphite and coloured chalk across the floor and walls of the exhibition space using drawing as a form of environmental contemplation.
  • EVERYONE is invited (no drawing experience needed!) to contribute to the cherry tree drawing installation during the workshop. We’ll work with plant materials, graphite, and chalk to learn about, share, explore and interpret Zen-structured drawing approaches as a way of discovering new creative possibilities; perhaps fresh environmental awareness; and some drawing ‘contemplation’ practices that can be taken into our everyday lives.
  • Zen and Poetry Workshop with Alex Reed
: We will explore connections between Zen practice and the activities of writing and reading poetry. Space will be (co)created to look at what arises in our writing when we try to put aside intentionality, quieten the judgemental mind, and ‘get our (smaller) selves out of the way’.While Zen points towards reality beyond language and the thinking mind, poetry is a language-based art-form. Despite this apparent contradiction, because of the imaginative ways that language is arranged, played with, and often compressed in poetry, it can express aspects of life that are otherwise difficult to convey in words.
  • Exploring Zen Art Principles and Musical Improvisation Workshop with Martin Donkin and John Garner of Shunyata Improvisation Group: 
Martin and John will explain the approach of the Shunyata Improvisation Group and inspirations the group has drawn from Zen Buddhism. The Workshop will focus in particular upon three Zen aesthetic principles; Silence, Simplicity and Subtlety. We will work with the workshop group to listen, improvise and be attentive to interventions, the contributions of others and the ambient sounds of the room.We hope to provide to both first time and experienced improvisers an opportunity to consider the impacts of Spaciousness, Restraint, Flow and Emptiness when included within Improvisation.

2pm – 4pm: Performance by Shunyata Improvisation Workshop, Alex Reed and Catherine Dee

FREE – Booking Required

Contributors Work and Approach

The Shunyata Improvisation Group

The Shunyata Improvisation Group playing violin, cello, guitar, percussion and voice, create an extraordinary style of music; intimate, distinct, quiet, acoustic, entirely composed in the moment. Each of our concerts provides an immersive meditative experience. Inspired by Zen approaches to art, emphasising spaciousness, the group explores both textural and melodic forms of improvisation.

The group have released three albums, featured on the seminal Tusk Editions compilation album series, performed in music venues, sacred spaces, art galleries and at the Newcastle Late Shows 2022, Tusk and Durham Jazz festivals. The group have been broadcasted on Radio 3, Tusk TV and Panic Radio France.

Catherine Dee

Catherine Dee’s drawing and wider art practice broadly concerns ‘Life among trees’ in relation to contemporary landscape architecture, forests, climate, ecology and social justice. Catherine works with drawing experimentally for exhibition and as a means to illustrate and evolve landscape architectural concepts published in book form.
Catherine’s work has been strongly influenced by (‘traditional’) Japanese aesthetics/practices and their influence in contemporary art theory. Catherine’s Buddhist practice is in the Soto Zen tradition and influences every aspect of her practice but not (yet) overtly.

Key exhibitions, installations and workshops include: Swedish Agricultural University SLU (2008) Installations, University of California Berkeley CEED Gallery, Grove Drawing Installations (2014), Kyoto School of Art, Japan, Drawing Workshop (2016), and Arts Council funded Making Ways: ‘Parliament of Trees’ Installation Exhibition at Yorkshire Arts Space Persistence Works, Sheffield (2018). ‘Oxeltid’ Drawing installations at Konstkiosk#4, Trelleborg, Sweden (2021)

Alex Reed

Alex Reed’s poetry has been published in various print and on-line magazines. His pamphlets A Career in Accompaniment and These Nights at Home (with accompanying images by Keren Banning) were published by V. Press and explore themes of illness, care-giving and loss.

His recent collection knots, tangles, fankles (V.Press, 2022) is a re-imagining of the work of radical psychiatrists R.D. Laing & A. Esterson on family life and ‘schizophrenia’. His Buddhist practice is in the Soto Zen tradition

Workshop Events

FREE - but please book

The NewBridge Project
Shieldfield Centre
4-8 Clarence Walk (off Stoddart Street)
Newcastle upon Tyne


The NewBridge Project is accessible. You can find out more here, or feel free to contact us prior to visiting if you require additional information regarding access and facilities.

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