MFA Newcastle University


After a whistle stop tour of the MFA show at Newcastle University I thought I’d give my instant impressions, they’re not exhaustive and I’m sure that with a bit more time my reaction may change but just wanted to put something out there before being busy at Tynemouth Market this weekend with my art card and print stall.

Narbi Price had the first room in the Hatton Gallery. Each of his large paintings presented an object or empty setting in which humans normally interact. I was particularly fascinated with his painting of a puddle and enjoyed watching the viewers studying the piece. I was half expecting a reflection, they were in fact looking at the painterly but very flat surface. I felt like he’d transformed something with which we would naturally interact and turned them into something inert, purposeless and consequently almost formal. Click here for Narbi Price’s Flickr photo stream. Click here for a link to the MFA website.

Jill Stephen’s room was an installation using paper, string/thread and wooden palettes. It had echos of Japanese modernism meets Kurt Scwitters. I interpreted it as a delicate shelter or shanti town in a landscape but it may have been simply an abstract contruction. I felt the treatment or process used on the paper was beautiful… with the purple toned paper looking almost like crushed velvet. The hanging paper mache orbs like a distant planet and the paper buttons kind of stumped me and yet were not jarring and seemed in place. To see an image of Jill’s work on the MFA site click here.

Lauren Healey’s work was a sound piece and a living room carpet hung vertically. The carpet became an incredibly subtle map tracing the footsteps of the people who inhabited in the room. It’s light almost Hessian colour again made me think of minimalist paintings. Rachel Whiteread’s ‘Ghost’ was also brought to mind. The sound piece or sound scape (as it surrounded the viewers) was more difficult to decipher… I think I will need to revisit the show when there is less background noise to try and decipher what I was listening to. I feel fairly confident the two pieces are meant to work together as a whole so feel a second visit is essential. To see Lauren’s work on the MFA minisite click here but to see lots of her wonderful work check out here website click here.

Santinder Chumber… The morgue or pathologists space shown as a camera slowly and smoothly moved back to reveal more of the scene was fascinating and poigniant. What first appears to be a room is actually a large cubicle type space within a larger clinical/hospital space. It is a still, characterless, lifeless space. When we encounter these spaces on tv they are packed with high drama, when we encounter these spaces in our everyday lives they are full of high emotion, in this piece we see them as a functional space, through the objective eyes. Its almost like an anti ER piece instead of drama stark reality. To see an image of Santinder’s work on the MFA site click here.

Rachel Lancaster (interim artist)… Various sized oils showing sources of illumination. Your eyes flicker because of the broad flat brush strokes that are subtly layered up… a contemporary impressionist style. They are tremendous, refined and beautiful. Seemed like a final show rather than an intermin show, is that a criticism or compliment?! To see Rachel’s work on the MFA site click here or at the Workplace Gallery.

Harriet Rollitt (interim artist)… Whist Harriet’s work suggested a very personal exploration of nationality it more broadly concerned colonialism and identity. Some prominent symbols appeared including monkies, a red phonebox, Beafeaters (mmm I think they actually are called something else) and tropical landscapes like beaches. I loved Harriet’s small collages and appropriation of text, particilarly from my memory so possibly not spot on, “Bayan and British; both but not either”. The acrid yellow backdrop remined me of a cheap travel agents. I must confess I didn’t personally like the way one canvas was hung as an angle and another was placed across the corner of a room (was it showing things breaking down?crossing boundaries? not being one or the other like the idea of mixed nationality or heritage?), it just seemed too much but then it was an interim show so the time to push boundaries and try out ideas for which I have a lot of respect. To see Harriet’s work on the MFA site click here or to see her website click here.

I’ll update this post next week with more on some of the other artists and try to include some images and links.

Well done to all involved! Wow!

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