Last year’s visit to the Baltic on the bank of the River Tyne in Newcastle gave me a chance to see the work of two artists, both new to me: Tony Swain and Ida Ekblad. It is a contemporary gallery and past visits have challenged and rewarded me. This was no different.
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Tony Swain’s work had been reproduced in advertising for the show “Pieced Landscapes” but nothing prepared me for the excitement of seeing large landscapes in this contemporary space. From a distance the larger works were obviously pieced together but visually cohesive. Even so they beckoned the viewer in to examine the surfaces and the narrative. One piece which had appeared to be an exotic landscape was a montage of small scenes of destruction and devastation from the tsunami in south-east Asia in 2004. Reading the fine print was important! Swain used newspaper with all its ‘stories’ and its ephemeral quality as a ground rather than blank canvas but worked towards a strong message from the assembled pieces. He covered, exposed and enhanced sections. Snippets of text were left. The elements were arranged to make a cohesive whole but the delight was in the apparent freedom and the surprise of the process.
View from the Baltic
The second show was “Konstellasjoner” by Norwegian artist Ida Ekblad. The sculptures were made for the stage set of “Constellations 2012” a play by Nick Payne. As props, they were more understandable to me in that context – representations of lives in a parallel universe. They were comprised mostly of found objects, except perhaps the shopping trolleys, but then again…. Each oversized wire-form character appeared to be pushing a trolley which was chained in turn to the character ahead of them. The human ‘chain’ curved and wobbled around the gallery space and because of the twisted scrap metal cargo in the trolleys visitors are cautioned to walk with care around and through the assemblage. “A load of old rubbish” my companion said. We were in the “Space to Think”, so that was fine with me!