BALTIC

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I was in Newcastle last week and took a free evening as an opportunity to have a look around the Baltic at their Spring 2013 programme. In all I don’t think this season is their best, and by the third floor I was feeling rather let down. Fabrice Hyber saved the day however, and my advice is thus: skip up to the top floor on a sunny afternoon and i’ll bet you won’t want to leave.

Marcin Maciejowski

1 February 2013 – 2 June 2013

Maciejowski’s paintings apparently use found images as their subjects, and the replication or transferal to the painted canvas questions the point and place of the medium itself in modern day society. Technically they are good; Maciejowski is skilled and I found myself getting up close and personal with more than one piece with intrigue. That aside, my honest reaction – as tends to happen when an exhibition fails to blow me away – was that if this is the standard to gain access to a major UK art gallery then I have hope. Perhaps I just don’t like the ground floor space at the Baltic; the lights are harsh and the room is uninspired. It does not make for conducive art viewing, and certainly not for Maciejowski.

Having said that, I found the concept of the work quite interesting, and was reminded of a programme about art and the Royal family I caught the end of the night before. Prince Charles apparently enlists the assistance of a royal artist on each official trip he embarks on, in an effort to maintain the tradition of painting as a means of documentation. One has to admire this – and though an avid photographer myself we can all admit that photos are all too easy nowadays. Maciejowski tests this idea well, though one must also question whether his paintings would hold such resonance had they been taken from life, rather than photos.

For more information about Maciejowski visit BALTIC.COM

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David Jablonowski – Tools and Orientations

1 February 2013 – 2 June 2013

I liked the work in Jablonowski’s show, and I liked the idea.  But I didn’t particularly understand how the work conveyed the apparent message – the links were somewhat tenuous, in my opinion.  And this was another odd space; a large square of a room through which you have to walk to access BALTIC Library.  A surefire way to get people through the exhibition but to me it felt a little like an add-on space – and a full one too: huge blocks of what seems to be concrete overbear the scene on arrival, with smaller object-sculptures in the centre and on the walls.  It is a scene of trompe l’oeil – the concrete monoliths are inface polystyrene, and the metal sculptures are old offset lithograph plates.  Interesting in their own rights, but the message of the omnipresence of the internet and modern digital conversation did not translate for me.  It all felt a little vague.

For more information about Jablonowski visit BALTIC.COM

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David Maljkovic – Sources in the Air

15 March 2013 – 30 June 2013
There is a hum in the air upon entering Maljkovic’s exhibition.  The lights are dimmed, the room is warm, the click of projectors fills the space.  A wall blocks your path, forcing you to choose left or right around a huge internal structure, broken only by cameras projecting their wares inwards through peepholes.  Upon reaching the end and turning, the space is revealed to open up and dusky installation meets camera.  Stylistically speaking, Maljkovic’s show was very appealing: I enjoy artworks that confront several senses at once, creating an atmosphere as much as a physical piece.  The set up of showreels coming into the space produced a dynamic interaction between viewer and film, leaving it up to us to decide how long to spend gazing in or walking around and into the structure. One gains a sense of the artists perspective as creator in this way.
Film-works are often not my favourite mediums with which to engage, and Maljkovic proved to be no exception in this case.  I sat and watched the Scene for New Heritage piece for a short while but did not find it particularly interesting, instead preferring the smaller pieces around the outside which varied greatly in their content.  A particular favourite was the one by which we are confronted upon first entering the exhibition and has been used extensively in the publication for this show.  A simple reel of light projected in against a huge photography lamp.  I guess it harks back to my minimalist obsession that I would enjoy this piece the most.  Each to their own.
In all I came away from Malkovic’s show feeling a little anticlimaxed – perhaps is simply because I don’t engage particularly well with film.  An intriguing space none the less, and definitely worth a look.
For more information about Maljkovic visit BALTIC.COM

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Fabrice Hyber – Raw Materials

22 March 2013 – 30 June 2013

Everything about Hyber’s show was a delight – visually, sensually, curatorially.  Saved for the top floor, the works are bathed in natural light and visitors are encouraged to interact with their surroundings.  As is explained by the enthusiastic staff, Raw Materials has been designed as a cleansing process for the soul: blasted by the elements, dazzled by swarovski rain, toured through the artists thinking process and plunged into a cold pool at the end.  It is difficult not to have fun, and Hyber comes across as an artist with a sense of humour, probably delighted at the giddy students running through his bed-sheet visual notebook.  I didn’t want to leave.

All over hang Twombly-esque scrawlings on both canvas and the wall itself; an open experience of the thinking behind the weird and the wonderful on show – of which there is something for everyone. Particular favourites of mine included the installation One cubic square metre of YSL lipstick. Apart from recoiling in shock of its worth (£53,000 street value), I was sorely tempted to wedge my face in it, so was its teasingly sticky appeal. Outside the exhibition, Hyber parodies that age-old Hollywood trick of lipstick mirror-scrawling with the equivocal “Je t’aime” surrounded by lightbulbs. Glamorous and fun, it is a beautiful link.

And on with the cleansing! Plain wooden sheds prove to hold more than their seeming worth as you open the doors. One exhibition guide giggled as I opened one and jumped a mile at being confronted by a giant thunderclap and confessed his favourite to be ‘this one’ (pointing at another shed with a corrugated metal door) which turned out to be a hurricane. As with all senses of humour timing is key and Hyber masters it wonderfully with his sheds of elements.

Finally we reach the washing lines – laden with white sheets with the same scrawlings as the walls, pitched over fake green grass. The idea is to take a physical walk through Hybers brain whilst simultaneously being thrown back to childhood tent-building times. I’m not sure what it is about laundry and grass but I am always taken back to hot summer days in the garden, and running through Hybers sheets has a wondrously cathartic effect on the mind. I wanted to laugh out loud and take my shoes off and roll about in the midst of it all. And in my book any exhibition which invokes such joy and will to involve oneself is worth visiting over and over.

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