FEATURE: The Gallery of Wonder on Tour | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The Gallery of Wonder On Tour is the source of multitudinous admiration, as it seeks to astonish with works of art created by a range of artists offering something entirely unique.

Judith King is the director of Arts & Heritage, the organization who have curated the exhibition which tours a variety of country shows and small festivals this summer. The venues included in the tour are steeped in community and tradition, which enable the organization to seek out new audiences for the artwork. Judith identifies the overarching intent of the exhibition as being centered on the conveyance of wonder and illusion, museums and their origins, and exploring contemporary art in new places. “What we are interested in is bringing art into different places, where it is least expected.”

Exploration into the theme of wonder is stretched across a variety of mediums; Aideen Barry’s video art piece Not To Be Named Or Understood sees a woman battle with her hair which is replaced by black hoover nozzles, emulating a Gorgon; while Mark Fairnington’s The Beast is centered on animal imagery, with a neat link to the show’s surroundings.

“What we are interested in is bringing art into different places, where it is least expected”

Viewing the exhibition as a whole, we are led to ask questions about the traditions of collecting, taking into consideration historical facets including the Grand Tour and cabinets of curiosity, in contrast with the way we perceive collecting today. Artist Irene Brown, who is responsible for the exhibition concept, references the physical act of travelling to unknown places in the 17th and 18th century, demonstrated by a visual mini-scape of ships each in their own encasement, united in their call to land omitted by an image representation of St. Mary’s Lighthouse at Whitley Bay.

Also in this exhibition there are brought to bear questions about the way we view contemporary artwork. Judith King references language and an awareness of perception in the construction of the Gallery of Wonder as instrumental to achieving their desired intent. “Often we won’t use gallery language, as preconceptions come right to the fore.” Judith also notes the audience’s nervous response to tented constructions, which is where professional actor Dennis Jobling comes in, as he encourages new audiences to realise their curiosity, to enter the tent and engage with the artwork, breaking down social and cultural barriers in the viewing of artwork.

“Often work is rooted in human experience”, states Judith, “a historical and contemporary experience.” This is seen in the work of Aura Satz, with Swann/Leavitt Crater, which requires the viewer to move their head to acquire an impression of the artwork as it changes from the face of astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt into the moon. Works by other artists include Mat Collishaw, Tessa Farmer, Polly Morgan, and the Quay Brothers.

The Gallery of Wonder really does have something for everyone. With its watching eye, it will allow an insight into the past and a tantalizing glimpse into the future of art in wonderful new settings.

The Gallery of Wonder tent at the Spittal Seaside Festival on Saturday 8th August, Falstone Border Shepherd Show on Saturday 22nd August, Alwinton Border Shepherd Show on Saturday 10th October, and Newcastle City Campus on Friday 16th October.

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