INTERVIEW: BALTIC Open Submission | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Artwork by Mark Carr

Scrolling through the 150 or so artists and makers selected for this year’s BALTIC Open Submission, I came across some familiar names; former school mates, colleagues and a bloke I was introduced to in the pub in 2015. This, I think, is what makes the BALTIC Open Submission so special. A celebration of local talent and storytelling, the exhibition is a collective expression from the beating heart of the North East.

Selected by a panel of local artists – Richard Bliss, Lady Kitt and Padma Rao, and Katie Hickman, BALTIC’s Curator of Performance and Public Programmes – the exhibition presents works by artists with a long history of making, sat alongside those who are just beginning, giving visibility to individuals and collectives never before seen by public audiences.

No stranger to local audiences is Gateshead-born Mark Carr, whose submission I Am Somebody centres on the Friends of the People’s Kitchen in Newcastle. Carr volunteered as a cook for two years before photographing 31 of the people he saw from afar week in, week out. “Sometimes you just get sucked in by peoples faces,” he tells me over Zoom, his own face ironically replaced by a black square. “The work is political, don’t get me wrong, but as a visual artist I’m just interested in faces and features.”

A celebration of local talent and storytelling, the exhibition is a collective expression from the beating heart of the North East

Whilst some found the intimacy of being photographed prompted them to open up, others would say nothing. “I’d get a vast amount from that nothing. Just a look can give so much away. There’s a certain drama about these people. A drama in the simplicity of their lives and who they are.” This drama is captured beautifully in Carr’s final submission; a series of 6ft by 3ft woodcut prints in black and white, a powerful reminder to give the faces of strangers the attention they deserve.

Drama takes a different form in Angharat ton Uelen, a film created by Rosie Morris, showing micro-scale architectural sliding screens, built at home during lockdown, dancing – at times playfully and others frenetically – to Harpist Rhodri Davies’ music. There was no exact science to the screen’s movements, though the rhythmic shifts from light to shade feel like watching the passing of time. “Rhodri’s music has mistakes and honesty, all the bits that make it human. It moves and jumps and dances,” says Morris, “I had to make tweaks, and it won’t fit the music exactly, but we had a few goes and picked one that felt right.”

Also made during lockdown, is Sri Lankan-born Jayamini de Silva’s Reconciliation. “We have this mentality in Sri Lanka that fairer skin is the most beautiful skin,” she explains, reeling off a staggering number of opportunities refused to her and her daughter on account of their darker skin. Her response? To focus her work around women’s bodies, promoting “harmony, peace and love” through the female form.

Her bold use of colour is an acknowledgement of nature, and its impact on our bodies. “Everything starts with nature,” she says, going on to explain how human interference with the natural world causes problems, such as say, worldwide, life-altering pandemics.

After a year of setbacks and unimaginable loss, galleries may have been forced to close their doors, but what lies on the other side is certainly worth the wait.

The BALTIC Open Submission exhibition will be open from Wednesday 19th May

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout