INTERVIEW: Narbi Price | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Artist Narbi Price’s new exhibition takes the viewer to a series of seemingly innocuous locations which prove to be saturated with history.

This Must Be The Place, exhibited at Newcastle’s Vane Gallery from Thursday 11th May until Saturday 1st July, depicts locations that have witnessed a range of events, from iconic street corners ingrained in popular culture, to gruesome, sad or just plain weird sites. His paintings leave scant clue for the viewer as to the significance of the image, and it’s precisely because of this intrigue that Narbi’s work succeeds in drawing in the viewer.

A number of factors inform Narbi’s decision to base his work on a particular place, from locations of personal interest, meticulously researched, to happenstance encounters. Having researched an event to focus on, Narbi takes a series of photographs on which to base his paintings –  the resulting works often look remarkably photo-like, although his process differs greatly for each piece. “As soon as I find the site a whole other set of decisions are made – compositional, formal and painterly decisions. I’m thinking about how I frame the shot with the camera and also about how I’ll paint certain elements – this part will be made with one big juicy stroke of thick paint, that part will be flat opaque colour, that part will be transparent drippy paint etc.”

While it may not be immediately obvious to the viewer as to the specific location or event that took place there, Narbi’s work does drop subtle clues. Given his musical heritage in the region (as drummer in MeandthetwinS, Chippewa Falls and lately with sludgy noise rockers Big Fail), it’s perhaps inevitable that there are some musical connections within his work; the site where Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues video was filmed and the spot where Bowie stood on the cover of The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars both feature, as does the scrap yard gates from sitcom Steptoe And Son, now an office block. Conversely, there is also a site which delves into bizarre folklore: “the purported site of the well where Lord Lambton threw the Lambton Worm before it grew into a dragon is particularly interesting because it’s the site where something almost certainly didn’t happen.” A poignant Newcastle link depicts the location where the Kard Bar once stood before it burned down in 2015, tragically killing the owner Brian Sandells. “The Kard Bar was an iconic place for many generations of the alternative and music scene in the North East.” He says.

Sites of personal trauma come under further scrutiny in a series of lithographs, produced in collaboration with Newcastle-based Master Printer Hole Editions, showing roadside floral memorials. “The choice of memorial flowers puts me in the same position as the viewer – I don’t know specifically what has taken place at the sites, we all know that someone has died but not necessarily how. I find the act of people memorialising these sites of great personal trauma very moving. It also says a lot about the act of pilgrimage – what do we hope to achieve or experience when we physically visit these places?”

Ultimately, the stories surrounding the places or events are a mere by-product; it’s Narbi’s skill as an artist which makes his work so compelling. “I’m as much interested in the depicted sites being host to millions of other unknown and forgotten events as well as the one that I’ve singled it out for. If the history isn’t decoded I don’t mind – the paintings need to function first and foremost on their own terms as paintings.”

This Must Be The Place is exhibited at Newcastle’s Vane Gallery from Thursday 11th May until Saturday 1st July.

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