ESSAY FOR EXHIBITION CATALOGUE. GREAT NORTH MUSEUM. NEWCASTLE

by Faye Green

 

Out of Site

The Gallery of Wonder declares itself, laying bare its intentions, its dedication to the evocation of awe. We hunt compulsively for that utter abandon, and the search for marvel is boundless. The Gallery houses the objects collected along the way, a record of wonder provoked and pursued. It is home to the hoarders, the gatherers, the finders/keepers of the fascinating. These are the trophies of the chase.

And so follows Out of Site. This is also a collection of tokens. This body of work engages with the habits and nuance of place. The objects become musings on a landscape, the proofs of an encounter. Delicate and intriguing, the pieces perpetuate the search.

The work responds to the changing city of Newcastle, the flux of industry and regeneration, where natural growth is stunted and replaced with development. Landscape is standardised in such calculated and controlled regeneration; in our post-industrial cities the instincts of environment are lost as the wild spaces are pushed out into the margins. Out of Site concerns itself with this manipulation of landscape, and the impact of industry on natural spaces. As the title also suggests, the work harbours a sense of displacement. The pieces incorporate found materials as well as made objects, involving a range of techniques drawing from tradition craft skills and industrial methods. The found objects are removed from their environment or transformed through the making process and translated into different materials. Within a contained scale, inhabiting small spaces, the work reflects the way in which industrial growth tames and relegates, confining nature to pockets in the city, making islands of the wild.

On the outskirts, the waste and excesses of renovation pile up. The cast-offs mount on building sites and roadside verges- redundant, surplus, discarded. This collection explores these spaces in the same spirit as it encounters the wilderness, with the same sensitivity to the particulars of place, and tenderness to what can be found in the wreckage. This intimacy gives the found materials a renewed significance; they are re-discovered in the search, driftwood combed from grey forgotten beaches.

The process of making in Out of Site echoes this intimacy. The work pays tribute to the essentials of craft, with a strong focus on the hand-made. The use of traditional craft techniques emphasises authenticity and carries a sense of skills that are native to a place. This is contrasted with allusions to processes of mass production. Through slip-casting the found objects, this industrial process is re-appropriated for a private process of sense-making.

But it also returns to our desire to possess- we cannot simply experience a space, we must capture it somehow- photograph it, document it, keep something of it for ourselves to hang in our houses or on the walls of our galleries. Out of Site acts as an archive of investigation of place: a place changed, tamed. Rather than reaching a conclusion or moving to make an over-arching statement, the objects act as a series of suggestions, detailing and documenting this engagement with environment. The work occupies an unsettling space, each piece displaced but retaining something of its origin, as talismans of the wild and the ruined.