Sunday, 20 March 2011

Newcastle and The Baltic Gallery

I recently visited Newcastle for the first time. There are two particular things I liked about this city.

No.1 : Architecture

I'm told Newcastle is the city with the largest number of historic buildings in the UK. Just from walking through the centre you'd guess it's easily in the top 10. If you look up, along the top of all the shops in the main streets there is some truly stunning architecture. It gives the city an understated beauty and depth of character.

No. 2 : Baltic Art Gallery

I very much enjoyed my visit to the Baltic Art Gallery. It's an old flour mill building overlooking the river.

I like visiting Art Galleries. Either I like a piece of art, I cant decide whether I like it and spend a little time pondering over it, or I just don't like it/don't get it. I'm not someone who thinks all modern art is rubbish, yet if something is unappealing to me, I don't feel the need to try to convince myself that it's good. I think some people feel that if an artist's work has made it into a good gallery then it IS good, and if you don't feel this when you see it then you must convince yourself of it in order to be cultured. Art is to do with individual taste.

In the Baltic there was a film of a man dressed as a woman singing in a deep voice. I didn't get it, and I had no desire to make myself get it because it didn't engage me. However, I was interested in the main exhibition, the work of George Shaw. This is a collection of paintings of average or in some cases quite dodgy looking areas; mostly housing estates, alleyways and urban park areas. The subject areas are by no means picturesque, yet Shaw gives them a beauty in the way they are painted. The way that he paints light and texture is truly stunning, and his fine detailing is incredible. You find yourself asking; how is it possible to paint such small details? Is there even a brush or other implement small enough to use? I appreciated both the paintings and the obvious skill of the artist behind them, and I read the information provided because of this, because I liked it and I wanted to know more. I learnt that the places in the paintings are where the artist grew up and that the glossy sheen on his work is because he uses enamel paints, the kind used in model making.

If you are in the area, go and see it. You really can only appreciate it properly when you see the real thing up close.

The Baltic's gift shop is a work of art in it's own right, it's a cave of wonders for anyone with a love of pretty things. In there I made myself familiar with the work of an artist named Rob Ryan, whose work I had seen a few times before and enjoyed, but never really looked into it further. When I left the book shop I was in love with his work. He creates delicate paper cutting wonderlands threaded with poetic writings that tug at the heart strings.

You can buy books of his creations, mugs, bags, cards, he's created images for magazines and collaborated with Paul Smith. Is it any wonder they all want a piece of him?.....

To find out more about Rob Ryan visit his website:

Baltic Mill Gallery:

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