Reality Check

The NewBridge Project : Gateshead
Olivia Turner’s ‘Eyepiece’(2017). Photo: The NewBridge Project : Gateshead.

The NewBridge Project has expanded and set up a new home in Gateshead. Right in the High Street, The NewBridge Project : Gateshead houses a gallery, studio spaces for artists and The Collective Studio, a new ambitious graduate development programme created in collaboration with Newcastle University and the Institute of Creative Practice.

Reality Check, the inaugural exhibition, brings together works by eight early-career artists, resulting from The NewBridge Project’s 2016-2017 Graduate Programme in partnership with Newcastle University. In spotlighting the work of young artists the show acts as a statement of intent, in that it underlines the continuing core aim of The NewBridge Project to support emerging talent.

At opposite ends of the bright rectangular gallery space two works by Oliver Doe welcome and engage us in a conversation about the body. ‘Touch me as you need me’ (2017) consists of a framed assemblage of everyday yet very personal objects – a t-shirt, towel, trousers and a plastic bag. Under perspex, the familiar elements are squashed and trapped. Objectified, they become fossils of intimate moments that we can’t help but stare at and ponder about. At the other end of the gallery, Doe’s ‘and no sex or gender will still be the pleasure of love’ (2017) consists of two abstract sculptures: pale and almost transparent, they appear delicate and mysterious. One leans on the other, which in turn appears to recede. Despite the minimalism of the shapes, a questioning narrative concerning two bodies appears.

The body is also at the centre of Olivia Turner’s ‘Eyepiece’(2017). The two sets of four large sculptural elements (cut plywood sheets) that make the core of the work can only be read correctly (as hands holding a microscope) when viewed at a distance, but become abstract forms as we get closer. And yet, the screens embedded in the sculptures (two surgical videos) can only be viewed up close. In creating the conditions for the impossibility of finding a fixed viewing point to look at the installation, the artist creates an apt metaphor for the difficult relationship between the physical and the cerebral, the verbal and the non-verbal.

With the text work ‘Portion Control’ (2017) Helen Shaddock successfully uses stream-of-consciousness writing to give us access to her perception of being an artist. We read: ‘I’m embarrassed to admit I feel the need to prove… Exhibition opening. Everybody asking: what are you working on?’ Whatever shall one answer? Hope is not lost though and we find it in Emily Garvey’s animation, ‘When life gives you lemons’(2017). Here we follow the life adventures of a lemon learning that, as one of the pop songs of the soundtrack remind us, ‘turning bitter into sweet’, is possible after all.

Visiting The NewBridge Project: Gateshead brings back memories of when, over ten years ago, Workplace Gallery opened their first space nearby, in the now demolished Gateshead Car Park, with the intent of supporting young North East based artists. These two organisations share the crucial common goal of creating the conditions for artists not to feel isolated and for talent to prosper in the region. Their new close physical proximity is a welcome development and acts auspiciously for the future of The NewBridge Project.

Reality Check, The NewBridge Project : Gateshead, Gateshead.

14 October – 28 October 2017 (Wed-Sat 12-5pm)

Elisabetta Fabrizi is a curator and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne and London.

Published 03.11.2017 by Christopher Little in Reviews

559 words