Newest Review: ... it very interesting seeing not only the subject matters and styles of the different artists but also how they chose to make their prints... more
One of my must see's in Newastle
Laing Art Gallery (Newcastle)
Member Name: heystaz
Laing Art Gallery (Newcastle)
Advantages: Free entry, changing exhibits, friendly atmosphere
Disadvantages: None I can think of
One of the things I always try to do when visiting Newcastle is visit the Laing Art Gallery where, as well as discovering new artists and art works I can visit some old favourites. The city centre location makes it easy to access, being a short walking distance from the Monument metro and bus stations, and the free entry is enticing to those looking for cheap things to see and do.
The open, airy feel of the first floor sculpture area and the circular layout of the second floor rooms make the gallery easy and pleasant to wander around without missing anything out.
My last visit coincided with the Northern Print Biennale: 2009 Print Awards, which contained "the best in contemporary printmaking, selected by a distinguished jury from more than 800 entries received." (www.twmuseums.org.uk/laing/) This contained many different types of prints and I found it very interesting seeing not only the subject matters and styles of the different artists but also how they chose to make their prints.
Continuing the print theme was an exhibition of local naturalist and artist Thomas Berwick, with pictures (or tale-pieces) from guide books of mammals and birds and a book of fables, some simply illustrations of individual animals and some showing comic scenes. These were mostly displayed as individual pages of a book of just these tale-pieces printed when Thomas Berwick realised their popularity. The prints were very small, but the provision of a box of magnifying glasses made them much easier to see. My favourite was an image of a merchant who had over charged Thomas Berwick being driven to the gallows by a devil. Apparently the merchant was so alarmed at recognising himself in the print that he immediately repaid the disputed money. Glass cases contained step by step examples of how the print blocks would have been made, as well as the illustrated books the tale-pieces were originally created for and information on the life of Thomas Berwick.
Also present was The Great British Art Debate: My Native Vale. This had large prints of some of the locally born 19th Century artist John Martin's works combined with images of modern Newcastle, such as the civic centre and Millennium bridge, on three walls, created by artists Simon and Tom Bloor. The public were invited to take an image of a location that meant something to them, or to choose one from a selection of local history books provided, photocopy it on to luminous pink, yellow or orange paper and stick it somewhere on the walls to put something of their own perspective of Newcastle into the artwork. I enjoyed looking through the books of street name origins and architectural history, and felt a sense of pride in seeing my selection of the arches of Newcastle University placed atop a craggy mountainside next to the city centre multi-storey car park.
Some of John Martin's unadulterated works were present in the permanent gallery, including one of my favourites of the gallery, The Bard, showing the last welsh bard calling a curse onto the British army from atop a mountain on a wild and imposing natural background. Next to this the dramatic Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has an addition I have never seen anywhere else for any painting, a relief of the image in metal with the elements rendered into three dimensions which has a sign reading "Please touch". Being able to touch this and feel the contours of the image whilst looking at the painting adds an extra dimension to an already impressive artwork.
One of my favourite things about the Laing is the wooden bench in gallery D, on either side of which three details from paintings in the room are carved, and I much enjoyed finding which painting each image had come from.
Summary: Always worth a visit
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