Renowned artists from around the world exhibit at Baltic – and so, for much of this month, are art students from Gateshead College next door.
The glamorous venue is not going to put the kybosh on their exhibition, which happens to be called Kybosh.
Students were invited to submit works inspired by the major exhibition by American artist Lorna Simpson which is currently showing on two floors of the huge Gateshead art gallery.
The best submissions were chosen by a panel including Godfrey Worsdale, director of Baltic.
Simpson’s multi-media work, presented as a first European retrospective, is open to broad interpretation. It could be seen as an exploration of race and gender – African-American women, and indeed the artist herself, appear in the work – although it’s gentle rather than in-your-face.
The students took a look and found things that triggered their own creative impulses. But the work in Kybosh stands on its own merits.
Tessa Green exhibits a video work called Global Amnesia which, like her final degree show at the college, was inspired by an alarming incident in her own life.
She says: “The starting point was something called transient global amnesia which is an illness. A few years ago I lost my memory for a few hours so my degree show was based on amnesia and memory loss.
“What I thought when I was reading about transient global amnesia was that it sounded like a sociological or political phenomenon rather than an illness.”
Tessa, who lives in Heaton, thought this chimed with the Lorna Simpson exhibition. “She deals with all sorts of different topics but it’s really all politics with a small ‘p’.”
Despite her background as a painter – Tessa featured on these pages 11 years ago when she was exhibiting at Newcastle’s Cluny Gallery – this piece demonstrates her recent venture into moving image work.
“I did a lot of painting on the course for relaxation but for the rest of the time I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to make documentaries but I’m interested in films that are more like collages.”
“I was driving and my husband filmed it,” says Tessa who also worked with an animator who recently graduated from Northumbria University.
“It has ended up being about global warming and learning lessons from history but it’s not explicit. It’s a triggering thing.”
Like most others represented in the exhibition, Tessa has come to the end of Gateshead College’s B-Tech foundation diploma in art and design.
Artist and lecturer David Goard, who runs the course, says it is open to people aged 18-plus and is a popular option for those between A levels and university.
Tessa appears to be doing things back to front. She did a fine art degree at Newcastle University in the 1970s, worked in community arts and then went back to Newcastle Polytechnic to study law.
She worked as a solicitor and law lecturer and until recently was a part-time employment judge, presiding over employment tribunals on Newcastle Quayside which, she says, offered a tantalising view of Baltic and Gateshead College.
Having recently given up law, she wanted to return to art. “I spoke to David and thought this course sounded brilliant. I come here a lot and I knew Gateshead College had a good relationship with Baltic. It has been a brilliant course.”
Looking back on her sudden memory loss two years ago, Tessa says it happened while she was in the gym and soon after her mother died which she believes might have triggered it. She was taken to A&E and the condition was diagnosed.
“I have lost four or five hours,” she says. “It made me appreciate things from a different angle.”
Bridget Burton and Archie Smith, from Newcastle, have recently finished the same course as Tessa and are bound for two esteemed London art colleges, the Slade and Goldsmiths respectively.
This, David reckons, is a feather in the college’s cap.
Bridget, who did A levels in art and textiles at Newcastle College, invites viewers to immerse themselves in her creation, Are You Sitting Comfortably?
A screen on the wall shows a film playing on a loop. “The film is of four of my friends doing different repeated actions,” she says. “It’s all about the discomfort or alienation someone feels when they’re with people caught up in and obsessed with a particular event.
“You know when you’re at a football match and you’re not interested but everyone else starts cheering? The atmosphere affects you and you might start cheering as well. It’s a natural thing to want to feel included.”
Bridget, who engaged four friends to appear in the film, could have left it at that but she says she likes “immersive environments” with viewers encouraged to feel “consumed” by the art.
To this end, she created a series of chiffon curtains, daubed with hand prints, which the person intrigued by the film’s chanting soundtrack must negotiate.
Archie’s video work is called I Know I’ll Stay, Until The Weather Rots My Brain.
“It’s based on a monolgue I wrote which is like a short story,” he explains. “It came from a conversation I had with my grandad who told me about parts he made for Concorde in a factory in County Durham.
“Then I was talking to my nan and I noticed that when she was talking about things from the past and remembered things vividly, her hand movements became exaggerated.”
Archie, who did A levels at St Cuthbert’s High School, then filmed his own hand gestures so the film shows an overlay of footage of his hands and his nan’s hands with a fictional soundtrack about the life story of a machine.
As for the title, Archie says he plays in a band and took it from the lyrics of a song.
In the corner of the exhibition is an arresting, near life-sized figure made from an art material which seems strangely familiar.
Rachel Jennings’ piece, called Image Deprives Her, is made from Sellotape wrapped painstakingly around a frame made from wood and a mannequin.
“I used 24 rolls of Sellotape for the sculpture and then another three rolls after that,” says Rachel who lives in Deckham, Gateshead, and is currently doing her A levels at Gateshead College with a view to joining the foundation course next year.
“I did the piece in two halves, the top half first. It took me 15 hours to do as part of my A level exam and I quite enjoyed it, although it did get a bit tedious towards the end.”
Rachel says she was inspired by the issue of body image and the 20th Century art movement known as biomorphism which focuses on art that mimcs nature.
Rachel, who used those three extra Sellotape rolls to make the sculpture appera to have grown from the fabric of the gallery, says she would quite like to be a teacher one day. She would make a very good one.
Kybosh can be seen in Baltic’s Quay education centre until June 25.