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Gateshead dinosaurs on show in Los Angeles

A gallery based in Gateshead is represented at this week's Art Los Angeles Contemporary exhibition in California

Artist Hugo Canoilis
Artist Hugo Canoilis

Dinosaurs will be treading heavily through an art fair in California this weekend – and it’s all due to an art gallery in Gateshead.

You’ll be thinking Baltic... but you’d be wrong.

Workplace Gallery is based at The Old Post Office, on Gateshead’s West Street, and it has been a pretty serious player on the international art scene for the best part of a decade.

In fact, it was opened – not at this address but in a shop unit at Ellison Street, beneath Owen Luder’s concrete carpark which now lives only in the memory – back in 2005.

It was the brainchild of Paul Moss and Miles Thurlow, Newcastle University fine art graduates who had been collaborating since 2002. They produced a publication about artists in the North East and put on a show in Sunderland.

When the original Workplace Gallery was demolished along with the carpark, the pair moved in to their current premises – and now it has a relation, Workplace London, which glories in a posh-sounding Mayfair address.

Paul and Miles mount regular exhibitions at Workplace Gallery in Gateshead but they also represent some of the most interesting and innovative artists from the North East and elsewhere.

Hugo Canoilas at work on one of his paintings
Hugo Canoilas at work on one of his paintings

One of their initial aims was to help artists based in this region to access the contemporary art market.

This they have done very successfully, putting their artists’ work before potential buyers from around the world at art fairs in Dallas, Hong Kong, Cologne, New York, Turin, Chicago and even London and Manchester.

At Art Los Angeles Contemporary, which opens on Thursday and runs until February 1, Workplace Gallery will present a booth dedicated to the work of Hugo Canoilas, a Portuguese artist who was born in Lisbon but now lives and works in Vienna.

They showed some of the artist’s work there last year, along with that of others on their books, and also in Hong Kong in May. It must have gone down well.

The international contemporary art market, you might think, is an extraordinary thing.

It might not be the place to source a floral watercolour to hang above a mantelpiece, but a conversation piece akin to Tracey Emin’s unmade bed could be there for the haggling... so long as you don’t expect it to come cheap.

Hugo Canoilas’s Dinosaur Paintings series, according to the lads at Workplace, are based on paintings and illustrations by Zdenek Burian (1905-81), a Czech who specialised in palaeontological reconstruction, bringing the prehistoric world to life.

Canoilas became interested when he saw some of these illustrations in a book he bought for his daughter in a thrift store in Vienna.

The artist “epically enlarged” some of the illustrations and rendered them in “a more fluid and gestural style than the originals”.

He then imagined his dinosaurs in conversation, putting into speech bubbles dialogue drawn from Situationist comics (Situationism being an art movement spawned by Surrealism and Dadaism) and from his own readings of poems by the likes of Arthur Rimbaud and Allen Ginsberg.

Wig Worland 2014 We are not in the world, 2014, oil on linen (courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery)
We are not in the world, 2014, oil on linen (courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery)

The Workplace interpretation of the paintings hereafter gets a bit deep, pulling in phrases like “sociopolitical undercurrents” and “foundational ideologies”.

But maybe it’s enough to know that the interesting pictures of talking dinosaurs that the chin-stroking – and quite possibly loaded – denizens of a Los Angeles art fair will be perusing this week owe their presence in California to an art gallery based in an old post office in Gateshead.

The current exhibition at Workplace Gallery, and running until February 21, is curated by North East-based Circa Projects and it is called, simply, Exhibition.

It features work by Matthew Crawley, Henry Coombes, Tim Etchells, Keith Farquhar, Josephine Flynn, Susie Green, Mike Leggett (with Ian Breakwell and John Hilliard) and Cara Tolmie.

It includes a performance by Susie Green, called Fluid Medium, on February 7 from 11am to 1pm (tickets available from the gallery).

No talking dinosaurs, though. You know where you have to go to see them.

Workplace Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 5pm and by appointment. For more details tel. 0191 4772200 or visit www.workplacegallery.co.uk


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