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Vane exhibition in Newcastle explores the territory between fact and fiction

The new group show at the Vane gallery in Newcastle features work by nine artists

A still from video I'm Not Here by Dodda Maggy, an Icelandic artist
A still from video I'm Not Here by Dodda Maggy, an Icelandic artist

There are two kinds of art galleries – those that loudly ply their wares to passers-by and those you have to seek out.

Both have their merits but while the former, being largely commercial, prefer you to enter with a full wallet, the latter, being founded on philosophy and generally lacking a shop window, tend to prefer an open and inquiring mind (although potential purchasers are generally more than welcome).

Vane, which somewhat ironically falls within the second category, can be found on the first floor of Commercial Union House, the one-time office block at 39 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, which is now – albeit temporarily – a hive of artistic activity.

Vane has been around since 1997, emerging from the previous year’s Year of the Visual Arts in the North East, as its name – though much less of an acronym these days – suggests.

It has been on Pilgrim Street since 2011, having been forced to vacate its previous home at the top of Forth Bank when work started to convert it into a new headquarters for Northumbria Police.

The latest Vane exhibition opens tomorrow. It is called Between Fact and Fiction and it features two groups of artists whose work falls loosely into those two categories.

The artists who document real-life situations are Kerstin Drechsel, Michael Mulvihill, Stephen Palmer and Narbi Price. The fantasists are Nick Fox, Simon Le Ruez, Dodda Maggý, Jock Mooney and Morten Schelde.

Dreschel, born near Hamburg, depicts everyday lives “in all their gritty reality, a reality that poignantly underlies their obsessions and aspirations”, according to Vane.

She takes her inspiration, in a wholly modern way, from the internet and other mass media sources. Mulvihill, meanwhile, reveals through his drawings “a dark, apocalyptic vision”. Here, it is suggested, are disasters waiting to happen. Stephen Palmer bases his work on newspaper cuttings while Narbi Price, who was born in Hartlepool and lives in Newcastle, is interested in “the perceived history of spaces”.

Nick Fox’s work is informed by neoclassical painting, Victorian literature, craft, pornography and “cultural codes of desire” while Simon Le Ruez “thrives on both aesthetic and psychological tensions”.

Icelandic artist Dodda Maggý makes “audio-visual narratives” such as I’m Not Here, made in 2009, in which she is there... and then she is not.

Jock Mooney’s contribution is described as “a carnivalesque horror show” while Morten Schelde is also interested in landscape, notably “the intersection of physical and imaginary spaces”.

Does an artist primarily explore the external, perceived world or the internal, psychological world? The answer may well be: a bit of both. But see for yourself, not forgetting to explore a bit of Commercial Union House in the process.

Between Fact and Fiction runs at Vane until March 1. The gallery opens Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 5pm. Admission free. Details: 0191 261 8281 or www.vane.org.uk

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