A ROUGH and ready-looking mountain hut is waiting to greet visitors to Baltic’s ground-floor gallery and those stepping inside (queues permitting) are in for a surprise.
The view you might expect outside a mountain cabin is actually inside this one, with a hillside mound confronting you inside the wooden door and, underfoot, soil, rocks and stones and the type of hardy plants that survive in high altitudes.
The exhibit, A Clearing, is one of three commissions by the Gateshead gallery to mark its 10th birthday year and Newcastle-based artist Richard Rigg has transported a little bit of Scotland to create a mountain landscape under its roof.
Rigg, who’s represented by Workplace Gallery up the road in Gateshead’s West Street – where he most recently held an exhibition in 2010 followed last year by one in Bologna, Italy – has previously shown a bell jar, at Baltic as part of its 2010 Cage Mix: Sculpture & Sound exhibition which paid tribute to experimental American composer John Cage, but this is his first solo show there.
Its title is Lacuna which, he says, “has quite a few different meanings”.
“It can be a break, or a missing part of a manuscript, suggesting something not there,” he says.
In the case of a mountain, he’s struck by how “on a cloudy day, the mist descends and suddenly it’s gone, although the presence of it is there. It’s an absence having a presence.”
The specific location of A Clearing isn’t important. Rigg, not an avid mountain walker, says there’s no revealing personal connection with his chosen subject.
“I do like mountains – but I also like rubbish bins!” he says.
He’s more interested in creating a slightly out of time feel, perhaps triggering a memory for viewers who do connect with it.
Made from recycled timber suggesting age, even the moment of decay, his hut was largely made on-site with gallery staff helping stick down those loose stones so visitors can more easily clamber around inside.
They came from the Torridon area of the Scottish Highlands where he had a residency. “I wanted to use really old stones and this area had the second oldest stones in the UK.”
The mountains there date from the Precambian period, pre-dating human life. The stones piled up in Rigg’s hut chime with his idea of being “out of time”.
Rigg, originally from Penrith in Cumbria, came to Newcastle to study for a BA in fine art.
Now 31 and living in Fenham, he says: “I thought I wanted to move to a bigger city but I really like Newcastle. There’s a really good set of artists and people here.
“It’s also really nice having the countryside on your doorstep.”
He’s built up a reputation for playful and often humorous works that show everyday objects in a new light, encouraging us to think twice.
Early works included a photographic record of the vanishing trace of a knot and two telegraph poles installed in a gallery to create a different view of its architecture and space.
Last year saw him nominated for the prestigious Northern Art Prize but Lacuna is his most ambitious work to date. It can be seen at Baltic until August 27.