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Study event review: Newcastle - The Open College of the Arts

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Study event review: Newcastle

A group of students from the North East took the opportunity to explore the Baltic Gateshead exhibitions for the day along with OCA tutor Cheryl Huntbach. The Baltic focuses entirely on contemporary art and the three exhibitions showed an interesting range of contemporary artists’ work.

We discussed ways to approach looking at contemporary art exhibitions and Cheryl encouraged us to use our sketchbooks/notebooks and cameras to note our reactions to the work. We also discussed aspects of distance learning including working with other artists and mentors, and staying in touch with fellow students.

Ifeoma U Anyaeji’s exhibition Ezuhu ezu – In(complete) showcases her elaborate crafted sculptures made from plastic waste. She uses a Nigerian hair wrapping technique to turn plastic bags into ropes which she uses to form her sculptures. Her work is painterly in her use of colour and warm, tactile and full of energy while at the same time highlighting the non-biodegradable nature of plastic waste.

Survey is a round-up of 15 early career artists organised by Jerwood Arts and included work from disciplines including painting, ceramics, film, performance, podcast, sculpture, drawing and collage. 

John Akomfrah’s Ballasts of Memory includes the European premiere of Precarity which tells the story of Buddy Bolden, the African American cornetist and key figure in the development of jazz music who suffered from mental illness and was confined in an asylum for more than 20 years. The three screens and music/speech audio presented a lyrical meditation on Bolden’s life and the landscape of the American South and New Orleans within wider themes including colonialism and climate change. The exhibition is also showing The Unfinished Conversation (2012) which explores the personal and public archive of cultural theorist and political activist Stuart Hall and Psyche (2012) which explores the importance of the face in film.

Student Lynda Wearn said: ‘A very enjoyable study visit to see two very powerful exhibitions (Anyaeji and Akomfrah). Cheryl was very helpful and her comments and support improved the experience so that I was able to understand and appreciate the exhibitions better.’

Student Emma Wilson said: ‘Being able to discuss the work with fellow students and tutor Cheryl Huntbach really enhanced the experience of visiting these exhibitions. There was also time to discuss general issues around being a student which was also helpful.’

Student Lucille Deeming said: “Small numbers made for an excellent teaching and networking experience with our tutor. Excellent venue with splendid resources enhancing the learning experience around the exhibitions of Ifeoma U. Anyaeji and John Akomfrah.”


John Akomfrah, Precarity 2017. Ballasts of Memory installation view BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art 2019. Photo: Rob Harris © 2019 BALTIC. Courtesy of the artist, Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery

Ifeoma U. Anyaeji, Bonendale nke abo 2015 (installation view), BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Photo: Colin Davison. © 2019 BALTIC

Survey 2019 BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art installation view. Supported by Jerwood Arts, commissioned by Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Photo: Rob Harris © 2019 BALTIC

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Posted by author: Emma Wilson

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