A new exhibition at a city gallery leafs through the history of one of Wearside’s most historic parks.
Nicola Maxwell spent a year photographing artefacts which once belonged to Edward Backhouse, the Victorian philanthropist and Quaker behind Backhouse Park in Ashbrooke.
The result is The Backhouse Enquiry exhibition, which takes the form of a trail of images stationed throughout the City Library and Arts Centre in Fawcett Street, leading to a collectors’ editioned book that visitors can handle.
The artist examines the Victorian desire to classify and order the natural world around us.
Each of the photographs reveals a natural specimen in extraordinary, hyper-real detail.
Opened in 1923, Backhouse Park, in the grounds of Edward Backhouse’s family home, today includes many of Sunderland’s largest mature trees.
Another new display, which has opened as part of the summer season at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, on the top floor of the arts centre, is Jeffrey Dennis’ largest show in the UK for 30 years.
Over the decades, his work has been held in the Tate collection and Arts Council Collection.
His exhibition, Ringbinder, is on display in the main gallery and consists of a new series of paintings and sculpture.
Aside from staging a concentrated progression of the artist’s work made between 2011 and 2015, the exhibition also attempts to reflect on Dennis’ development since his initial profile in Britain was formed during the early 1980s.
Kathryn Brame from NGCA said: “This was a period that saw a significant international resurgence in painting in parallel with the ‘New Image Painting’ in North America and the ‘Jungen Wilden’ (Young Wild Ones) in Germany, both of which were considered counter-movements to Conceptual Art.
“Subject matter includes graphic Bengali cinema posters, images from a technical handbook of fixtures and fittings retrieved from a skip in the 1970s, as well as films such as Jean Luc Godard’s self-conscious critique of consumerism Two or Three Things I Know About Her; reference points that provide the artist with the tools for constructing enchanted visual spaces in his strange objects.”
Also on display over the summer period is Days by London-based artist Mat Jenner.
Responding to the NGCA’s position of the top floor of Sunderland City Library, the artist has reimagined the gallery as a communal space that encourages visitors to lounge and socialise.
Central to the exhibition is Jenner’s on-going project FOAM, a peripatetic collection of commissioned artist’s sound works. With over 120 artistic works accumulated so far, each work is presented as a unique, one-off 12” record, which visitors are invited to select and play within the gallery space.
Each record is unique and can only be listened to in situ in the gallery.