I wrote previously about a visit to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I recently visited again, this time to sing Tippett’s Child of Our Time and the (very fantastic) Berlioz Te Deum, in the rather attractive Sage concert hall. This is just next to the Baltic Art Gallery:
The Baltic is a converted flour mill that seems quite popular with the local birdlife:
I would have described the birds as seagulls, but I read an interesting sign underneath the Tyne Bridge telling me that the bridge is home to the farthest inland colony of breeding kittiwakes in the world. The bridge and ledges of nearby buildings, such as the Baltic, are a substitute for sea-cliffs. I rather suspect therefore that these are kittiwakes. My suspicions were confirmed by this story which suggests that not everyone is pleased to see the birds making themselves at home in the city.
Inside the Baltic Gallery there are several floors linked by elevators and a scary metal stairwell:
I saw three exhibitions. One included some of Harland Miller’s work, large paintings based on dust jackets of old Penguin books, but with a twist. I particularly liked D.H. Lawrence. Dirty Northern bastard and Bridlington: Coastal erosion – not all bad news. Another floor showed Sarah Sze’s work, Tilting Planet. It was a large-scale installation, or series of installations, made out of small, everyday things. I liked the way she created patterns that looked like they had grown organically, like mould spreading. I also liked that contrast between the overall scale and the individual scale (such as thin threads that stretched the whole length of the room).
Finally there was A Duck for Mr Darwin , a collection of works by different artists “exploring evolutionary thinking and the Theory of Natural Selection“. I found it a bit of a curate’s egg. I loved Mark Fairnington’s close ups of the eyes of wild animals – circular paintings with a single eye in the centre. Dorothy Cross’ film Jellyfish Lake was mesmerising, pulsating jellyfish moving through the water. The film Pre-Retroscope by Conrad Shawcross was interesting and clever – showing a 360 degree view taken from a rowing boat. Marcus Coates’ film Intelligent Design was also interesting, showing an attempted mating between giant tortoises on the Galapagos islands. They are remarkable animals.
Personally, I failed to encompass all of the works into one vision of Darwin or evolution. I’m not sure if it was my failure or a failure of the exhibition. But I have my suspicions.
From the viewing gallery on the top floor of the Baltic there are rather fine views of the Millennium bridge. Also called the Newcastle Eye, it is a footbridge of unusual design that can be tilted to allow larger boats to pass under. Here it is at rest:
and here it is raised, with a tourist boat passing underneath:
Thanks to Wikipedia I learnt that
Six 45 cm diameter Hydraulic rams (three on each side, each powered by a 55 kW electric motor) rotate the bridge back on large bearings to allow small ships and boats (up to 25 m tall) to pass underneath. The bridge takes as little as 4.5 minutes to rotate through the full 40° from closed to open.
Finally, we went along to the Centre for Life – nice logo, shame about the sculpture. I can’t help wondering whether there shouldn’t be a moratorium on creating scupltures with a double helix theme.