‘Baldock Pope Zahle’ presents a new sculptural installation by Jonathan Baldock, and newly commissioned work by Nicholas Pope and Maria Zahle in Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art’s spacious and newly opened up main gallery. The exhibition brings together artists of different generations who each explore an inquisitive relationship to materials and making. The show has been conceived as a conversation around shared formal and thematic approaches and, while the work is diverse, each artist makes sculpture that is resolutely unmonumental. In using materials such as glass, textiles and ceramics — Baldock, Pope and Zahle translate their own circumstances and lived experiences into exuberant and highly emotive work.
Whether it is through a process of stitching, drawing or glass blowing; the body and its myriad of imperfections are mirrored in the wonky, the awkward and asymmetrical. While each artist has often worked on a larger scale, their respective work has remained tied to the intimacy of the handmade. Baldock presents a carpeted installation including domestically scaled figurative sculptures. The artist’s recent work has focused on a highly stylised articulation of the human body, combining Modernist and folkloric motifs. The artist’s cast of enigmatic sculptures and constructed objects are like characters from an imagined theatrical production. With their distended anthropomorphism and their frequent use of bright colours and soft materials, Baldock’s sculptures are luxuriant and sensual, yet these sensibilities remain tempered by qualities that resist easy assimilation.
Nicholas Pope, working with master glass maker James Maskrey, has made a new series of 14 glass chalices inspired by the Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins. Made over a six month period at the National Glass Centre in 2015, this commission is the first time Pope has worked with glass. Working from the artist’s original drawings, the glass chalices translate mark making into glass blowing, manifesting a complex relationship between artist and maker. Maskrey, a glass maker with over 25 years experience, noted that the commission was one of his most technically demanding projects to date. With the drawings displayed alongside the chalices, audiences are offered a unique opportunity to see this translation in proximity. To accompany the exhibition, Pope’s ‘Yahweh and the Seraphim’ (1995) is presented in the UK for the first time at Sunderland Minster. Last displayed at the Stedelijk Museum in Holland, the sculpture articulates Pope’s theological interests, leading on from the artist’s recent installation of ‘Apostles Speaking in Tongues’ at Salisbury Cathedral in 2014.
Maria Zahle’s work traverses the 30 metre expanse of the main gallery. Using rip-stop nylon, the sculpture zig-zags from floor to ceiling across the exhibition cutting the space in two. By responding to the architecture of the gallery, with its expansive floor space and low ceiling, the artist’s work frames both the building and the spectator’s movement through the exhibition. Zahle’s signature use of rip-stop nylon, a textile used for making kites and sails, amplifies the material’s inherent lightness and strength. Zahle, much like Baldock and Pope, brings a delicacy to her chosen materials. Zahle also presents two sculptures made in sandcast bronze, and in both scale and stature the works are reminiscent of the human figure.
Alongside ‘Baldock Pope Zahle’, Nick Evans and Lorna Macintyre present the joint exhibition, ‘Ur Phenomenon’ in gallery 2. The starting point for ‘Ur Phenomenon’ was Nick Evans’ formative experience of seeing Pope’s sculpture ‘The Apostles Speaking in Tongues Lit by Their Own Lamps’ (1993-96) at Tate gallery in the late Nineties as a student. Recalling the encounter recently, Evans invited Macintyre, in conversation with Pope, to take a series of photographs of the sculptor’s house and studio in Herefordshire.
The silver gelatin prints are displayed alongside Evans’ sculptures and studio ephemera, creating an environment that amplifies the shared affinities between each artist, filtered through the implied, if absent, work of Pope. By invoking the studio, the installation blurs the distinction between the privacy of production and the publicness of display. While Pope’s work inspired a conversation between Macintyre and Evans, her documentation of his work remains oblique. She presents a portrait of an artist through an idiosyncratic landscape of objects as much as through their work. The lyrical photographs gesture towards his influence, forming a type of formal and conceptual reverberation across generations.
Nicholas Pope’s glass chalices will be touring to Chapter in Cardiff. The exhibition ‘Sticky Intimacy’ opens on the 8th July and will be accompanied by work by Emma Hart and Katie Cuddon and is curated by Hannah Firth. ‘Baldock Pope Zahle’ has been initiated by NGCA curator George Vasey and is generously supported by Sunderland City Council, The National Glass Centre, Henry Moore Foundation, Chapter, C’Art, Arts Council England, Grosserer L.F. Foghts Fond, Hope Scott Trust and Elephant Trust.