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The mesmerising Newcastle art work that has had people in tears

Photo © Colin Davison

The current exhibition at Newcastle’s Globe Gallery is invisible until darkness falls and a switch is thrown. You stand in the longish, container-shaped gallery at 47 Pilgrim Street and try to look interested in the grey walls and spotlights mounted at skirting board level.

Then comes darkness and then comes switch-on and… ka-boom!

More installation than exhibition, it will take 40 minutes of your time from start to finish.

Over the years I have seen many artists’ audio-visual installations which have been much shorter and soon had me itching to be away.

Could I leave this one? Absolutely not. It held me transfixed, almost literally like a rabbit in headlights, and I could have stayed and watched (and listened) again.

Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt is the work of Gareth Hudson, from Bishop Auckland, who is working towards a PhD at Newcastle University by exploring transcendent and spiritual experience via the techniques and technologies of projection and video art.

As you might expect of a PhD subject, it is all a bit wordy.

But in person, with his shaggy hair and walking boots, Gareth seems like a man with his feet on the ground. Not an airy fairy type at all.

“It’s all about the sublime and transcendental experience,” he tells me in the grey gallery.

“I went round doing field recordings in the Himalayas and across Japan and at various other locations, trying to find those rare moments when you are able to think more deeply and clearly.”

He says it matter-of-factly, as if this were the most normal thing in the world to do. Perhaps it should be.

In the end Gareth settled on four field recordings for this work, all made ‘on the hoof’ and unstaged.

There is the chanting of monks in a Buddhist monastery in Leh, in northern India; there is a choir which Gareth says he can’t name but which sings sacred music beautifully; there is the author Maurice Sendak, famous for his book Where the Wild Things Are, talking movingly about old age and death in a broadcast heard on a car radio; and there is Ian Moss, professor of theoretical cosmology at Newcastle University, talking about the nature and origins of time.

All this was packaged into an experience which you might find unforgettable with the collaboration of sound designer Toby Thirling.

After a little vapour haze has been swirled around the gallery, laser-like beams of light start to shoot towards you from a disc-cum-screen on the far wall of the gallery.

Soon it is as if you are looking down a long tunnel of light towards the screen with its enigmatic swirling image.

As the monks chant, the choir sings and the men speak, the mesmerising quality of the work becomes apparent.

You can leave the viewing bench and walk around – or you can sit like one of Doctor Who’s rookie sidekicks as the Tardis takes off.

Rashida Davison, who has run Globe Gallery in various locations for the past 20 years, talks of Gareth’s perfectionism.

Someone, she confides, thought this was a work worthy of consideration for the Turner Prize.

That may be wishful thinking. The Globe gets no public funding and may therefore be off the track beaten by the judges. But they really should get along and take a look.

Gareth says he was baptised a Methodist, brought up in the Church of England and attended a Catholic school but is an agnostic.

“I’m more interested in how people acquire religion,” he says.He has been gratified by the effect this work has had on people. Some of them have left in tears.

“I just give them a big hug,” he says with a smile.

To this I have to add that as I was watching, a woman came and sat on the seat next to me. Afterwards she said she had been in to see the installation nearly every day since it opened.

Planned as the first of three pieces of work, the installation can be seen until Friday, December 11, from 5-9pm (the gallery is open Wednesday to Friday and admission is free).

Original Article Author: David Whetsone
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