‘Encounters’ documented artist, Susanne Strassmann’s encounters with people in the North East that identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community. The exhibition came about after a series of encounters itself – Rashida, our director, met queer academic Gareth Longstaff which initiated a conversation about art and the gay community. Rashida then met Susanne, and together they created the concept for the exhibition.
Over the course of a week, the Gallery was transformed into a working artist’s studio, with the live portraits set to take place in a window facing the ever busy Pilgrim Street. The models were free to dress and pose as they please. As the public went about their busy day, the careful process of painting taking place in the window symbolised a detail and depth that we often miss in our fast paced lives.
After the paintings were completed, they were exhibited on the 18thof May. The exhibition sought to capture a community but also to question the adequacy of any label when portraying an individual who is entirely unique and multidimensional.
Susanne Strassmann is a German artist who lives and works in Marseilles, France. She brings her art into the spaces we live: pubs, offices, canteens, schools. Sitting with ordinary people in ordinary spaces, she opens up the usually private private dialogue between artist and sitter, creating a dynamic that is both intimate and public. Her portraits are symbols of inclusion, inspired by the location they are painted and the uniqueness of the individual. They memorialise an encounter that can then be shared by others when the paintings move to a gallery.