'Baldock Pope Zahle' presents a new sculptural installation by Jonathan Baldock, and newly commis-sioned 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. Within the exhibition Jonathan Baldock will present 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) will be 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 will be creating a work that will traverse the 30 metre expanse of the main gallery. Using rip-stop nylon, the sculpture will zig-zag 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 the 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 will also show two sculptures made in sandcast bronze, and in both scale and stature the work will be reminiscent of the human figure.
The exhibition will be supplemented with new writing, events, talks and workshops across the NGCA and Sunderland Minster engaging the public in the themes of the exhibition. Nicholas Pope's glass chalices will be touring to Chapter in Cardiff, opening on the 8th July and will be accompanied by further commissions in an exhibition 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, Chapter, C'Art, Arts Council England, and Grosserer L.F. Foghts Fond.