Political chaos and social distress are driving people northwards, and the pressures of climate change may yet force the movement even of those populations whose states and economies are presently stable. In the scope of a small exhibition, curated by Libby Howie, ‘To the North’ uses works by three British artists, the sculptor, Sir Antony Gormley, the photographer Cristian Barnett, and the painter Billy Childish, to suggest ideas about what we will find, what will challenge us, and what we will transform, as we make the journey north.
Cristian Barnett’s photographs record his encounters with the redoubtable individuals who inhabit the countries of the Arctic Circle. Their portraits express self–reliance and sheer physical toughness, but also suggest that these men and women are freer to live as they please than the more regimented societies of the South, in spite of the challenges that their communities now face. They endure – but they also extemporize, invent and enjoy.
The landscape of the North has been a lifelong theme for Billy Childish. Sometimes his worlds of forests, rivers, ice, and cool light are peopled by fishermen or woodsmen, sometimes by the artist himself, sometimes only by ourselves as witnesses. They offer a sense of the north as a space in which we might move and enact our own liberty with only the constraint of harmonizing and working with our surroundings.
Antony Gormley’s ‘The Angel of the North’, is one of 12 maquettes made in 1996 for the huge steel sculpture that greets travellers as they journey north past Gateshead. In a disordered world the figure abides, resolute and welcoming – and a reminder in its powerful physicality that migration is the movement, not of ‘swarms’ or ‘hordes’ but of individual, embodied human beings.
The exhibition will run from 19th January until 9th March. It will be open for public viewing on Sundays between these dates from 2pm to 5pm, and, in February only, on Mondays from 5pm until 7pm. Darwin College members and alumni are invited to visit the exhibition at any time in the period during weekday office hours when the room is not otherwise being used - check with the Porters in advance if you are making a special trip.