Alexander Millar at the Hancock Gallery

Yesterday I took a trip to the recently opened Hancock Gallery. A gorgeously converted Georgian townhouse on Jesmond Road West (minutes away from the university, the museum of the same name – where we had planned to go see Dippy on tour, before realising it was half term – and Haymarket metro), it opened in April with an Alexander Millar retrospective.

Free to enter, it’s a pleasing new addition to the city’s art scene. I admit the Millar work was hit and miss for me. I find his work overly sentimental, though some of the landscapes were striking – I liked the images of a lone figure coming to or from work under a Northern sky – and Peaky Blinders fans will find much to love in the room dedicated to the show. The exhibit also featured some of Millar’s newer pieces, striking portraits of figures such as Quentin Crisp and Leigh Bowery.

There was also a guest collection from the Balman Gallery, which was more to my taste – I was particularly taken by the Milt Kobayashi pieces.

Chatting to a woman who worked there, she told me they plan to host 4-5 exhibitions a year, so add this to your art map of the city. It’s certainly a great place to have a quiet and contemplative wander just moments from the noise and bustle of the city.

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Warhol in Edinburgh

As per my previous post, I was in Edinburgh this week. Mainly this was to see a show – Cora Bissett’s excellent What Girls Are Made of – but it also provided a great chance to catch up with friends.

My friend A and her husband moved back to Scotland a few years ago, and I hadn’t seen their new place since, so A & I met for drinks and dinner before the show (an OK-but not-stellar chips and halloumi burger at Red Squirrel, mostly because it was handy for the theatre, though it was a perfectly fine stopping point: friendly staff, very decent selection of veggie options). I stayed the night at their gorgeous house, which gave me major home envy: my room (just one of their guest rooms!) had an en suite, and the whole place was just so lovely and elegantly fitted out, I am now planning to secretly move in and see how long till they notice (it’s a big house – could be a while)…

A and I stayed up chatting till the early hours, so I admit I was more than a little hungover when I went back into town the next day to meet my friend D, through from Glasgow. Still, we didn’t let that deter us from taking in some culture, and decided to head to the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art.

It’s been years since I have been – I’ve never even set foot in Modern Two – but we started there, keen to see I want to be a machine, an exhibition of Andy Warhol and Eduardo Paolozzi pieces that included many of the famous Warhol prints and movie posters. I’m less familiar with Paolozzi, but his work was a fascinating counterpoint, and the exhibit is well laid out across five rooms, with plenty of explanation as to what’s what and why it matters. It’s also free, which is always a bonus.

NOW at Modern One was more of a mixed bag. A selection of works by Monster Chetwynd, Henry Coombes, Moyna Flannigan, Betye Saar, and Wael Shawky, it covered most of the ground floor, and some bits took me more than others, though as again it was free, I was happy to have a mooch.

D and I then had lunch and a wander, before he had to head back to Glasgow, so before my evening train I met A again for a few drinks in a pub off the Royal Mile (we powered bravely through our hangovers). The pub had a sign on the bar that said ‘those that drink langest live langest’ and at this rate A and I will be around till our 80s…

Exposed and the Last Ships at the Laing

Yesterday, I went to the Laing Art Gallery for the first time in decades – another old haunt that I hadn’t yet got round to revisiting. But, spurred on by having a guest, I decided to check out the Exposed exhibition that is running at the moment. Titled Exposed: The Naked Portrait, this is a well curated show that includes a number of familiar images and many less well-known ones, and smartly considers the different ways of being naked or nude (as well as the differences between those two states), and different power dynamics between the viewer, artist and subject. Definitely worth checking out, it runs till March and full price tickets are £8.

As well as a wander round the rest of the gallery – which is a perfect size to pop in and wander without feeling overwhelmed by not being able to do everything, as you can easily cover it all in one visit – I went to the Chris Killip exhibition, The Last Ships. This free show (which is on their site as running till 2020) is worth checking out if you have any interest in the local region or industrial photography. A one-room exhibit, it features evocative black and white pictures of Wallsend and the last big ships built at Swan Hunters, and includes some stunning images of the giant ships dominating the landscape, capturing the influence they had over people’s lives, as well as the impact of their departure.

Quayside market and Ouseburn Open

Terrible weather didn’t deter me from taking a wander around Ouseburn open weekend, where lots of the local studios – including The Biscuit Factory and Lime Street Studios – throw open their doors and you get a chance to meet the artists.

It was a lovely event – I could have spent a fortune, but limited myself to a picture and a couple of greeting cards. We also stopped for coffee in Hotel du Vin, which is a great pit stop in the area, in a beautifully repurposed building.

The biggest surprise of all though was the Quayside market. When I was growing up this was mainly somewhere packed with cheap shell suits and (probably) knock off DVDs, but now it is a foodie paradise with a range of great stalls. Definitely one for a return visit!

After Dark Exhibition at Northern Stage

As regular readers will know, I am already a local at Northern Stage, and if I am not seeing a show there, I can still regularly be found in the cafe, writing over a cup of coffee.

But there are other treats in the building, and downstairs at the minute is a fascinating photography exhibition celebrating 25 years of BalletLORENT, on display before the venue hosts a four-night celebration in November.

Even if ballet isn’t your thing, the black and white photos are a interesting look at performance and bodies – and since it’s free and on the way to the ladies loos, you might as well have a look.

The Biscuit Factory

Went for a birthday brunch to The Factory Kitchen at the Biscuit Factory, in the newly revitalised Ouseburn. I have been to the gallery before, and liked it, but never eaten at any of the eateries. The Factory Kitchen is, I think, the most affordable, and I will definitely be going back: the grilled cheese sandwich was one of the best I have ever had, and my companion was equally taken with her eggs Benedict. The only downside was it was so filling that even after we took a break to walk around the art and enjoy a pop up jewellery shop (the main gallery also sells some lustworthy pieces), we were still so full that her plan to buy me a slice of cake was thwarted and we had to settle for another coffee instead…

Baltic Mill

One of the most iconic symbols of Gateshead regeneration, the Baltic is a stunning building put to good use. My friend S & I wandered down after our delicious brunch at Backyard Bike Shop, past all the preparations for the Great North Run at the weekend.

From the viewing box at the top that has one of the best views in the city, we worked our way down from floor to floor. Most of the place was dominated by pieces for the Great Exhibition of the North, my favourite of which was a photography show done in collaboration with the Side, Women by Women, featuring black and white pictures taken in the region. (And it’s all free!)

A slightly dry cheese scone and a cup of coffee in the cafe and a mooch around the fabulous gift shop completed our visit, and we were ready to head for a beer…