Eleanor Wright is the Warwick Stafford Research Fellow for 2012/13 and Gallery North presents her solo exhibtion Thin Cities.
Public Preview: 12 September 2013, 6pm
Exhibition: 13 September - 17 October 2013, weekdays 10am - 4pm
Brand-focused developments have become the corporate building type for an increasingly global industry and architecture. Eleanor Wright's current project, Thin Cities, presented following a year-long fellowship at the BxNU Institute of Contemporary Art at BALTIC 39 examines the socio-political, architectural and visual discourse surrounding these constructions and questions their relationship to cities and people.
Over the past two years, Wright has been investigating the architecture and product designs of Zaha Hadid. Hadid's practice is at the forefront of computer-aided design in architecture and she is widely considered a prime architect of the digital age. Many of her buildings are characterized by an external 'skin' that stretches over an internal structure, forming a shell-like casing over the more fundamental parts of the building's structural elements.
In June 2013 Wright traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan to see the recently completed Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre designed by Hadid. The public building, which houses a gallery space, museum and conference centre, is exemplary of her architecture's dramatically converging lines, planes and curves. Without a single straight line in the design, the exterior facade and internal spaces visually and physically draw you along, exploding out into various spatial pockets intended for display or reflection. Promotional text refers to the building as one continuous skin, folding in and out of the landscaped plaza that was built for it to sit within.
In July 2012 only a few months after its soft opening, the centre caught fire, allegedly due to some welders still working on the building that had not followed protocol. Although the damage was purely cosmetic (due to only the building's 'skin' being affected), a deeper, unreplenishable damage may have occurred to the building's intended image as an icon.
Baku, like countless other cities intent on encouraging tourism, seeks to project a clean, global identity by amassing its urban fabric with new cultural landmarks that signify progress and modernity. Through this event, the building's facade, in all its computer-generated perfection was both literally and iconographically ruptured by fire and smoke.
The blurring of sculpture and architecture through digital technology is producing fantastical surfaces and forms, which are becoming permanent features of our environment. Acting like colossal public sculptures, Wright is interested in the tangibility of such constructions, their relationship to ground and the incongruity they sometimes have with their surroundings.
Eleanor Wright's approach to sculpture is rooted in her reading of the signs and symbols she encounters. Her reading is careful and detailed, centring on the action of man and his relationship to urban landscape. In that sense, Newcastle appears as a symptomatic place that is relatively transparent about the social and ideological characteristics that have determined the artificial construction of our urban centres.
Since such processes are happening throughout the world, increasingly melting the idiosyncrasy of previous cities into one single mode, the core reflection in Thin Cities, as in many other projects by Wright, does not deal so much with the topos of place making, as much as about its process of dissolution.
Responding to the architecture of the Gallery, Eleanor Wright will create an installation that reconsiders the affinities and dialogues between the city of Newcastle and contemporary global architecture.
The show expands on Wright's participation in the group exhibition Switch (BALTIC 39, 2012) for which she constructed a series of sculptural works that drew parallels between the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and a ring from Zaha Hadid's luxury jewellery collection.
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