Thought Foundation’s new exhibition is for everyBODY

An exhibition exploring the body and provoking the mind has opened at the Thought Foundation. Sam Wonfor took herself along to find out more.


The BODY exhibition at the Thought Foundation in Birtley, Gateshead

The BODY exhibition at the Thought Foundation in Birtley, Gateshead. Credit: NCJ Media

In the almost two years since it opened, the genuine treasure which is the Thought Foundation has lived up to its name with a series of exhibitions designed to inspire and spark wider discussion.
As well as offering stimulation for the eyes and ears too, of course…

An art gallery, corking cafe and bustling community space – which regularly puts the parking provision on Birtley’s Durham Road through its paces – visitors have been invited and encouraged to explore issues around topics such as the environment, Brexit and parenting via immersive exhibitions, which always come with ax extra portion of purpose.

The latest of these is BODY – a group exhibition featuring the work of seven artists working across a variety of artforms to reveal ideas about physical form, mental health, illnesses and inner strength.

“We meet a lot of artists and creative practitioners who explore wide-ranging subject matter, says Thought Foundation co-founder and creative director, Leanne Pearce.

“BODY is a group exhibition but the first artist we met was Donna Barkess, who’s photographic work documenting the breasts of 50 women, was the catalyst to pull together the exhibition under the banner of BODY.”

The BODY exhibition at the Thought Foundation in Birtley, Gateshead

The BODY exhibition at the Thought Foundation in Birtley, Gateshead. Credit: NCJ Media

The artists and work assembled for the month-long exhibition include Alan McGowan’s fleshy, colourful depictions of the human form; local artist Toby Quibel’s responsive life drawings; and Donna Barkess’ aforementioned photography of 50 women’s breasts alongside personal accounts of their bodies.

Then we have Shahar’s film, which documents Soviet gymnasts in synchronisation; Andrew Macphail’s art piece made from bandaids, exploring the stigma living with HIV; sculptor Gemma Wood’s piece, which depicts emotional energy and human experience; and finally Chris Flemming’s graffiti, which looks at the trans community and identity.

“I think visitors will enjoy exploring what body’s mean to other people and identifying with others views too,” says Leanne.

“The artists delve into personal stories in creative ways allowing the visitors to experience unique ways of looking at ourselves.”

Although she’s obviously keen for visitors to soak up the work of all the artists involved, as an artist and painter herself, Leanne says there’s one particular collection of work she’s looking forward to people seeing.

“I am excited for our visitors to see Alan McGowan’s expressive, dynamic paintings of the human form,” she says.

“His use of colour is brave and bold, yet depicts flesh realistically, without being overtly representational.”

As well as the exhibition, which will run until March 31, the Thought Foundation are hosting a conference: Nature, Nurture, Future in partnership with Dr Sheila Quaid from Sunderland University.

“We always have an events programme to enrich the exhibitions at Thought Foundation,” says Leanne.

“The conference will enable wider discussion around many aspects of the exhibition, offering the opportunity for deeper understanding around the topic.”

For more information about the exhibition and the jam-packed events schedule which Thought Foundation deliver, visit the website at Meanwhile their Facebook page is worth a follow too to make sure you don’t miss anything.




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