Ranging from well-seasoned professionals to artists just starting out, the exhibition’s main draw is the platform it lends to creative talent within the region, with BALTIC specifically stating they hope to provide ‘visibility’ to the creatives being featured. I spoke to painter Leah Sarah Coxon, and photographers Amir Dehghan and Amber Brown - three young artists who have their work featured in Open Submission.
Coxon’s painting, “Leda & the Swan (Through Contemporary Eyes)” seeks to reimagine the greek myth post #MeToo, highlighting the prevalence of rape fantasy in art history. “I was really shocked and delighted to be chosen to exhibit with other northern artists from over 540 applications. I’ve visited the Baltic for years, so it’s really cool to know that one of my paintings is currently there; it has really helped to boost my confidence in showcasing my work” states Coxon, drawing light to the significance such an opportunity hold for younger artists.
Brown seeks to capture the post-industrial landscape of the northeast. With her photography so rooted in the region, having her work featured in such a major and iconic gallery is a huge step: “As a Northern artist, the idea of home and our land’s past are both integral ideas behind my work. Graduating from art school without a degree show, the BALTIC Open Exhibition is the first place where the work is physically exhibited, beyond a screen or publication which we’ve become accustomed to through the pandemic. Existing in both an online and physical sense provides many new ways of engaging but having the work printed and framed definitely made it feel more complete. It’s wonderful that BALTIC have been able to extend the show and hopefully open to the public in the summer. It was always important to showcase my work in the NE, so having that opportunity to be showcased amongst a wide range of Northern artists is very exciting. More spaces running major open calls is definitely a way to get people involved, whilst nurturing the local art scene!”
Through his work, Dehghan focuses the western gaze on the punishment awarded for drinking and partying in Iran and the underground scene that still persists. Dehghan claims his work seeks to "normalise oppression by highlighting the extremities of Iranian politics in a culturally neutral light, softening the sharp edges of oppression by translating them into a western context."
"1466 Lashes" is the name of the work being displayed in BALTIC, artwork that consists of "a series of portraits taken at an underground party in Shiraz, Iran. The portraits are accompanied by a text-based work that quotes the penal code of Iran, in which it states various laws that enforce lashes. Each portrait is stamped with the number of lashes they owe, and the title is the total amount of lashes owed within the 6 portraits. The remainder is the number of lashings I am owed. All of the pictures have been censored using an analog method in the darkroom. I have chosen to censor the images to maintain the political security of the people involved."
All of these pieces are available to view now via a virtual tour, however the exhibition will run until 5th September 2021, hopefully giving us a chance to see the work in person.
Featured Image: BALTIC Open Submission installation view, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art 2020. Photo: Rob Harris © 2020 BALTIC