James Whitman

Author, playwright and creative writing tutor, based in Sunderland.


Slabs (by Barrie West and Harry Gallagher)

Today is a new day, exactly like all the others.
Harry Gallagher

I spent this evening helping Barrie West hang his new exhibition — Slabs — at The Bridges in Sunderland. I say ‘helping’, but I mostly mean ‘standing about like the impractical lump of writer I am, setting a new land speed record for eating vegan sushi’.

I do love Barrie’s work, though. It’s so thoughtful and precise, and is super accessible. Like me, Barrie is into crossing the streams between different art forms, and he is aided and abetted here by local poet, Harry Gallagher.

The core idea behind Slabs is re-imagining ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. And what better place for them than a shopping centre, our modern day pyramids? There are ten ‘slabs’, each depicting four lone figures (with the occasional couple) going about their day-to-day business. Beneath each figure is a short poem, exploring the internal landscape of these characters.

It really is a beautiful collection of paintings, blending Barrie’s meticulously crafted images with some remarkably affecting micro-poetry. Better still, it’s in a central venue in the city centre, meaning it will get lots of curious eyes on it.

If you fancy a look yourself, Slabs is in the corridor that goes past the lavs (affectionately known as the back passage, or the rear exit). This is no reflection on the work itself, of course, which is proper mint and not even slightly pooey.

Oh, and if you happen to see the paintings, do send Barrie a message on his Facebook page to let him know what you think.

Until next time… toodle-oo!

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