Review: Expanded Interiors: Restaged at the Hatton Gallery

Last month I visited the exhibition Expanded Interiors: Restaged (3 July – 10 August 2021) at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The exhibition featured work by the artist Catrin Huber and a commissioned room by artist Rosie Morris. In this review, I relate the exhibition to the wider study of history and its relevance to the modern day.

The study of Classics is often perceived to be redundant in the modern age. Thomas Paine, writing in the eighteenth century, struggled to identify its utility for a progressive society. However, Expanded Interiors: Restaged at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, creatively juxtaposes Roman wall paintings with contemporary art to assert the relevance of the ancient past to the current day.

Catrin Huber created her installation pieces in response to the Roman wall paintings left behind within the former homes of those killed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. At essence, her art speaks to the rhythmic relationships between historical and contemporary spaces as expressed through visual practice.

Catrin Huber, Along or Through (2018).

The main exhibition comprises three rooms by Huber. Along or Through (2018) contains a free-standing wall decorated with abstract patterns. Its vibrant colours contrast brilliantly to the white gallery walls and natural light-filled interior. Attached to the wall are 3D printed face-shaped cups inspired by the original terracotta artefacts encountered by the artist during her research. Their impish expressions engage the viewer to evoke the fictional conversations Huber imagined between the Roman wall painters and herself whilst creating the installations.

In contrast, The Corner Escape (2021) has a dark and private ambience. In the middle of the space is a constructed four-wall structure. Its exterior is aluminium. Curious, the visitor is led clockwise around the structure until they are met with an opening. Once inside, the effect is magnificent: the vibrant illuminated red abstractions emanate glorious warmth.

Catrin Huber, The Corner Escape (2021).

Rosie Morris’ commissioned room continues the theme of domestic privacy. Primarily, this impression is created by the inclusion of a drawn curtain painted realistically in oil and the outline of a fireplace. Patterns inspired by original Roman wall paintings and mosaics are projected into the space, recalling those lives lost to the eruption. The common historical yearning for home suddenly bears the flavour of tragedy.

The exhibition’s careful use of empty spaces and light imbues the air with intense emotions. The ancient past asserts itself by beckoning the visitor to reconceptualise their domestic spaces in response to tragedy. To the imagined discontent of Paine, it can be concluded that Expanded Interiors: Restaged proves the relevance of the old Latin phrase: ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’ (Art is long, life is short).

Detail of light projections and wall text from Rosie Morris’ commissioned room.

For more information on the project, please see the press release here or visit the official site here. Also, for an alternative guide to the exhibition designed by L-Ink Young People’s group and more writing by myself, visit here.

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