Project 1
16 Feb- 20 March 2010

The Realm of Possibilities

by Irene Brown

This inaugural exhibition explores the Wunderkammer as an intriguing predecessor to post-modern ideas related to the potential for meaning to emerge from chaos. How objects can be displayed in such a way as to stimulate the search for inter-relationships, allowing the viewer a dynamic interactive rapport with the objects. It explores the belief that encouraging ‘free viewing’, with no such thing as a fixed meaning, engaging with post-modern notions of plural narrative, encourages audiences to create their own meaning as opposed to passively accepting and consuming.

“Things summarily grouped according to laws that defy formulation - those of external accidents or imponderable and arbitrary leaps of the unconscious are torn from their mundane, everyday significance and mysti-fied, made free once more and capable of assuming a meaning that is mysterious and irrational: what is made mysterious (….) is reality”

The Gallery of Wonder provides an area for “contamination”, the place for chance encounters, where hidden meanings may be discovered. The space between the objects displayed is a place in which to make imaginative leaps.

Wonder has a reputation for being associated with the bizarre and the grotesque but, unlike Robert Hughes’s ‘Shock’ or Mike Kelly’s ‘Uncanny’, wonder is positive in character, being specifically linked with curiosity, hope and expectation of future knowledge . Wonder provokes a specific kind of attentive looking and creative thinking in the spectator. The viewer expects to be able to decipher some particular information if only they look hard enough.

“A certain kind of looking, the origins of which lie in the cult of the marvellous and hence in the artworks capacity to generate in the spectator surprise, delight, admiration, and intimations of genius. …For it is one of the distinctive achievements of our culture to have fashioned this type of gaze, and one of the most intense pleasures it has to offer”.


1 Albert Beguin quoted by A. Breton, De l’humour noir, Paris, 1937, Quoted in Patrick Mauries, 2002, Cabinets of Curiosities. Thames and Hudson.

2 Robert Hughes ‘The Shock of the New’ 1980, The BBC broadcast The Shock of the New, Hughes's television series on the development of modern art since the Impressionists. It was accompanied by a book of the same name.Mike Kelly ‘ The Uncanny’ exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, 20 February -3 May 2004, and Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, 15July - 31 October 2004. Catalogue for The Uncanny, by Mike Kelley, with essays by Mike Kelley, John C. Welchman, Christop Grunenberg, Verlag der Buchandlung Walther König,

3 Karp and Lavine, 1991, Exhibiting Cultures, CH3 Resonance and Wonder by Stephen Greenblatt, Smithsonian Institution Press.


Biography: Irene Brown graduated from Nottingham Polytechnic, with a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Fine Art Sculpture in 1983 and an MFA from Reading University in 1987.  She has over 20 years experience of combining a full time lecturing post with a professional career as an artist.  Specialising in site specific temporary installations and permanently sited public art her work has explored ideas relating to the inviolability of a site.  Irene has exhibited nationally and internationally and has several permanently sited artworks in the North East in South Shields,  Ashington and Newcastle.  Her working methods include sculpture, printmaking and photography and artworks often contain kinetic elements, lighting and optical illusions.  Irene is currently  Head of Fine Art at Newcastle University.