‘Dominating’ is the one adjective I would use to summarise initial impressions of ‘Erratic Landscapes’. The obvious presence of the rock-like Erratic sculptures that stand serenely in the light, airy space seem paradoxically intimidating and inviting. It was inevitable that these works would change my pattern of movement around the space: on entering the first room one of the Erratics is placed directly in one’s path so as to function as a subtle yet unnerving obstacle. Consequently, this makes the space feel more mapped out and controlled, thus making the viewer feel ‘seduced’ and directed around the space. However, what was unexpected was the domination over my whole thought process after an extended period of time.

I do not intentionally eliminate the other, wall-mounted pieces from my initial response, it is just that it seems the Erratic pieces are so dominantly present in the space in terms of colour and physicality of their faceted surfaces. Indeed, the initially peaceful quality of the artificial environment that is created across the two exhibition spaces is due largely to the intricate and dreamy Cloud drawings composed of hundreds of layered corporate logos showing cartoon-like graphic clouds. ‘Dreamy’ is a key word here: the Erratics, Clouds and the horizon line of the mountains in the Corporate Landscapes series of pen and ink drawings all act as devices to lull one into a trance or dream-like state. Finding yourself roaming this environment – which is oddly familiar due to the allusions to nature – seems almost transgressively thrilling in that we feel we should not be in this new, fresh and untouched landscape.

Of course, the idea of the untouched is quite ironic here: the exhibition is extremely tactile; after spending as little as half an hour in the space, it became apparent how much of an impulse you have to touch the sculptures and to really immerse yourself in their presence. The geometric sharp lines of the Erratic sculptures become increasingly the focus of the pieces, making them feel ever more physically present. The feelings of seduction and subtle guidance that are evident arguably come from the way in which both the sculptures and drawings seem to direct the viewer subconsciously to certain specific positions around the gallery. For instance, the Cloud drawings are dramatically changed by the inclusion of two studies that are on a dark grey ground as opposed to a white one. With examination it seems the positioning of these two works points towards a point at which the viewer is directly stood in a space clear of sculptures and central to the viewing of other Cloud drawings. Also, in the Corporate Landscapes, the various company logos depicting mountain peaks combine to form a continuous range that draws the viewer into an attempt to not only identify the logos but also into navigating along the horizon as it undulates across the paper and around the gallery wall.

The identification of this guiding quality made me think in a wider sense of how this perhaps makes me feel paradoxically both intimidated and invited by the works. The positioning of the sculptures and Cloud drawings as well as the graphic composition of the Corporate Landscapes direct the viewer in a way that is simultaneously seductively pleasurable and unnerving as a seeming lack of control over freedom of movement around the space emerges. Why specifically I may feel unnerved by this navigation around the aesthetically constructed and clean-cut space, I’m not completely sure. However, what I can suggest is that an audience may be disconcerted by the element of ‘organised chaos’ to the exhibition: it is highly organised in terms of the discrete elements making up the pieces, but this is then contrasted with the apparently chaotic layering, movement and final forms within the work confusing our sense of control over both our responses to the content of the work and our movement around the gallery space.

However, this is just my very personal response it is more likely that this question of why a viewer might feel this way is unanswerable. This question in itself says a lot about the nature of our behaviour and how we react to new environments that we are not necessarily prepared to encounter, especially in a gallery space where an audience may feel pressure to grasp the ‘concept’ of a work rather than focusing on how it affects them personally. Hence, as much as I would like to say that this exhibition purely provides us with a new or unusual way of looking at nature and the landscape, on reflection I am increasingly convinced that ‘Erratic Landscapes’ hints at something deeper: the relationship between ourselves and the unknown or sublime, and the worrying limits of control within our possession when confronted by it.

Michaela Hall is a painter and writer and at the time of writing is studying for a BA Hons Fine Art degree at Newcastle University.