L-INK Expanded Interiors Re-Staged interpretation

L-INK, our young people's art group, has created an interpretation leaflet for the Expanded Interiors Re-Staged exhibition. Here, you will find this in an accessible format.

Expanded Interiors - Introduction

Design by Caroline Reeves

The Roman poet, Horace (65BC – 8BC), explained to Emperor Augustus that Roman civilisation was indebted to Greece. Art was a large part of this: wealthy Romans collected Greek works and commissioned copies when the originals were unavailable. They understood their culture as indebted to another. Thousands of years later and our society remains in constant dialogue with the classical past. Expanded Interiors (2021) recognises and explores this continuum.

Transferred from the original sites in Pompeii and Herculaneum, the exhibition by Catrin Huber has been creatively installed at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, along with works commissioned by Rosie Morris. The dialogue has been extended to a city which retains many visible signs of its Roman history: Hadrian’s Wall cuts through Newcastle, names inspired by the ancient past are scattered around like confetti, and much of the city’s architecture, including the Hatton Gallery itself, is inspired by classical design.

Despite these visible continuations, there are many disjunctions between us and the Roman lives that inhabited the city. For example, most of us can no longer relate to combat fighting, nor do we attribute causation to the mood of certain gods. However, a major commonality which Expanded Interiors explores is domesticity. Like the Romans whose wall paintings Huber and Morris responded to, interiors continue to be part of our identity. The exhibition provides another voice in this dialogue through its insight into life behind closed doors.

Visual impression within domestic spaces continues to be incredibly important to our sense of self and understanding of others. The long-standing success of the TV show Through the Keyhole (1987 – 2019) is testament to this idea: viewers enjoy watching contestants judge mystery celebrities’ living spaces. The importance of domestic display in relation to self-identity is further illustrated by the longevity of Mike Leigh’s iconic play, Abigail’s Party (1977). The living room of the main characters, Beverly and Laurence Moss, is decorated with cheap Lowry and Van Gogh reproductions to signify the cultural aspirations – and inauthenticity – of the owners. The Roman wall paintings explored by Huber and Morris form part of this complex visual vocabulary.

Mary Beard and John Henderson (1995: 6) argue that ‘The aim of Classics is not only to discover or uncover the ancient world […] Its aim is also to define and debate our relationship to that world.’ The alternative guide produced by a group of young people in response to Expanded Interiors is testament to this dialogue. As visitors in ancient Rome would have entered the domestic spaces and learned about the owners based on the wall art they encountered, we – as a group of young people living in the North East – have been granted access to these spaces through the artistic interpretations of Huber and Morris. The ensuing debates are contained within a guide which we hope will provoke further questions and reflections upon how we relate to the past, along with the public and private spheres of life we continue to navigate.

Written by Ella Nixon

Guide Introduction

Expanded Interiors is a restaged exhibition, born from site-specific art in response to the Roman site Herculaneum in Italy. It has been restaged at the Hatton, in ways bringing Herculaneum to you, transporting you to this space in a time where travel is limited. The exhibition highlights the impact of space, homes, and thresholds, present and past. How we leave personal touch in spaces, decorate with colour and ornaments, conjugate in living spaces, move through them, or the way the natural environment like light finds its way in. How a private space can speak publicly. Space is a sensory experience: what can you see, smell, touch, hear, taste? This exhibition invites you to ponder space, utilising the Hatton’s space to explore illusory spaces and question how you experience and occupy space, particularly those personally and those presented here.

Written by Caitlin Milne

On Colour

Cinnamon Satin

 It may not be the Pompeiian red used in Catrin Huber’s works, but this pink still deserves a special mention. While red, or more specifically Pompeiian red, has connotations of fire, blood, hell, and the erotic, pink is a youthful version of its more intense sibling. In modern times, pink represents girls and femininity, evoking the mental imagery of cotton candy and bubble gum. The Romans also associated pink with women but for a slightly different reason. Although the Romans viewed pale faces as beautiful, they also considered a light pink on the cheeks attractive as it signified good health. Too much rouge, however, made women look “showy” (according to Greek philosopher Plutarch). If you want to try your hand at the Roman version of blush, try rose and poppy petals, red chalk, or, for those of you feeling particularly brave, crocodile dung. 

Yellow Pantone

Yellow is everywhere you look in Pompeii’s murals, from skin tones to solid backgrounds to snakes. To the Romans, yellow represented gold, and understandably so. The yellow you can still see on Roman murals usually came from yellow ochre, but when it came to clothing, Romans actually had two different sources for the colour: the expensive Saffron Yellow, and the cheaper Weld yellow. The more expensive Saffron Yellow was produced from the bright red stigmas of the saffron crocus (with a name like “Saffron Yellow”, that was to be expected), which was found in areas of the Mediterranean including Spain and Greece. To produce the dye, the stigmas would be dried then boiled with some other plants to produce the bright yellow colours. For a cheaper alternative, Romans often turned to weld, which was a European and West Asian plant. Thanks to its abundance of luteolin, weld produces a vibrant yellow when chopped and boiled (you can actually try this at home! There are many guides on how to dye clothing with weld, so simply look them up if this piques your interest :) ). 

Tiffany Blue

A common misconception, stemming from Homer’s description of the sea as “wine-dark”, is that Romans couldn’t see, or didn’t have, the colour blue. Frankly, that’s a load of bullshit. Even if you ignore the continued existence of the sky, or lakes, or oceans, Romans knew of such things as sapphires and lapis lazuli (in fact an engraved sapphire was actually found in Pompeii in 1986!). Plus, Romans ate peacocks on the regular and it’s pretty difficult to ignore how blue those feathery little guys are, especially when some Romans went so far as to have peacocks painted in their murals. With the exception of peacocks, Romans did not view blue as a particularly positive colour. Instead, they viewed blue as the colour of mourning, and as the colour the working classes wore as the nobility typically wore white, black, red, or violet. It was also the colour of Barbarians after Julius Caesar reported that the Celts and Germans painted their faces blue to scare their enemies.

Davy’s Gray

During the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, some of the colours of the wall murals changed. For example, some of the reds in a Herculaneum house were baked by the fire of the pyroclastic surge, resulting in a deeper, more burgundy colour than we see in Huber’s work. In workshops, she has mentioned that, as an artist, she is not interested in copying or reproducing or using the same materials as originals, but would rather understand the functions in the context of contemporary painting. Huber has also mentioned that it is not only the colours themselves that are particularly interesting but also the surface qualities they possess, so keep an eye out for that when you’re looking around!

Written by Remy Harkensee

Synaesthesia: Does listening to music change your experience of art?

Morris professes to create art which ‘wrap[s] around the space itself, using perspectival painting, film, sound, and written text to prompt the viewer to move and reassemble their perceptions, dislodging familiar encounters with reality.’ Music is a sense which infiltrates spaces and influences our experience of art.

Both Huber and Morris listened to music during the artistic process. Sound is an integral aspect of human experience and can be used as a tool to further connect with a piece of art or to interpret it from a different perspective. The exhibition guide contributors have compiled a selection of three songs as suggested listening to the exhibition inspired by their experience of the art and discussions with the artists. Please scan the Spotify bar code (press the camera button on the search bar if using the app) or search by song title. Pay attention to how the songs change how you experience the exhibition.

Listen to:

Ella’s choice

Home at Last  by Trevor Jones from Labyrinth (Original Soundtrack)

Plucked guitar strings represent mosaic-like memories and ideas that form the exhibition and the homes and minds the artworks represent. We are welcomed into a space by the inviting music. For me, the film Labyrinth explores a place in our minds that we can get lost in. As the song progresses, more voices are added which add to the sense of journey


Angie’s choice

Time Machine by Willow from Willow

Time machine imagines a past dream space, where the listener is summoned to envisage a historic version of themselves. Walking through the walls, passing through the history we have been offered to enter in Expanded interiors, imagine yourself as a placeholder of the past, and dream.

Caitlin’s choice

It's My House by Diana Ross 

It’s My House pinpoints the way we make homes a part of our own identity, as more than just places to live. Expanded Interiors similarly encourages us to think about how homes have evolved over time, what features remain, and how they are personal spaces with impact subjective to those who live there.

Written by Ella Nixon, with contributions from Caitlin Milne & Angelica Jones

What’s with the false doors?

Wall paintings of false doors started way back in 4000BC as routes between the afterlife and the living world. It was believed that dead loved ones would be able to come and see the living to send gifts. This tradition was carried on by the Egyptians who made special plinths on their walls for offerings. These painted doors are reminiscient of today’s gravestones, having the person’s name, birth date (or at least, death date), relative’s names and even name of the person who

painted or commissioned the painting on, or around, the door. The Romans used this idea as a way to mediate with the dead, but also as home improvement! They would paint them to give symmetry to rooms, and to give the illusion of having more rooms than they really had. What is also interesting is that Romans kept a lot of Egyptian symbolism when they painted new fake doors.

Written and illustrated by Naomi Harrison

Rosie Morris

Text reads:

Rosie Morris makes installations to reconnect the viewer with the excitement and wonder of being within an architectural space. A space can bear witness, be animated, tenacious, and open to exploration. Her constructions wrap around the space itself, using perspectival painting, film, sound and written text to prompt the viewer to move and reassemble their perceptions, dislodging familiar encounters with reality. 

Catrin Huber

Text reads: 

German-born artist now based in Newcastle, whose practice investigates representations of architectural, fictional and imaged space.  

Exhibition information

Expanded Interiors Re-Staged

Exhibition by Catrin Huber and commission by Rosie Morris

3 July - 10 August 2021

Book tickets for Expanded Interiors Re-Staged

Expanded Interiors is a restaged exhibition, born from site-specific art in response
to the Roman sites of Pompeii & Herculaneum in Italy. It has been restaged at the Hatton, transporting you to this space
in a time where travel is limited. 

The exhibition highlights the impact of space, homes, and thresholds, present and past. How we leave personal touch in
spaces, decorate with colour and ornaments, conjugate in living spaces, move through them, or the way the natural environment like light finds its way in. How a private space can speak publicly. Space is a sensory experience: what can you see, smell, touch, hear, taste? This exhibition invites you to ponder space, utilising the Hatton’s space to explore illusory spaces and question how you experience and occupy space, particularly those personally and those presented here.

This guide is brought to you by Ella Nixon, Remy Harkensee, Angelica Jones, Caitlin Milne, Caroline Reeves & Naomi Harrison, working as part of the Hatton’s young people’s group, L-INK.

Designs by Caroline Reeves

The Expanded Interiors Re-Staged project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It is based at and supported by Newcastle University, in partnership with Animmersion.