Presenting 18th-century English drinking glasses

Recently, as research curator at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, I gave a ‘Friday Focus’ talk about the new display of 18th-century English drinking glasses that I have curated. This talk looked at the collector of the glasses, including an aspect of his life in Leamington, and then considered the different types of glasses that were created throughout the 18th century – and the various techniques used to decorate them. Lastly, I looked at why I chose to display the collection as I did:

Background to the collection and collector

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‘The Collector’ by Henry Holland, 1918, LSAG&M

This display highlights a selection of Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum’s collection of 160 English drinking glasses from the 18th century. They were purchased from the collector Francis Jahn in 1955 with the help of the National Art Collections Fund and the V&A Purchase Fund.

Jahn, who was born in 1871 and died in 1967, was a collector of oriental art, ceramics and 18th-century glasses. He followed his German father, Louis Jahn, a curator at the Hanley Museum, who built up a vast private collection of 18th-century Staffordshire pottery during his lifetime, which he left to his son. Many of the finest items were later bequeathed by Francis Jahn himself to Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum.  Continue reading

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Writing for The Friends of The Wilson Newsletter

Front cover of the Autumn NewsletterThe Wilson Newsletter is a publication produced for (and largely by) The Friends of The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum. When the editor invited me to write a ‘What’s On’ article for the Autumn 2015 issue, I was pleased to have the opportunity to be involved. It enable me to write about and reflect upon a temporary exhibition in The Friends Gallery, entitled ‘Interior Life: Portraits and Private Space’, which I had assisted the curator of fine art with in terms of research and display. A copy of the text is below.

My article in the Autumn issue of the Newsletter

Interior Life: Portraits and Private Space

The Friends Gallery has an area for dynamic temporary displays, the latest being Interior Life: Portraits and Private Space, which opened in July and runs until 8 November. This is an intimate and intriguing exhibition, celebrating a selection of portraits from The Wilson’s collection. It presents oil paintings from the 17th to the 20th century, and includes two works from the founding collection, donated by the Baron de Ferrieres in 1898.

The paintings have shared themes of privacy and contemplation, hinting at the emotional lives of the people portrayed. Thus, the interior spaces that exist in these works are not just the physical spaces that the figures inhabit, but are also the spaces that belong to their minds. This focus on interiority is reflected in the solitary activities depicted, such as reading in Hendrick Cornelisz. van Vliet’s painting A Woman Reading, about 1630-1650. It is also enhanced through the sensitive use of personal or even spiritual places, such as the cosy domestic sitting room in The Artist’s Wife, Evelyn, Seated Reading, about 1935, by Gerald Gardiner, or the interior of the church in Malvern Abbey, Worcestershire, 1892, by Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson.

Parallels can be made between some of these ideas and those of contemporary artist, Bill Viola (b. 1951). In Viola’s film pieces, private moments, devotion and the passing of time are common themes. Viola’s work can be seen on display in the third floor gallery of The Wilson from 3 October 2015 – 7 February 2016 as part of ARTIST ROOMS On Tour.

My 3rd review for Crafts magazine: Kate MccGwire at the RWA

Crafts Magazine, September/October 2015International artists Peter Randall-Page and Kate MccGwire have a wonderful joint exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA). I was very pleased to write a review of it for the Craft Council’s ‘Crafts’ magazine, issue September/October 2015.

This is now the third time that I have written about Kate MccGwire’s work (please see my interview with Kate on IdeasTap, and my blog post about writing for the Young Arnolfini zine); it is also my third review for ‘Crafts’ magazine.

My review in Crafts magazine

My review in Crafts magazine

Review of ‘Ahead of the Curve’ exhibition, on contemporary Chinese ceramics

My review of ‘Ahead of the Curve: new china from China’, a touring exhibition on contemporary Chinese ceramics, is published on a four page spread in the latest ‘Craft Arts International’ magazine, issue no. 94. This exhibition started at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum, in October 2014 and then moved on to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, before going to The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent.

Cover page to Crafts Art International, issue no. 95

Cover page to Crafts Art International, issue no. 94

First page of my article in Craft Arts International

First page of my article in Craft Arts International

New display at The Wilson: Interior Life

View of the new display, 'Interior Life', at The Wilson

View of the new display, ‘Interior Life’, at The Wilson

A new display has opened in the Friends Gallery at The Wilson. I currently work in the gallery’s Collections department and assisted the fine art curator with this show – researching potential themes and paintings from the collection to include, as well as writing one of the wall labels.

This temporary display explores recurring themes of privacy, meditation and solitude through a small selection of portrait paintings spanning more than 300 years from the 17th century to the 20th century. The concept of ‘interior space’ is more to do with the interior life of the sitter, subject and / or artist, and the emotions within their minds, rather than physical place.

Introductory panel to the display

Introductory panel to the display

The caption I wrote about the Hugh Byars painting included in this exhibition

The caption I wrote about the Hugh Byars painting included in this exhibition

Detail of gallery view, with painting by Hugh Byars to the far left.

Detail of gallery view, with painting by Hugh Byars to the far left.

Writing for Gloucestershire’s local paper: Contemporary take on the Arts & Crafts Movement

My Echo article, May 2015Last week I wrote an article for Gloucestershire’s local newspaper, Echo, on a new contemporary installation by Iavor Lubomirov at The Wilson art gallery and museum in Cheltenham, as part of their contemporary art exhibition ‘the open west’. My article was published on Saturday 23 May. Lubomirov’s artwork, ‘Wallpaper by the Roll’, 2013, is in dialogue with William Morris’s own art and ethos for living. It consists of a rolled paper sculpture and framed off-cuts, each comprised of delicately layered strips of Morris & Co Marigold Cowslip Wallpaper. This is historic and domesticized wallpaper that has been made tactile and dynamic.

The opening of The Beales Bequest exhibition at The Ken Stradling Collection

The Beales Bequest PosterA version of this article is on The Ken Stradling Collection website

From tomorrow, Wednesday 14th January, the latest exhibition at The Ken Stradling Collection will be open to the public. I have co-curated this show, entitled The Beales Bequest, and wrote the gallery’s information texts. I also contribute to their blog, and will be writing a series of blog posts about individual objects featured in this exhibition.

The Beales Bequest revolves around the eclectic objects that a Bristol architect and founding trustee of The Ken Stradling Collection left with his artist wife to the Collection when they died last year.

Colin and Jennifer Beales were great friends with Ken Stradling. Colin often drove around Bristol with Ken, and they travelled together to parts of Europe, to view or purchase furniture, ceramics and art. He in particular had a long association with The Bristol Guild. Jennifer also made significant contributions, such as formulating the title of the Collection’s catalogue, “The Incidental Collector”, which Colin helped to write and edit.

On display in the exhibition there will be a great variety of ceramics by many important British makers from the 20th and 21st centuries. Think Dan Arbeid (who The Guardian has described as “one of the pioneers of unconventional vessel-based handbuilt forms”), Mick Casson, Stig Lindberg and Herbert Krenchel.

There will also be bold and often humorous pieces of glasswork and sculpture, as well photographs of Colin’s main architectural projects and some of the Beales’ own art – pottery, etchings and paintings – exhibited too.

The Beales Bequest will be open to view every Wednesday 10 – 4pm and by appointment until 11th March (the exhibition has been extended beyond the original date of the 4th February).

Pieces by Stig Lindberg, Erik Hoglund and Herbert Krenchel

Pieces by Stig Lindberg, Erik Hoglund and Herbert Krenchel

 

Matisse Live: Tate Modern

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

On Tuesday 3rd June, Tate achieved its first live broadcast to cinemas across the country with Tate Modern’s Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition. This was definitely an evening of experimentation and the start of a new way of experiencing art at the Tate. There were high expectations, excitement and some nerves for those participating in the event and members of the public eagerly awaiting it in the cinemas.

Virtually led through sections of the exhibition, the audience was taken on an intimate private view. The exhibition rooms seemed uncanny without their normal heaving crowds, and the format was an ideal way to take in the cut-outs – artworks that demand lots of space in which to be viewed, as well as inviting movements from the spectator within that space. Neither the art nor the film encourages you to stay still.  Continue reading

Reflections on Time-Based Media Exhibition at UCL Art Museum

Published on UCL Art Museum blog website

Exhibition open 1 – 5pm Monday to Friday, until Friday 28th March

I am unique and so is everyone else (video still)This exhibition gathers together some of the most prolific time-based work from UCL Art Museum’s growing collection, which centre around the dependence upon and manipulation of technology with respect to time. The artists exhibiting are graduates from the Slade School and have each been awarded the annual William Coldstream Memorial Prize that selects outstanding achievements over the whole academic year. This accounts for the diverse collections of artwork on display, illustrating the eclectic variety of contemporary time-based media works.

It is a refreshing and new type of exhibition for the UCL Art Museum, completely immersed in technology, conceptual installations and time-based media techniques. You will be greeted by many television screens that allow for a sense of unity to the works and for you to make comparisons between the way some of the themes are expressed. The screens are also placed with enough distance for each piece to be absorbed in contemplative isolation. Intriguing sounds also drift around the gallery, enticing you to follow your senses and discover and explore their source.  Continue reading

Quilt to Last

Published in The University of Warwick student newspaper, The Boar, in November 2012

The relationship between art and crafts is constantly debated and revised within the creative world. Leamington’s latest art exhibition at the Pump Rooms engages with this by presenting a great variety of quilts in terms of shape, size, subject matter, medium and stitching techniques in order to focus on the aesthetic, but also the political, nature of quilting and craftsmanship. This directs the viewer to approach the quilts as pieces of art, rather than functional items coming from an archaic crafting history. However, the craftsmanship and obvious crafting skill that goes into making one of these beautiful quilts is not ignored, as the exhibition includes a film on how quilts and patchwork pieces are made alongside displays of quilting fabric samples that visitors are encouraged to touch.

This exhibition, entitled Through Our Hands, includes work from ten top international quilt artists and teachers, which makes for a vibrant collection of techniques and modern subjects, and undermines traditional prejudices about quilting being a fussy, old fashioned, and predominantly functional craft. Though I feel they still play around with the ‘woman question’ attached to the creation and use of crafts – for a start, all the artists are female, and their work depicts mostly domestic or ‘familiar’ scenes. This however is not a criticism, because although the exhibition can be seen to (re)define quilting as a form of female expression, this focus on the domestic and the feminine ultimately serves to present everyday details as beautiful, something poets and artists alike have been doing for centuries. In addition, these familiar scenes are often pushed into an almost supernatural sphere, and ‘unpicked’ so as to focus on the potential of quilting for conveying, and experimenting with, shape, colour, form and feeling. Through Our Hands is definitely a successful stand for modernising quilting as an artistic form and process.  Continue reading