Thursday, 24 May 2018

Embroidered Minds Epilepsy Garden at Chelsea


 

The Embroidered Minds Epilepsy Garden aims to raise awareness of epilepsy and the challenges that both sufferers and their families experience today.

Craftsman William Morris’s daughter Jenny developed epilepsy in 1876. It carried enormous stigma in Victorian times and had a profound effect on the Morris family. In response to this historical situation the garden aims to raise awareness of epilepsy and the challenges that people living with the condition and their families still face today.
Embroidered Minds, a cross disciplinary collaboration was instigated by Leslie Forbes and based around her researches and subsequent novel Embroidered Minds of the Morris Women which explores the tragic ‘conspiracy of silence surrounding William Morris’s family and Jenny’s experience of epilepsy as fiction based in facts.
Leslie died in July 2016 following an epileptic seizure but the collaborative project continues as she intended, to challenge ignorance of the condition today. The garden design was initiated by Leslie and old friend Kati Crome and realised by Kati, Leslie's husband Andrew Thomas and other members of the collaboration.
See more about Embroidered Minds and the background to the project at:
www.embroideredminds.co.uk
Included in the garden are plants often seen in William Morris designs such as Acanthus mollis and Acanthus spinosus and also some which were used as early treatments for epilepsy, including Valeriana officinalis.
The garden has three sections representing different lived experiences of epilepsy: first the calm pre-seizure mind; second, the chaotic state of the brain during seizures; and finally, the cumulative effects of unusual neural connections after living with seizures for a long time.
A vertical living wall referencing William Morris designed surface patterns, oak bench, tiled path and foreground planting are interrupted by a seizure represented through planting. The vitality of the post-seizure section also reflects the hope of a brighter future for epilepsy sufferers and their families through greater awareness and understanding of the condition.
The oak bench representing an EEG readout, starts as a calm resting place and is then disrupted with the chaos of a seizure. Specially commissioned from furniture designer Toby Winteringham, the bench is created with steam-bent oak secured with copper rivets and supported by rusted steel legs.
Running below the bench is a ceramic tiled path designed by artist Sue Ridge and designer/ceramist Andrew Thomas. Based on designs by William Morris the tiles are laid in a disintegrating pattern representing different aspects of epilepsy, transforming into neurological and seizure based images and ‘glitches’ as they run under the chaotic end of the bench.
The garden is partly sponsored by Epilepsy Society and Young Epilepsy, with some of the young people resident with Young Epilepsy at their site in Surrey helping to grow a selection of the plants.

http://www.embroideredminds-epilepsygarden.org.uk/

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Beyond Ophelia again


A couple of images to illustrate the installation at Wightwick Manor.  Definitely worth a detour and/or  special trip   Open till December but don't leave so long.

If any other venue with appropriate atmospheric and security conditions is interested in showing this compact and absorbing display in 2019, please contact Wightwick Manor.
 




JEM WHARTON





I'm delighted to say that the portrait of 19th century pugilist JEM WHARTON is now on display in the National Portrait Gallery, Room 19.   The owner first brought this to my attention following 'Black Victorians',  when the sitter's identity was unknown apart from an old label 'Young Molineux', which was one of the terms applied to Jem Wharton, who at the date of this painting (1839) ran a tavern-cum-training-ring, as so many fighters did on retirement.   The artist was Liverpool-based William Daniels, himself of working-class origins, who specialized in local portraits and genre figures.
'Young Molineux' references the best-known Black prizefighter of the previous generation, Tom Molineaux.  

Another of Wharton's fighting names was 'the Moroccan Prince', no doubt bestowed on him by those who promoted pugilism in reference to his complexion, although in the 1851 census Wharton's birthplace was given as London. In the era before Queensberry rules, when bare-knuckle fighting was outlawed but still popular, competitive pugilism was semi-clandestine and often deliberately obscured, so records are uncertain. 
I'm hoping that the rediscovery of the portrait will lead to new researches and sources.
 
Here Jem Wharton is seen in fighting garb, with a sash that, as the precursor of a belt, signified previous victories.  These had all been bare-knuckle contests, but here he's  wearing gloves, which at this date were coming into use in training, sparring and demonstration bouts, which very often took place in rings at the back of pubs, which would fit the nondescript indoor setting here, with Wharton posed as if about to commence or return to sparring.  Later, boxers were always shown with fists raised as if about to punch an opponent.

The portrait's history is unknown before its acquisition by the lender in London in the 1960s.  The now rather distressed frame   appears to be original.

Wharton's image joins that of Ira Aldridge, just across the room, alongside other 18thcentury celebs





Friday, 27 April 2018

Piccadilly 1875

a
Giuseppe de Nittis, Piccadilly, 1875
 
A somewhat belated post with an image of one of the paintings in Tate Britain's recent exhibition IMPRESSIONISTS IN LONDON  which on the pavement to the left shows an elderly Indian street sweeper wearing a red turban, alongside a policeman.  Possibly included on account of the turban, the wintry street scene wanting in colour, but also an authentic glimpse of mid- to late-Victorian London.
It is one of a series showing London streets commissioned by banker Kaye Knowles.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Brass in Lochaber


A brief report on some concerts in the Loch Shiel music festival last week in various venues around Lochaber
Most notably under the arches of the famous Glenfinnan viaduct.  Rather hard to get performers and arches in the same shot.  A trio of tubas joined by students from Lochaber schools aged 11 to 18 on trumpets and trombones.  Audience on the hillside, or perched on rocky outcrops.  

 
 
The following day, the New Antonine brass ensemble in a sort of open-air treetop cabin up in the Salen forest, which because we arrived late we had to locate aurally, following sudden trumpet and tuba sounds heard from below.   In fact, this was a rehearsal - we got to hear the whole exciting programme, including  the French horn playing a way off among the trees, as if in hunting mode.



The atmosphere was not as damp as the photos suggest - the air must have been much colder than it felt.  And it was a wonderful experience, lost in sound high up amid trees.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Museum Professionals

by Nicholas Penny, from article in recent issue of Apollo


Among museum professionals, a curator has for many decades been understood as someone who is responsible for the care, display and interpretation of specimens, artefacts, or works of art in the permanent collection of a museum or gallery. During the last 20 years, temporary exhibitions have become increasingly central to the activities of almost all institutions of this kind, and many curators are now largely absorbed by the mounting of such exhibitions. Curators are only likely to attract media attention by this means, and such impresario curators are almost always the ones who are proposed as future directors. Indeed, a curator is now more commonly understood to mean someone who organises temporary exhibitions of the visual arts, whether in a private or a public institution


It has often been argued that senior administrators are better qualified than traditional curators to serve as museum directors, but nowadays the trend is to appoint impresario curators, preferably those who are comfortable with contemporary art and, if a new building is planned, have some confidence in dealing with architects. Directors with no curatorial experience and without the related expert knowledge of art tend to diminish the value of such experience and expertise out of their own insecurity. The results can often be devastating, even if, being of little interest to journalists, whose attention is usually focused on the exhibitions programme, they generally go unnoticed by the public.


There are fewer internationally recognised experts among the curators of London’s museums than was the case 25 or 50 years ago. The curatorial staff in regional museums in this country possess only a fraction of the knowledge of their collections than one would have found then. There are major North American museums in which only one curator cares for the historical collections, where there were formerly four or five. At the convivial gatherings of international museum directors that I attended between 2008 and 2015 the voices of directors who openly disparaged the scruples of traditional curators and the concerns of conservators were increasingly confident – and indeed the original motive for such gatherings was precisely to make international lending easier, that is, to promote the increasing emphasis on loan exhibitions within institutions that were formerly chiefly associated with permanent collections.


Senior administrators have not often been appointed as directors, (although, as mentioned, their eligibility has often been discussed) but their status within the museum hierarchy (which includes IT, HR, PR, and many other new growths) has increased hugely and they will be detected in the shadow of any impresario director. Sometimes they are loyal, self-effacing and truly efficient. The model, significantly, is one which is more common in the performing arts. Curators are thus ‘relieved’ of many of their former responsibilities, encouraging the trend whereby some become ‘scholars in residence’ and others concentrate on exhibitions. The admirable special training now available in both in the US and the UK to equip curators with more experience of administration and management has been designed to combat this state of affairs, and excellent directors will be found among the curators who have benefited from such courses. But there is no reason not to look elsewhere as well.


In the 19th century it was widely believed that any director of the National Gallery in London must be a practising artist, and the same applied in equivalent institutions throughout Europe. It is easy to imagine – and should not be so hard to find ­– a director with an academic background, especially perhaps a historian, who values the experience and knowledge of his or her curators.


In a large museum with many different departments a curator will be suspected of having a prejudice in favour of her or his own special field of experience and expertise, or at least an inclination to give priority to art over archaeology, for example, or modern and contemporary preference over everything else. Even in a gallery with a collection consisting only of European art there are often no curators with the wide interests and sympathies that would enable them to assess the needs of the collection as a whole. The necessary range may also be more easily found outside the curatorial body. On balance the rise of the impresario director should be seen as more of a threat than the appointment of someone without traditional curatorial experience.


But a threat to what? To the ideal of the museum and gallery as something created for posterity and not merely for today’s public (or the youth of today); to the ideal of the museum as a place to transcend the fashionable rather than to revel in it; to the ideal of the gallery as a place where repeated contact with the permanent collection is carefully balanced with the attractions of temporary exhibitions; to the ideal of museums and galleries as places where people can educate themselves, places which are therefore equivalent to libraries as well as to theatres.