R2 – Collections

Julian Walker – I couldn’t find much about his work online, but I do note he’s a collector of words as well as artefacts.  He’s written a number of books on usage of language in various eras and situations.

There’s an interesting article here https://blog.wellcomecollection.org/2013/11/11/object-of-the-month-acts-of-faith/ on his collection of carved  pills, called Acts of Faith, in Wellcome’s Medicine Now gallery. I like the connection made between faith, superstition, votive offerings and prayers for health, and modern otc drugs that people believe in and use to make themselves feel better – the role of faith in medicine.

This article from Tate explains the origins and and meaning of curiosity cabinets, collections and museums. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/mark-dion-tate-thames-dig/wunderkammen

Fred Wilson is a political activist, his subject social justice.  He created a series of mock museums, collecting and presenting objects that address how museums reinforce racial bias.  Mining the Museum was an exhibition he created in 1992.  He reshuffled the existing museum’s collection, which focussed on prominent white men and under-represented oppressed people.  The result was a whole new historical viewpoint.  For example ornate silverware was displayed with slave shackles; antique chairs were gathered round a whipping post.  Visitors are encouraged to interpret the exhibits, think critically and acquire a new perspective.  The idea works for me because it’s suggestive rather than moralising.  It is the opposite to the usual view of history, as described in Benjamin’s thesis number 7, here.

Lisa Milroy – the example given is large scale painting of (life-size) shoes in a grid on canvas.  I’ve recently seen a similar idea in photography, of a grid of children’s feet, dressed in patterned shoes and socks.  Obviously you can’t collect the feet but you can collect photos of them – viz my collection of paintings of hands in part 1!

She often arranges the objects in a neat grid or a pattern, lit from the left.  Occasionally she will paint a more random arrangement.  The objects are displayed on a flat plane, from a perpendicular viewpoint, with a neutral background and no other context.

I like her Fruit and Vegetables because the objects are painted realistically and skilfully, while still being very painterly;  lush rich colours and brush strokes.  It reminds me of a famous ancient mosaic, The Unswept Floor which, although made in a cruder medium, is finer and more delicate than Milroy’s paintings.

Paul Westcombe – makes paintings of fantasy scenes on coffee cups.  So this is a collection of painted coffee cups, rather than painting of a collection of objects.  He uses coffee to paint, as I did in part 1 in sketchbook work; I’ve also used coffee in part 2 exercises, to paint portraits of ancestors on paper, and to make a tondo of a collection on fabric.  He also makes composte drawings, using several sheets of A4 coloured paper which are then displayed together to produce one large drawing.  Other surfaces are paper till receipts and travel cards.  His explanation for the various surfaces chosen is that he’s doing these paintings and drawings covertly, while at which retails, doing a job that bores him.  The drawings and paintings themselves are obsessive Viz cartoon like scenarios.

Lee Edwards – glues a tiny oil painting – often a highly detailed and realistic miniature portrait – on paper on to small natural objects (a conker, a small piece of wood).  Juxtaposing a fine oil painting with a rough natural object gives the painting an air of the ephemeral;  similarly  Alison Moritsugu makes fine classical landscape paintings on the cut surface of logs, then displays them in groups which themselves form larger, fractured landscapes.  Edwards’ miniatures inspired me to make realistic paintings of my collections with a very fine brush on matches, buttons and matchboxes.

David Dipré – impasto portrait on a 3D surface – e.g. Broken roof tile.  I don’t like the slimy, indecipherable nature of his work, but I like the scribbled drawn parts.  One piece that interested me was a painting done on 5 or 6 pieces of what looked like broken tiles.  The individual pieces are mounted together higgledy piggledy fashion.  They reminded me of shards of ancient pottery that someone has tried to piece together unsuccessfully.  His work connected in my mind to my work on broken shards of ice for exercise 2.1, in which my paintings go through several subtractive (melting) and additive (more media) representing the changes to landscape after fire.

Cathy Lomax, Alli Sharma – painting of women on handbags.  In 2013 Transition Gallery commissioned six artists, including Lomax and Ali Sharma, to produce paintings on handbags.  The reclaimed bags were used as a ground on which to paint their own works, bearing in mind the iconic status of the handbag as a cultural signifier of femininity. I was a bit underwhelmed by the results.

Tabitha Moses – makes collections and groups of objects, makes connections, tells a story.  There’s a huge range of materials and techniques in the works displayed on her web site.  I particularly like ‘Slaughterhouse Workers of Lahore’, a collection of hand embroidered portraits, which start off as straightforward depictions in coloured line, progressing to portraits reminiscent of the paintings and drawings of Giacometti, with expressive, jagged lines layered on.

As well as embroidery Moses uses light boxes with pricked black card; portraits gleaned from collected packaging materials; human hair; paper bags.  A collection of dolls, wrapped up as mummies and displayed as in a museum case is intriguing; and then X-rays taken of the same dolls; also embroidery on shirt cuffs using human hair, done in sampler style.


Other painters working with unusual materials OR painting collections:

Chris Ofili works with unusual materials.  His paintings, such as The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996, include acrylic, oil, resin, collage, glitter, map pins and elephant dung.  The result is a stylised, colourful, fine and decorative representation of the subject. (Art & Today, p266).  Robert Rauschenberg one of the Abstract Expressionists, produced a series of ‘combine paintings’, such as ‘First Landing Jump’ incorporating a miscellany of paraphernalia such as cloth, light bulb, car tyre, metal spiral, license plate (p504, Techniques of the Great Masters of Art).

Gerhardt Richter works on a monumental project, Atlas, in which he collects found and personal photos, clippings, sketches, historical images, pornographic images, source material for anything he has been working on since 1963.  The archive now provides a collection representing the period.  So far there are over 5000 images  (Art & Today, p119)

I looked at Mark Fairnington in Part 1 research.

Annabelle Dover paints delicate watercolours and coloured pencil drawings of collected small objects all of which have important connotations for her – she is ‘drawn to objects and the invisible stories that surround them’.   There’s are also cyanotypes.  I particularly like these http://www.annabeldover.com/page11.htm of personal items of clothing associated with cherished memories.


I read the following essays, which  “talk about collections and how collections tell a personal story that might not otherwise be told”

Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History (1940)

Benjamin proposes that the document of any civilisation is the story of the victors, and its artefacts become cultural treasures.  I’ve written my understanding of the Theses here

Sigmund Freud, Family Romances (1909)

According to the course manual this essay “considers creating your own reality through a re-telling of your own personal history”.  I’ve delved deep into the closed book of my personal history recently, trying to make sense of it, and the essay does throw a certain light on it.  I’ve written a private re-telling of it, and thought about how painting collections might help tell this story.  Old family photos might be included in my collection but what else?  I have no memorabilia, but could search online for images of things which were significant to me at the time.

Photos of My collections

MY photographed collections are shown in the galleries below.  I started off sceptically (never having been a collector) but gradually warmed to my task.  Eventually I started to select objects which spoke more to me.

Scissors, specs, buttons and cotton reels, light bulbs, arranged like museum displays produce interesting patterns and simple meaning.

Colourful sweet wrappers, embroidery threads, pens and cotton reels on dark backgrounds could make a cohesive series.

Utensils, cutlery, white kitchenware and plates of food could go together for a kitchen theme.

Swimming costumes, socks, hats, specs, perfume and jewellery are collections of personal items.

Scissors and cables and light bulbs, practical items of domesticity.

I also collected images of my family and ancestors




http://www.transitiongallery.co.uk/htmlpages/Ornament.html  Accessed 27 October 2016.

http://www.tabithakyokomoses.com/index.htm Accessed 27 October 2016

Art & Today, by Eleanor Heartney, pub Phaidon Press, 2008

Techniques of the Great Masters of Art, pub Chartwell Books, 1985




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