Today we hand over the blog to the curator of the Short Course Exhibition, Hugo Lucien Bou-Assaf, for him to write about the experience of curating the short course exhibition, and the ideas and themes behind his choice of display.
My brief when curating the short course showcase was to create a composition of 7 displays in the Lethaby gallery windows.
My initial process involved analysing the process of each tutor and monitoring how their craft influenced the perception of a final object. Over a series of meetings in which tutors would create work for the project, I noticed several techniques and processes that disclose a more nuanced view of the produced material.
The relationship between process and production arose early on. Manifesting this visually however was more of a challenge. Whilst footage could potentially be displayed on monitors I wanted to reinforce the gestural, hands on nature of craft. My solution was to extrapolate stills from a series of videos filmed of the tutors at work that best exemplified certain themes, such as the changing state of materials and technical flourishes. These stills would be placed sequentially, in chronological grid formations and printed on soft banner material. This texture allowed me to remove micro nuances of certain crafts and place them statically, separate from the flow of time, so that they themselves can be observed in the manner of typical 2D display, whilst retaining a degree of tactility.
Tactility was one of the main considerations in my curatorial thinking, as many of the objects presented a function in relation to the human body, or are designed to be used, touched or worn. The display’s glass panelling meant that a physical barrier would separate the viewer from the art work. Much of my thinking centred around closing this distance by using reference points, signalling the most textural components of each work. In Jill Entwistle and Judy Bentinck’s display, for example, objects are placed in a way that best reflects the contrast between surfaces. This concept is extended into the displays of the rest of the artists.
When installing the show, I found myself gravitating towards the concept of elevation, the idea of eyelines and guided vision emerged as another seminal cornerstone of the exhibition. Looking at the accumulated visions of contemporary artists such as Barry Le Va, I recognised the importance of a cohesive visual consistency. The flow of sight is guided by dimensions of height and depth. Objects such as banners hang to create a canvas or space and the works fill this space with constellations that follow a narrative. In Kangan Arora’s work, for example, the objects begin as tools and culminate in product, or, to give another example, in Sean Myers’ pieces the works visualise the theory of quantum physics at successively different scales, beginning from the largest cosmological events on a universal scale and ending at the atomic makeup of our bodies.
As a whole the project investigates the talent and craft that make short courses so appealing. They enable students to not only learn skills but interpret and apply them in ways, just like the display, that tell functional stories. The wide range of mediums and professions gives the unique opportunity to see dialogue and semblance in objects and art works typically demarcated from one another.
The installation begins with four mounted print works from printmaking short course tutor Sean Myers. The works are visualisations of quantum theory pioneered by the late Stephen Hawking. Starting with representations of the big bang and astrophysical representations of multiverse theory, to the vastly reduced subject of our own planet within the solar system, all the way to the atomic biological compositions of the human body, Myers’ work excels in this narrative approach to science but also in its accessible nature.
Kangan Arora teaches a short course in textiles and her work explores colour theory and a product based approach to design that sees her patterns proliferate in lived environments. The display of her works presents the tools of her process in conjunction with the finality of a product, the two interplay and mediate the idea of craft as not only object but construction.
Anastasia Young’s jewellery work has a sculptural sensibility. Inspired by Christianity’s medieval iconography, her piece retains the fine craft of traditional jewellery technique but applies the sensibilities of modern re-interpretation and pastiche. It is distinctly and simultaneously faithful and rebellious. Presented alongside this is a banner detailing process from a live filming of her working on a re construction of the piece.
Anastasia’s jewellery work sits adjacent to the metal shelving unit of curiosities put together by Alexander Hinnerskov, who teaches the product design short course. Behind the shelving unit is a banner taken from a live demonstration of Hinnerskov’s concept development and applied thinking relative to how we interact with everyday objects. His work has a remarkably contoured functionality that integrates into a wider philosophical supposition on how design can reimagine processes in our own lives. His work is intuitive and as such, lends itself to multiple tests and reworking, which are all evidenced and displayed within the industrial shelving unit.
Next to this is a group of detailed life drawing works done at a live session in the CSM Archway studios by David Price, teacher of the life drawing short course. In front of Price’s banner, which details him drawing from a life model who sits out of frame, are visceral isolations of the human form. Stylistically the drawings resemble the works of Freud, Auerbach and the London Schools of draughtsman. These objects hang like curtains at separate elevations to disclose imagery in the banner, reinstating to the viewer the importance of process. In this instance drawing is perhaps defined by its processes, which consist of the collaboration between the sitter and the artist.
Judy Bentinck and Jane Fryers are both tutors on the millinery course, as well as professional milliners, and have 3 hats included in their displays. The works are tactile and convey texture with vivid clarity. Whilst the hats in the display function as art objects they also interplay with other works intended for the body, challenging our perception of how the field of fashion can have sociological, geographical and historical pertinence as artefacts of design.
Kristine Kilty, fashion styling short course teacher, works and interprets fashion to transform looks into fictions for brands and designers. The banner presenting her works are isolated processes of a time lapse video in which Kilty and her team are styling models for a photoshoot. Several looks are pronounced references to classic ski wear whilst others see bellowing jackets synched, tied and draped to create an interplay between the body and the garment.
Jill Entwistle, tutor on the pattern making short course, is an expert pattern cutter whose renditions of fashion silhouettes have a calculated intricacy. Her work acts as a sculptural disturbance of the accepted geometry in garment design. Her display focuses primarily on her process and how in her work this process has visible traces. The foreground sees a mannequin baring the assemblages of construction, calico meets pattern paper, raw seams and interfacing disclose the geography of an uninhabited body. This is offset by a banner showing a 360° view of Entwistle’s work, encouraging the viewer to observe the garment as an object native to motion, further punctuating the vitality of her work in connection to the human form.
Ultimately the exhibition aims to provide the visualisation for the process and outcome of a short course. Whilst each tutor and artist work in the coalesced sphere or art practice their technical sensibilities and craft based perspective allow them to present not only unique craft but unique opportunities and experiences to teach.