Monthly Archives: June 2015

THE MODERNIST FACE EXHIBITION – NOW OPEN AT THE BARBER

Frank Dobson, Sir (Francis) Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell, c. 1922, National Portrait Gallery

Frank Dobson, Sir (Francis) Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell, c. 1922, National Portrait Gallery

The department’s annual MA exhibition is now open at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. A collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, this year’s exhibition – The Modernist Face – explores the work of sculptor Frank Dobson and painter Matthew Smith, focusing on the relationship between the artist and the sitter.

The exhibition is open until September 27th and is a great summer activity, in particular, if you are coming up for any of our open days this week.

More information can be found on the exhibition’s webpage: http://barber.org.uk/modernist-face/

If you would like to learn more about the exhibition there are also a number of complementary talks and events running:

Tuesday 30 June, 1.15pm

The People Behind the Portraits in ‘The Modernist Face’: Roald Dahl, Jean Simmons and Others

Josephine Male and Rachael Hill, MA students and co-curators

LUNCHTIME LECTURES

Wednesday 17 June, 1.10pm

An Introduction to Matthew Smith and Frank Dobson

Rosie Broadley, National Portrait Gallery

Wednesday 1 July, 1.10pm

The Birmingham Group: Icons and Ideals

Brendan Flynn, Freelance Curator

Wednesday 8 July, 1.10pm

The Sitwells: An Ornamental Modernism

Dr Deborah Longworth, Department of English Literature, University of Birmingham

ADULT WORKSHOP

Saturday 4 an 11 July, 11am – 4pm

Figurative Painting and Creative Colour

With artist Adrian Clamp

WRITING WORKSHOP

Saturday 18 July, 1.30 – 4pm

Body Language

With writer Jacqui Rowe

Sir Matthew Arnold Bracy Smith, Self Portrait, 1932, Estate of Sir Matthew  Bracy Smith

Sir Matthew Arnold Bracy Smith, Self Portrait, 1932, Estate of Sir Matthew Bracy Smith

Abstraction at the RBSA: Undergraduate curator Emily Robins explains what it takes to put together an archive exhibition

Thirteen artworks, two volunteers, one exhibition. This autumn the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) will present their latest archive exhibition, Abstraction at the RBSA. The show is being curated entirely by two University of Birmingham undergraduate students, Tate Gronow and me, Emily Robins.

I’ve been volunteering at the RBSA for a while now, primarily in their archive department. I usually spend my time responding to archive enquiries from members of the public and updating the museum databases, while also researching and organising collection and archive material. In November 2014 I was offered an opportunity that would be the envy of art history students across the country, a chance to curate in its entirety a public exhibition at a prestigious local gallery. It was, quite clearly, an opportunity not to be missed!

Tate and Emily are pictured here with Joan Woollard's  'The Races', which is one of the Artworks up for adoption. Woollard was the first female president of the RBSA.

Tate and Emily are pictured here with Joan Woollard’s The Races, which is one of the Artworks up for adoption. Woollard was the first female president of the RBSA.

Since January, Tate and I have been working on this rather exciting undertaking. Our chosen theme for the exhibition is ‘Abstraction’ and we began by searching the archive for interesting pieces which fitted that category. We came across a wide variety of works and decided on a roughly chronological approach to the exhibition, charting abstraction as a concept from works in the Impressionist style towards pieces such as Caged Yellow (1996, RBSA) by William Gear, which are fully abstract in their use of line, tone and colour. We were then able to start preparing all the written interpretation needed for the exhibition, including text panels and exhibition labels, as well as marketing material such as articles and press releases.

Initially, I have to admit, I was slightly intimidated by the prospect of this project, but find myself facing each new challenge with enthusiasm, continuing to push myself out of my comfort zone. The sheer amount of written material required for the exhibition was something which I found daunting at first, but, I have now come to enjoy this part of the process the most! My eyes have well and truly been opened to the nitty-gritty aspects of curating and all that it involves, and I am relishing the entire experience.

The RBSA is first and foremost an artist-led charity, and therefore, fundraising remains a core part of the gallery’s ethos. Without the dedication and support of volunteers and donors, opportunities like this, a chance to curate my own public exhibition, would not be possible. Having worked behind the scenes as a volunteer I’ve been lucky to see some of the treasures in the RBSA’s collection which cannot be on display because of their fragile condition. The Adopt-an-Artwork fundraising scheme helps to restore these beautiful works, so that they can go back on exhibition and be appreciated by RBSA visitors for years to come.

We are currently fundraising for some conservation costs of objects in the exhibition, please visit RBSA’s website to find out how you can ‘adopt an artwork’ to support us! – http://www.rbsa.org.uk/collection-archive/new-adopt-an-artwork/

'Seascape' by Norma Rhys Davies, shown here, is in desperate need of conservation in order for it to be included in our exhibition.

Seascape by Norma Rhys Davies, shown here, is in desperate need of conservation in order for it to be included in our exhibition.

While volunteer roles often focus specifically on one particular department such as marketing, conservation or education, this project has allowed us to dip our toes in a whole variety of roles. Each week we are gaining new experiences, skills, and insights, not just on gallery practice but the arts sector more broadly. Although it has been hard work I think we can both agree that we’ve benefited from gaining curatorial experience as well as being involved in less familiar aspects, like public engagement and fundraising. Overall, this opportunity is definitely proving to be a fully hands-on, immersive and irreplaceable experience for budding art-world professionals such as ourselves!

Of course, Tate and I still have much more left to do over the coming months, including the exhibition install, preparations for our opening private view (watch this space for invites!) and a full events programme of talks and workshops to finalise. Look out for further blogs on the Golovine updating you on our progress!

Abstraction at the RBSA opens on the 5th of October.

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