We have commissioned contemporary artist Cecilia Reeve to respond to work in the collection. She selected the paintings of Cliff Holden as her starting point. Red Berry designed a sound piece to accompany the final animation.Read More
The performance was part of Johanna Bolton’s solo exhibition “Archive: Re-imagining the Borough Road Collection” at Borough Road Gallery.
"At the time I was working on a research residency at Kew Gardens Herbarium, and had become fascinated with how scientists record and understand the botanical world through taxonomy. The way the Herbarium’s specimens were arranged physically in space was rational, but seemed to some extent random. I came out of the residency with a strong curiosity about how and why humans arrange and categorise objects to create archives.
A David Bomberg Legacy - The Sarah Rose Collection is of course a very different kind of archive, but I was curious to see how these same ideas of categorisation could function to highlight similarities and contrasts between works of art and artists. Art archives are a difficult beast, as the very nature of art is that each work is unique. This collection is knitted together by the choices of the collector, a specific location (London South Bank University, or Borough Polytechnic as it was formally known), and a precise period of time (1946 - 1951), which saw the influence of David Bomberg’s teaching begin to take shape.
I have spent my residency investigating and mapping the ordering principles that could be applied to this particular archive, first focusing on pictorial characteristics such as colour, shapes, mark making and subject matter. Through this process, I became interested in tracing human interactions between the paintings - the influence of the teacher, dynamics of rivalry and support within the group, and the shared experience of lingering trauma after the recent war."
- Johanna Bolton, about the exhibition and residency.
All images courtesy of Andreia Alves De Oliveira
An exhibition to mark the centenary of the Armistice, looking at the First World War through the records of LSBU and Southwark Local History Library & Archives. The exhibition includes First World War art work by David Bomberg, as well as archives from LSBU and Southwark which tell the story of the First World War through the records of students, staff and local people. Find out about how the Borough Polytechnic contributed to the war effort at home, as well as stories from those who went to fight on the Western Front and beyond. Find out more here.
This week we are featuring selected images and archival documents that highlight the history of Elephant & Castle at a time when Bomberg and the Borough Group were working in the area taken from the Southwark Local History Library and Archive. To see the full set of images follow us on Instagram or Twitter.
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The frames and mounts of paintings are themselves unique canvases of hidden detail. Our tendency to overlook the effects of framing discounts their having existed for as long as pictures have been mobile. The French post-structuralist Louis Marin described the picture frame as a device which “renders the work autonomous in visible space”, putting “representation into a state of exclusive presence.” When framed, the painted picture becomes a worthy object of contemplation and demands absolute attention. Simultaneously, the frame effaces itself, becoming obsolete in the eyes of the viewer, entirely separate from the work of art it borders.
While frames have historically been designed by artists to accentuate their pictures or chosen by patrons and museums in line with current fashions, frames are primarily physical supports which protect paintings against their surroundings. The frame’s role is one of mediation. Paintings derive the visual autonomy identified by Marin from the exclusive physical and symbolical safety the frame provides, a condition which relates back to what Walter Benjamin had previously characterised in 1936 as the ‘aura’ of the work of art.
Rooted in an object’s authentic presence in time and space, and the physical changes it has undergone since its creation, the ‘aura’ is perhaps most legible in the frame of a painting which has both facilitated and borne witness to the work’s movements between people and institutions. For Benjamin, the irreproducibility of these conditions reveals the power of a work of art as historical testament.
By documenting the backs of paintings and drawings, this series brings the Borough Road Collection Archive into focus as being comprised of mobile and changeable three-dimensional objects that have each passed through different hands to arrive in the current collection. The diverse materials used by the artists themselves, the size and style of frames, and the presence of various labels and notations identifying craftsmen and galleries together constitute individual time capsules to be unpacked and interpreted. Utilising reproductive technology in this post-internet context serves to re-articulate rather than wither the ‘aura’ of the artworks in the collection, exhibiting a side to them rarely seen by the public.
In the early 1920s, animation promised to annihilate painting, or to show it up for what it had become – static, ever same, trapped within the confines of a frame that had become a kind of prison, cut off from the world and from life, or from the lively principle that suffuses all life worth living. Animation promised – for the critic and filmmaker Hans Richter – twenty-four Mondrians a second, which is so much better than one. Animation pledged kaleidoscopic experience. It promised not only to exceed painting through mobility and rhythm but also to do what cinema should do and was failing to do, as it became a conventionalised form, a banal representation.
From: Interview with Esther Leslie: For A Marxist Poetics of Science