Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Exhibition Design/University Gallery Visit

Lovely little talk from Terry Jones, the exhibitions manager at college, today. It was incredibly useful to get a realisation that actually creating the work is only one minor part of an exhibition - if it's not curated and organised well then the work is effectively rendered irrelevant. Things like spacing, positioning, fixing and finishing are all things to bare in mind when the exhibition comea around. It's good to know that he's there to help if our exhibition plans go tits up.

We then pottered down to Parkinson building to have a look at the gallery there. There was a permanent collection that belonged to the university but it the the Wilhemina Barns-Graham exhibition that we were particularly interested in. After discussing the curatorial decisions that go into an exhibition as a group with Terry it was pretty easy to spot the key details. Here are some of the things I noticed:

Firstly, they've used a complete mish mash of frames ranging from solid white to greys and also wood effect. Initially I thought it looked shit, but as I went round I started to realise that the frames were representative of her thematic drawings - all natural colours that are as varied and unpredictable as the landscapes in her images.

There were about 5 of these text boards - I didn't read them, I didn't want to. It could have just said 'Rocks, Ice, Trees' and I would have got the jist.

All of the walls had been painted white, except the partition walls that had been purposely created, these were painted a warm grey colour. This is something I don't really understand and can't work out the logic behind.. Maybe it's to make their presence less intrusive? Maybe it's to emphasise that the curator has made an informed decision to build them and that he wasn't just working with the four walls he was given?

When it came to framing the drawings there were 3 different ways in which they were presented. The image above shows mount board cut with an inward facing gradient - tunneling your eyes to the drawing and making the join less harsh.

This example shows a background of what looks like hessian that's been painted white, with the drawing simply positioned on top - it gives it a more raw feel and was appropriate for that particular drawing but I can't really say I'm a fan.

I dunno what went on in this one.. It's a combination of the two; mount board framing the drawing with a small border of the hessian-like material showing. It doesn't really show well in the photo but this particular drawing had been warped under whatever adhesive had been used and the way it was framed just made it glaringly obvious. Fail.

Frames were hung with mirror plates that had been painted white. Terry was right, this is a really inconspicuous way of hanging as on my first walk round the gallery I didn't even notice them.

I did however notice these ones... and this decision somewhat baffles me. On the partition walls that were quite obviously grey they've still painted the mirror plates white? And what's more, they've done it while the images have been hanging on the wall and have messily flicked white paint onto the grey wall behind.. I've got nothing on this one...

The photo doesn't depict this clearly, but each drawing's label was cased in a holder. To be honest I don't really see the advantage of the holders over the standard mount board, if anything I think they look substandard, but that's just personal opinion. And also, as the exhibition manager pointed out, why put Barns-Graham's name on ever image? IT'S HER EXHIBITION.

When Terry was talking about spacing he was pretty set on the fact that all of the pieces in the exhibition should be evenly spaced. Which was mostly the case in this exhibition, however there were the odd few drawings that seemed to just be placed randomly for no apparent reason. This may have been understandable if they were the joining pieces of any of the four 'quarters' of the room but they weren't - they were in the same section and just made things look a bit odd..

This was what I was particularly hoping for when Nick said that we were going to a drawing exhibition. Since I'm practicing drawing as my visual language I really had my fingers crossed that there'd be groups of smaller drawings so I could get some sort of general idea of how to exhibit a small series. In this case, they've been laid out in an irregular hexagonal formation on the wall, with one image central. The central image was hung at eye level much like the larger pieces in the exhibition and then the remaining drawings were placed around it. For this particular exhibition I think the format was very appropriate, not distracting from the contect of the drawings at all. But for the sort of atmosphere I want to create in the exhibition I think this is a bit too structured and formal.

One thing I did take note of was how each drawing in the group hang was labelled. Under each of the 3 lower level drawings in the hexagon, there were 2 or 3 labels right aligned to the image respectively. This I think worked very well. The group hang was not intersected by any unnecessary labeling yet all the information was immediately to hand should you require it.

The exhibition title was created in the same way as the viscom graduate summer exhibition greeting! A typographic transfer was applied to the wall on the immediate right hand side of the exhibition. Although the exhibition was presented in a four walled room with no indicative flow, the placing of the title with such an overwhelming presence definitely encourages any visitors to automatically veer to the right as they step back to engage with the greeting. This, I think, is a very clever way of provoking a narrative in a space that seemed to repel order.

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