After Hours At School Of Art – Or, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Curation, But Were Afraid To Ask.

Image Copyright AJGilbey2019

Aberystwyth School of Art is a little unusual amongst art schools, in that it’s also an art museum. One of the side effects of this, aside from serious fire and intruder alarm systems, is that every so often we all get an invite to go along to the current exhibition and hear some knowledgable person talk about it. Usually while drinking the University’s wine. 

No wine this time around, this reporter having decided to quit drinking for lent (no, I don’t know why either), but the touring exhibition of prints spanning the last five hundred years with its curator to provide colour commentary – and what a colourful commentary it was. Hanging on the walls in the galleries was the exhibition “Print REbels” (with a few fresh additions from the School’s collecton), and here to talk about it was its originator and prime mover Edward Twohig. 

I haven’t been to too many of these, but generally speaking whoever’s in charge will circle around and pick out their favourite works. They’ll talk a little about the print, give some insight into the artist, context, history or whatever, wrap up with thanks to a few people and then proceed to the bar. This little talk fit the same basic pattern, with the minor difference that every work was a favourite, every print had a story and every piece fit the exhibition in some subtly different way. 

Aside from learning a whole bunch about printmaking, a lot of what I took away from the talk (in practical terms) was about how you curate all this stuff – how you take the garbage lying around in your studio and nail it to the walls in a way that makes in an exhibition rather than a random collection of objects. Alright, so I didn’t figure all this out in the course of the talk. But when the curator suddenly breaks off talking about one print, points at what’s on the opposite wall, and says that they need to be hung that way because of the shared history of their creators and the similarity of subject even I can tell you there are ideas to be picked over there. 

Image Copyright AJGilbey2019

If I’m being honest, my ideas for my own exhibition are still gelling, which is alarming as it’s now only six weeks away. I know what’s going into it – in terms of taking the pictures the hay’s in the barn. How to hang them so that they’ll play off of each other, pull apart what I want the whole thing to mean, that I’m still working on. That’s going to mean digital prints getting made, it’ll mean hiding out in the dark room for a few days and it’ll mean getting acquainted with a mount cutter. More than all of that, it’ll just require moving everything around until it looks and feels right. 

As to why we’re a museum as well as a school? Well, it turns out that back when the school was founded a bequest was made to buy output from the London Schools so that the students would have something to pitch against – here’s the competition kids, now you have to go one better. It started as a collection, and still is, but what’s a collecting without somewhere to display it? 

Hope you like the pictures in this one. I think it’s fitting with the subject of the exhibition that I shot the images on film – that’s something I’ve been trying to do more of just lately, carrying around a little Kiev rangefinder loaded with Ilford HP5+. There’s something infinitely more personal about the process. Then again, I’d hate to go back to shooting rugby games purely on film. 

Although funnily enough, that’s pretty much what my first exhibition will consist of. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s