A Spotlight on… Margarete Berger-Hamerschlag


As we draw to a close of our Tall Tales touring programme, we look back to the beginning and particularly when we met the Tavistock Centre’s archivist and curator, Karma Percy and three very special works hidden within the centre itself.

Upon discussing the potential Tall Tales exhibition as part of the Tavistock’s changing corridor gallery space and potential artist-in-residence (later to become Tall Tales artist Ruth Barker), we discovered just how vast the collection of artwork already residing within this NHS trust building really was.

Karma Percy had been working in collaboration with the Public Catalogue Foundation since 2010, to record and catalogue all the donated paintings within the Tavistock Centre, as part of the Foundation’s ultimate goal to document all publically owned paintings in the United Kingdom.

The Tavistock Centre’s own diverse collection of paintings is now live on the BBC website ‘Your Paintings’. The collection began in 1990 by Caroline Garland, a renowned psychoanalyst and writer who engaged local artists and championed the principle of good art in public buildings.

The Trust’s art collection is particularly unique because it consists entirely of modern and contemporary paintings, the oldest work in the building by Anthony Whishaw (RA) ‘Arcos de la Frontera’, dates back to 1960. There is wide variety of styles and subject matter in our collection but for myself and co-curator Helen, we became particularly drawn towards the work of Margarete Berger-Hamerschalg, who had 3 paintings quietly hiding up on the 3rd floor corridor.

From her earliest years when she scribbled on the prescription pads of her doctor father Berger-Hamerschlag demonstrated a desire and devotion to making art. After studying  at Professor Cizek’s groundbreaking school for children in Vienna and then at the Kunstgewerbeschule (Arts & Crafts School) in Vienna, she embarked on a whirlwind international career as illustrator, portrait painter, landscape artist, as well as fashion design and costume design for the theatre.

She was a free spirit, traversing the world, painting from country to country, experiencing life to the full. In 1934 she and her husband Josef Berger, whom she had married impulsively one lunchtime without telling her respectable family. After various traveling adventures, they finally set up home in England two years later where she continued her successful career.

She started teaching in Youth Clubs in about 1950 to make money, initially due to the post war austerity, which meant her art might be in less demand, but this activity gradually came to dominate her life and it was in this period in which she was able to combine the several facets of her artistic skills. Her educational impulses resulted in the book Journey into a Fog, an account of her years teaching, a very considerable success in its day. It ran to many editions, published in the USA, and even appeared in a paperback version. She was not long to enjoy her success though, as cancer took her life in 1958.


Her youth club series, and images of girls, in particular, hold a strong gaze with anyone who set’s their eyes upon them. What strikes you the most is the strong attitude and dress, which the subject matters seem to hold within each painting, and was evocative of the teddby boy and youth club era. Amongst a full corridor of other interesting works, these particular youth club works, stood out amongst the other works within the Tavistock collection and the story of Hamershalg’s work and herself felt true to the themes of our Tall Tales tour. We were delighted to be the first external curator’s to loan Margarete’s work from the Tavistock Centre, meaing not only that they left the building for the first time since they were initially gifted to the centre, but that they could then travel alongside 17 other female artist’s work and be viewed by many across the UK.

And just between you and me, I can’t deny a close resemblence between one of Margarete’s painted girls, and our very own Karma Percy, who was so generous in supporting our loan of the work. Perhaps another reason we felt so drawn to the peice.

Although the Tall Tales tour has now come to an end, the works will be returned to their As long term home in the Tavistock Centre for you to see, as well as other examples of her work on display in the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, the Applied Arts Museum in Vienna and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Image credits – Header Image: Teddy Boy & Teddy Boy and Girl, install image of Tall Tales at Glasgow Women’s Library
Middle Image: Two Girls at Youth Club, Margarete Berger-Hamershclag, watercolour on paper, photo by Tavistock Centre Art Collection 

A Spotlight on… Lila De Magalhaes


“I had the pleasure of first meeting Lila De Magalhaes, when we both moved to Glasgow in 2004 to study at Glasgow School of Art and am delighted to still be her friend to date. It was this theme of friendship which drew me to a series of particular works, Room mates and Rain Control, both of which have toured throughout Tall Tales, alongside a host of 17 other artists’ work companions.

Room mates consists of two mermaids made out of clay, and resembling Lila and her flat-mate, sit together in a transient state, in a plastic bag filled with water. The mermaids themselves are beautifully detailed but still with a sense of freedom to their clay finish. The mermaid tails are glossy and a rich shade of turquoise you would expect to see at the bottom of the sea, but their bodies and flowing hair remain in their exposed natural clay state. The mixture of finish on the clay, reminds me of the mermaids own hybrid nature, sitting somewhere between human and animal.

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Once encased within the large plastic bag of water however, the mermaids become something completely different; an object of curiosity. The audience are invited to take a closer look into this peculiar bulbus bag of water, discovering small details of the sculpture here and there, spotting signs of a fish scaled tail or flowing hair. Having the responsibility of setting the mermaids in place before submerging them within water at each exhibition venue, left me with a close attachment to the mermaids, perhaps recognising the familiarity of my friend, more and more each time I went to install them at a new venue. (Not to mention the rather uncanny  international Skype phone calls between myself and Lila consisting of leaking bags, settling mermaids and  mermaids resting in Sigmund Freud’s bath alongside myself and assistant Curator Charlie Booth!)

Lila De Magalhaes’s other work Rain Control, which as already mentioned sits alongside an accompanying video work to Room mates, animates these mermaid figures through an everyday yet uncanny scenario – played out by non other than Lila and her flat mate. I had to laugh a little to myself whilst I watched over the video for the last time at our last venue Glasgow Women’s Library. The scene begins with Lila and her flat mate trying to Skype call, curiously pondering what happened to the mermaids, whilst the mermaids seem to be taking themselves for a swim through the car wash. For a moment It reminded me of the various and often humourous phone calls between myself and Lila over the intricacies and absurdities of the clay mermaids install. Somehow I felt like I had become a hidden part of the work, another imaginary mermaid.

All of Lila De Magalhaes’s work searches to perch right on the unsteady cusp between desire and abject, instinct and composure, animal and human. From video, soap, ink, or a performance with a Saint Bernard dog, her practice varies greatly in form but regardless of medium successfully amuses, bemuses and in my own personal case, warms the viewer’s heart.”

Liz Wewiora
Tall Tales Co-Curator

Delving deeper into the Call for Cloth stories


Tall Tales artist Lauren Sagar has been revisiting the stories behind her new intricate textile work, Call for Cloth. The work sprung from an invitation by Sagar to local communities and the wider public; an invitation to share stories and memories related to cloth. Stories and donations of fabric were collected from across the country, and specifically at each location of our Tall Tales tour as it progressed.

What resulted were a series of blankets, each one weaving together a patchwork of narratives from the people and stories she encountered along the way. Each blanket focuses on stories from specific regions, namely London, Rochdale and Manchester with snippets of stories from further afield.

For the last month of our Tall Tales tour, where the blankets reside at our partner venue Glasgow Women’s Library, Sagar shares the full stories, which exists snuggled within the fabric of each blanket.

Here are the 3 story documents, which are a work in progress for Sagar and which will continue to be developed as she reflects back on the stories encountered for her Call for Cloth commission. Each story is numbered to correspond with the images below:







A Spotlight on…Sarah Forrest


Co-Curator Liz Wewiora discusses the work of Sarah Forrest and how personally she responded to the style of the work, a gentle reminder her own photographic interest in the power finding sculptural beauty in the domestic and everyday.

“Stumbling into the black out corner of what otherwise remained a stark white gallery space, I found myself drawn in further by the sound of a rhythmic female voice. This was the beginning of my real relationship with Sarah Forrest’s work, having the pleasure to meet her in 2014 whilst working at Glasgow Sculpture Studios and discovering her new video work within that very gallery space.

What struck me so clearly were the familiar framed shots of the domestic and everyday, that I myself am drawn to as a photographer, but with a distinct self authored narration. Often these narratives are delivered in such a way to trick you into feeling you are part of a song, the words are spoken so lyrically and soothingly you start to lose yourself somewhere between the spoken word and the very visceral nature of the moving images put before you. And through a playful weaving of narrative, which explores theory, philosophy and fiction of the self, you feel invited into a very personal encounter between artist and viewer.

For Tall Tales, it was a pleasure to work with Forrest to showcase two new works, which took a leap away from the self-narrated voice into subtle self-narration through text and familiar sound.

untitled-potThe Pot (2015), which was showcased for the London leg of our Tall Tales tour, at Freud Museum, represented the artist’s urge to return to working in sculptural form, referring back to the most basic of materials – clay. Text appears on the screen to reveal a narrative from the artist about her experience with the clay, how naturally the pot seems to form, despite her fear it could fall apart at any given minute. A charming if not satirical popular culture reference to the love affair between herself and the material is put to the audience from the on-set with a short sound bit of ‘Oh my Love (Unchained Melody)’ from the soundtrack to the 1980s film Ghost. The music comes to a sudden stop however with the thud of the clay hitting the pottery wheel.

The second work Recital (2016) is based on the artists’ time learning to play the drums, and initially the drum solo for Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick (Tsupplement-sarah-forest-recitalhe Albert Hall version). What followed was an intense period of practicing, feeling and experiencing the way the body learns to repeat actions and respond to rhythm. It was this underlying rhythm and beat, which appears within the film, but presented through a series of everyday actions, rather than a drum solo per say. We start to hear and feel the rhythm through these repetitive everyday moments, and the tight editing process beautifully mimics the beat she must so intensely been studying. The film is purposefully presented as a split screen to echo the working of both her left and right side of the body; a separation both physically and emotionally needed in order to learn the drums.

Recital (2016) is on display alongside the rest of the Tall Tales exhibition at Glasgow Women’s Library until 21 December so catch that beat whilst you can.”

Liz Wewiora

Image Credits: Header Image – Still from Recital (2016), Video HD
Top left image – Still from The Pot (2015), Video HD
Bottom right image – Still from Recital (2016), Video HD
All images Copyright Sarah Forrest

A Spotlight On… Jacqueline Butler


We hear more from Tall Tales assistant Curator, Charlie Booth, on the work of Jacqueline Butler, weaving in and out of the processes and exchanges between people and place within her work…

“Currently hanging in the Tall Tales exhibition is a tremendously rich and colourful tapestry; consisting of a series of different circles with appliquéd and stitched narratives within each circle. On Hearing of His Illness (Mapping Household Management) (2014) is by the artist Jacqueline Butler whose practice evaluates domestic histories and the tangibility of the contemporary photograph and explores themes associated with analogue photography, of loss and melancholia.

In 2012 Jacqueline Butler visited the Kala Raksha Trust in the Kutch region of India. A grassroots social enterprise, Kala Raksha is dedicated to the preservation of traditional arts. Founded in 1993, it comprises of artisans, community members, and experts in the fields of art, design and museums. There she met two of the founding members Meghiben Meriya and Raniben Bhanani, each are internationally recognised as patchwork designers creating narrative artwork. Upon meeting, the women discussed personal histories with one another. Meghiben and Raniben began relaying stories to Jacqueline including migrating to different villages, living temporarily in refugee camps and eventually gaining Indian citizenship. From these conversations Jacqueline wanted to develop maps of the women’s current everyday domestic life. She writes

‘These maps would focus on a celebration of the everyday, making visible daily chores and thoughts often considered of little relevance and invisible from view.’

Central to the creation of the work was the focus that Meghiben and Raniben took the lead in the creative dialogue. That they defined themes for their maps and Jacqueline would respond to the activities charted once the quilt was completed. I think that this participatory or collaborative way of working has also come across in the finished creation. For example when the work was displayed in Tocuchstones Rochdale I remember one lady remarking on how different sections of the tapestry differed in technique and style as well as subject matter and asking if more than one person had made the tapestry. A subtlety which was lost on me, a novice in stitching and tapestry making, but which was very obvious to those skilled in the art form. Jacqueline responded by explaining that the two women had very different characters, opinions and ways of working and that this came across in the finished work.

The second element of the work by Jacqueline Butler in the Tall Tales exhibition is a series of nine circular photographs in handmade white frames entitled On hearing of his illness (I realised they were plants that needed watering) (2014). Each image depicts plants and flowers gently lit against a plain background. This work was created in response to Jacqueline receiving news of her father’s diagnosis of Cancer. She explains that

‘I contemplated Raniben and Meghiben’s lyrical thoughts on the importance of simple acts such as watering plants and feeding birds during times of hardship and pain.’jacqueline-butler

 I think there is beauty in the simplicity of this series of photographs. An experience that is painful and difficult and all too common now (with one in two of us being affected by Cancer in our lifetime) it must be a very hard thing to express in a visual form. As Jacqueline explains above, the plants that are featured in the photographs, belong to her father and caring for them during his stay in hospital became a task that gained significance in her day-to-day life.

I take comfort that a dialogue between the three women in India resonated with Jacqueline on her return to the UK and everyday life. To me this is what the Tall Tales exhibition has been all about. I have enjoyed watching the different dialogues between the female artists and curators but most of all dialogues between the artwork as and when they shift position in each new space in London, Rochdale and now Glasgow.

Charlie Booth


Tall Tales in situ… at Glasgow Women’s Library


Tall Tales has fully settled into its new home at Glasgow Women’s Library, filling every nook, shelf and even the plant chests with our 17 women artists’ work.

Here are just a selection of images of the current exhibition and remember you can see it for yourself at Glasgow Women’s Library until 21 December 2016.

Image credits: Installation images, Tall Tales at Glasgow Women’s Library, Copyright wewioraprojects 2016

A Spotlight on… Ma Qiusha


This month we hear from Tall Tales Co-Curator Liz Wewiora on the work of Ma Qiusha, one of the most exciting Chinese women artists of her generation, and how a particular work has continued to create new narratives for both artist and curator.

“It was my first visit to China, and nothing would prepare me for the art ‘theme park’ of an extravaganza that was the 798 district in Beijing. The district comprised of a 50 year old complex of decommissioned military factory buildings, which now houses a thriving if not somewhat overwhelming artistic community. Gallery after gallery, studio after studio, and one public realm sculpture after another there was art for all the senses on every street corner. So much so, that it I began to stop taking any of it in, until I visited the Beijing Commune Gallery.

Amongst all that visual noise, the white clean space of Beijing Commune, was a welcome arrival but more over it was the artist exhibiting within it, that drew me in. I was presented by one of the first solo exhibitions by Beijing artist Ma Qiusha. A series of video works, paintings and sculpture sat with authority yet curiosity in the space. In a city so full of visual noise I was completely transfixed in Ma Qiusha’s ability to create works that left me in a sense of complete calm and control. Her work reflects a special sensitivity with ordinary everyday objects and materials. She carefully re-stages them in unfamiliar environments to tell a story or express suppressed emotions. Often the works, relate to personal memories and emotions to family and identity as well as wider topics around historical, political, social and economic transitions Chinese Society has gone through in the course of the 21st century.

It was an absolute delight, in 2013, to be able to curate and  present her first UK solo exhibition at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts, again presenting a series of video works, painting and sculpture. When considering the Tall Tales artistic programme in 2014, I was instantly drew to one particular work, Two Years Younger Than Me, which had been showcased in her solo UK exhibition. The work not only represented a work with a strong narrative in its own right, but more over a newer narrative which through the dialogue around the initial presentation of the work, evolved into a life long conversation and indeed friendship between artist and curator.

imgresTwo Years Younger Than Me presents a series of curious found objects by the artist’s late Grandfather and represents a new found understanding the artist had for her relative once she discovered these objects. In first discussing the work with Ma Qiusha, I was fascinated to know more about these curious items, which consisted of a set of small pill bottles with beard shavings, labelled by the year they were collected for 27 years.

When the bottles are laid out in order of their age, we see a delicate shifting greyscale as the beard shavings start to change colour. We also start to see signs of other changes over time, as less hair is captured in each bottle, and the earlier consistent shape and size of bottles shifts to various sizes, colours and with less consideration to label them. So although the idea of collecting and collating beard shavings might seem like an unusual one, as a collection of objects they represented a sense of time; a sense of growth and ageing and a sense of eventual loss. I was fascinated still to hear from Ma Qiusha what she herself made of them and how they related to her relationship and memories of her Grandad.

Ma Qiusha explained “My Grandad is the only elderly family member who have ever argues with me. Unlike most his age, he never spoiled his grandkids. My Grandad was an only child, just like me, and that’s why he was kind of weird. I remember clearly his odd, but always serious manner. He would keep his beard hair in a pill pottle and lock all the bottles up away. It was only after he passed away that I found these bottles in a pile of his personal belongings, which were going to be thrown away. Since 1984 he had used a pill bottle each year to save all his removed beard hairs from the last 12 months. I counted the bottle, 27 in total and exactly ‘two years younger than me”.

The story behind the found objects, and discovering that upon Ma Qiusha finding these curious items, she in fact finally understood her relationship with her Grandad, gave the work even more emotion and for me a new attachment and narrative that I wanted to share. Since this initial conversation, Ma Qiusha presents the work alongside her personal story about her relationship to her Grandfather and it is still something we discuss and adapt each time she presents the work to this very day.

For Tall Tales Ma Qiusha also presents a new video work, Rainbow, which presents to the viewers a dream like scene: three girls in a typical figure skating costume appear to be circling the camera, hand in hand. The film slowly reveals the girls are striving to mash tomatoes under their boots, causing a splash of fruit into nearby glass vessels – every sense and splash amplified by the use of HD recording, creating an immersive relationship between the audience and the figures. The work plays homage to the ring-a-ring-o’rose nursery rhyme and the chromatic contrast between the use of red and white in the piece, echoes an all too familiar play of against good and evil, fight or flight in storytelling.


Like many of Ma Qiusha’s other works, Rainbow uses the visual tool of a blade/ razor in combination with a seemingly soft and dreamlike state. It is even more of charming and uncanny connection then that Two Years Younger Than Me represents her Grandad’s beard shavings. So perhaps they were similar than they ever realised; a little fact I like to keep hold of, that makes me more fond of the work every time I see it”.

Liz Wewiora, Co-Curator, Tall Tales, November 2016

Image credits, Header image: still from Rainbow, HD video, 2013, middle image: Two Years Younger than me, found objects, 2011, bottom image: still from Rainbow, HD video, 2013, all work copyright the artist, Ma Qiusha