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:







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… Rachel Goodyear


With all 3 London venues now open we asked Assistant Curator, Charlie Booth, to take some time out of her Tall Tales Rochdale prep, and take some time to respond to one of our programmed artists for our April ‘Spotlight On’. This month Charlie chose to delve into the work of Rachel Goodyear, and share her views on the artist’s work.

“Hanging on the cream coloured walls of the staircase in the Freud Museum are two of Rachel Goodyear’s drawings, Thought Spill (2013) and Molehills (2012). Two pieces that whilst assisting the installation of the Tall Tales exhibition I thoroughly enjoyed discovering and learning about.

Molehills, large in scale, dominate the central staircase and can be viewed from multiple heights. Characteristic of Goodyear’s illustrations, the work is simultaneously empowering and delicate, disturbing and playful, beautiful and ugly. In Molehills a gang of female figures appear, standing semi-nude atop a mound of earth in sexual lingerie. In this piece Rachel talks about the overtly sexual absurdity of ritual and how we communicate that with one another, as the power play and purpose of the characters in this work is left tenaciously ambiguous.


On the opposite wall hangs Goodyear’s amalgamation of intricate sketches, which make up Thought Spill. During the panel discussion on April 16th, Rachel described the work as ‘fragments not drawings’, explaining that cumulatively they represent her most raw piece of work. Alluding to a private, erratic activity of noting down ideas before they fade away. The way she works is a mixture of observations over heard or read about, a constant gathering and collating of information, which is clearly demonstrated in the sheer mass of frames.

Whilst condition checking each of the 34 frames I enjoyed the nature of unwrapping each one and gradually studying the illustration, (a privilege of the job) before placing them in their specific place in the cluster. One or two stick in my head more than others and during the private view I noticed our guests doing a similar thing. Each noting down their ‘favourite’, as if there is something in the Thought Spill that speaks clearly to the individual viewer. Mine contained a single blindfolded lady who appears to be being led by a bird in flight. To the left of the figure is written the word ‘North’. My interpretation of a person having blind faith that their choices in life are right, that there are powers working to help guide you to your destination and the place you call home.

Although each drawing could be viewed as a piece in its own right, when hung in their entirety in the dense cluster of wooden frames, they have the ability to evoke a powerful reaction; an insight in to the artists thought processes. Rachel explains that this work includes many of the themes and issues present within her other work; penetration, oozing and fear to name but a few. Her work never has a clear linear narrative but when viewed together in this dense cluster, the images begin to take on new meaning when they are positioned in relation to one another.

What has stuck in my mind more than anything during the panel discussion was a comment from Rachel that as an artist she feels a strong sense of responsibility to her audience. Explaining that after work has been created and launched out in to the world it is then open for interpretation.

Other work by Rachel Goodyear included in the Tall Tales exhibition includes A Humming in the Ear (2012) and Itchy Arms (2009). Rachel Goodyear’s work will feature in Tall Tales exhibition at the Freud Museum until the 29th May 2016 where it will then travel to Touchstones Rochdale and the Glasgow Women’s Library later in the year.”

Charlie Booth, April 2016

Artworks C. Artist Rachel Goodyear, Images C. Tall Tales 2016


A spotlight on Nina Yuen


As we celebrate the first opening week of Tall Tales exhibitions across two of our London Venues, we take a look a closer look at some of the exhibiting artists’ work on show.

Currently exhibiting at Swiss Cottage Gallery is Hawaiian born artist Nina Yuen. I first came across Nina’s work through my previous role at Centre For Contemporary Chinese Art, Manchester where the organisation was delighted to be presenting Nina’s first UK solo exhibition in 2013. Hearing from the artist then, it became clear her inspiration to create artwork sprang from a preoccupation with sharing personal stories from her childhood and relationship with those around her.

What struck me about Nina’s work was its ability to completely immerse you within another world, her world. Every element of the artist’s  video works draw you in closer, whether it’s through her striking use of colour, montage imagery, playful performance or melodic narrative.

Although you remain standing within a public gallery for the duration of your viewing, you become convinced she is telling a story that only you can hear. Like a parent telling their child a bed time story, you are hooked on every word, shift in tone or new narrative which comes your way.

For Tall Tales we have selected two video works by the artist; Hermione and a new work which makes its UK debut, Raymond. 

In Hermione, we follow a story which combines the biographies of Simone de Beauvoir, Twyla Tharpe, Dorothy Parker, Vera Nabokov, and Hilda Dolittle. Nina references these women’s thoughts, behaviours and individual life stories, throu453877058_1280x720gh re-imaging their external biographies an internal autobiography, of a singular female Character.

We follow the artist’s life from Childhood
to Adult and all the joyful, painful and awkward years between. Although the years are clearly passing, the repetitive and sickly sweet aesthetics remain frozen in time. The number of candles on the birthday cake advance, but the cake is perpetually decorated for a child.

The use of literature referencing, personal story telling and vivid aesthetics reminiscent of Children’s playtime sits perfectly within the Tall Tales overarching themes and was an easy choice for the Tall Tales programme.

In Raymond, we see a truly intimate video work about the relationship between the artist and her father. Located on the island of Hawaii, where Nina grew up, the viewer is taken on a journey of her childhood. We are exposed to the artist’s background, and all the emotional weight that comes with this. The work is narrated, for the first time in any of her films, by a male voice-ver, by non other than her father.

We hear how her father tries to understand the world by quantifying and categorising certain things, from calculating the calories that his farm produced to measuring the number of miles that he travelled while commuting. This numeric/ systematic approach to life is echoed in the playful use of counting and recording numbers and objects in her earlier film Hermione and we see a pattern between father and daughter emerge when the two video works are presenting together.


Raymond also includes her father revealing the ‘little fantasies’ he had as a child (bending trees with his fingers, or playing guitar on electrical power lines), he talks animately about the origins of the world, and tells his daughter lovingly how she behaved as a baby.

Raymond showcases the idiosyncrasies of the human condition, and how we aspire to make sense of the world. Moreover it hints at the power of human relationships, and asks how our upbringing can shape our own behaviour and understanding of the people and places around us.

By Elizabeth Wewiora, Co-Curator, Tall Tales

Image credits: Featured Image & Top Right, Hermione, Nina Yuen, Bottom Right Image, Raymond, Nina Yuen. All images C. Artist