Charlie Booth takes on Hidden Histories

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We are happy to announce that Charlie Booth, as associate curator of Wewiora Projects has recently been appointed the new Community Engagement Manager at Manchester Histories.

She will be working on Manchester Histories HLF funded project Hidden Histories Hidden Histories until the end of the year on behalf of Wewiora Projects. The project will see Manchester Histories working with communities across Greater Manchester with the aim of revealing less familiar histories and heritage; that is to say, the histories of the people, buildings, families, communities and places that make up our lives. These histories can become ‘hidden’ because they are not always recorded; nevertheless, these important social histories often shape us and the places we live.

Since the beginning of the year Manchester Histories has been working with five community groups, plus, with the help of experts, also developing an informative series of toolkits that will to equip anybody with the skills they need to begin researching and creating their own archives. You can get involved in the project by attending any of the free workshops, designed to develop skills from managing your own archive to collecting oral histories. To book on to these workshops please check out Manchester Histories website.

Charlie’s role will be to coordinate the later stages of this project in to an exhibition that will take place in Manchester Central Library in November. The exhibition is within the Archives+ section of the Library on the ground floor. It is an interactive display where visitors can access the records, photographs and archives of Greater Manchester including the personal archives belonging to the five community groups Manchester Histories have worked with.

Please join Charlie and the Manchester Histories team at their celebration event on Saturday the 11th November at Central Library. Make sure to follow Manchester Histories online at www.manchesterhistoriesfestival.org.uk for more information on the event and the project as it is announced.

Image C. University of Manchester Archives
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A Spotlight on… Margarete Berger-Hamerschlag

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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.

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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

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“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

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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:

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A Spotlight on…Sarah Forrest

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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

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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

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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