A Faculty of Arts PhD student is working with the National Trust at three of its properties in South East England.
18 Jan 2012
The artist group ‘Unravelled’, co-directed by Faculty of Arts PhD student Matt Smith, is launching a new project to display contemporary art and craft in historical settings over the next three years. The project has received £122,000 from Arts Council England and £10,000 from the Headley Trust, with each National Trust property supporting the project with £12,500 each year.
Matt is a student member of the Faculty of Arts' Doctoral College and the LGBT Queer Life Research Hub. His doctoral research study looks at museum culture through interventions with a provision thesis title ‘Visual Identity of Queer Craft and the ability of Craft to Queer Museum and Gallery spaces.'
Ten artists working with craft practice in conceptual and challenging ways will take part in the programme, and each exhibition will feature artwork made specifically in response to the individual property’s history and environment.
Matt said: “What excites me most about this project is the chance it allows for some of the less well known histories associated with the properties to come to life using artist interventions, showing, for a brief period of time, some of the complexities and contradictions that make up their pasts."
The project is part of the National Trust’s three-year Trust New Art programme, which aims to develop and promote contemporary art and craft. The initiative grew out of a successful group exhibition, ‘Unravelling the Manor House’ held at Preston Manor in Brighton in 2010.
The first exhibition will take place in May 2012 at Nymans, fomer home of the highly creative Messel family. Oliver Messel (1904-1978) has been described as one of the foremost stage designers of the 20th century.
Accompanying the exhibitions will be a professional development programme for artists, which includes support in developing new work for commission, a series of artist talks, skill-sharing sessions and two symposia. Each of the exhibitions will have educational activities for families and organised tours led by the directors of ‘Unravelled’.
Matt is working with co-director Polly Harknett, formerly of Brighton & Hove Museum, and Caitlin Heffernan, artist resource manager at Fabrica Art Gallery, Brighton.
Tom Freshwater, contemporary arts programme manager at the National Trust said: "Working with contemporary craft is very important to the Trust New Art as it shows how our fantastic places and collections can inspire creative people now. Not knowing what these talented makers will produce is exciting. We know that ‘Unravelled’ will help them create something new to intrigue and delight our visitors.”
In another project linked to Matt's research and as part of LGBT History Month, he is exhibiting in Other Stories: Queering the University Art Collection at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds until 5 May, 2012.
The exhibition, which is featured in the 23-29 February edition of Times Higher Education, consists of a range of domestic objects which are inscribed in some way with a testimony of gay life, drawn from the Brighton Ourstory archive, juxtaposed with paintings, drawings and photographs from the university's collection. Matt describes this as: "repurposing the collection in terms of the oral histories that would normally be discounted."