Monday, February 11, 2013
Make! Believe! Make! at Portsmouth Museum
Still in Portsmouth Museum. Until 24th of this month the "Make! Believe! Make!" exhibition is in the two large temporary exhibition spaces. It's an inspired piece of curating which took a number of artist working in modern crafts in different media and gave them access to the Museum's store where they could rummage around and find objects, with the help of the curators which have a resonance with the work they were showing.
The museum curators assumed that the artists would be most interested in the museum's collection of decorative arts, and they certainly pulled out some great pieces, but the curators were surprised to discover just as much interest in the natural history, taxidermy, geology and local history collections. The picture above is of an installation called Sixty Children Lost by Judes Crow. The HMS Royal George was lost in 1782 in the Solent, within sight of land on both sides. It was visiting port and so had on board not only a full complement of crew but also hundreds of visitors, families and children. When she sank, among the death toll were sixty children. Most of the bodies washed up on the sand at Ryde on the Isle of Wight and, remarkably, were buried there, in the sand, in mass graves. This tragic tale is the inspiration for the sixty ceramic heads and, whilst obviously cast from a doll's head, the various iterations of the cast give a poignant echo of the disaster and the childrens' eventual fate. R and I were so impressed we bought a handful of the heads and now I can't wait for the end of the exhibition so I can go and pick them up and bring them home.
The other artist we really appreciated in this exhibition was also a ceramicist, Sophie Woodrow, whose bizarre creature creations were a perfect match for items she dug from the museum's taxidermy collection (see photos below). This was by far the best of the 'mix-and-match' displays in the exhibition but they were all fascinating and the exhibition as a whole is a real example of what a local museum can do if it puts its mind to it... great to see pieces of their collection which we've never seen before: it's just a shame the museum can't do more to advertise itself.