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Guest Post – ‘Dazzle’ When Painting Went to War

Mark Gibbs our Secondary Learning Officer gives us an update on one of his projects with local Secondary schools.

“This week one of the things I’ve been getting ready for is an Arts Award workshop for 15 year 7s from William Howard School. I’m really looking forward to it, particularly as it coincides with some of my own artistic interests. The workshop combines a number of subjects that are particularly current; the First World War commemorations, our visiting War Games exhibition from the V&A Museum of Childhood, and the upcoming ARTIST ROOMS: Anselm Kiefer exhibition [7th February- 7th June].

On Friday 5 December I lead an art workshop called ‘Dazzle – When painting went to war.’ It is a workshop which seeks to mix art and military history, followed by a visit to War Games.

With U-Boats around, how do you camouflage a huge ship, especially when the pesky sky keeps changing colour? One minute its grey then a bit of blue- you could splash a bit of everything on and hope for the best, or choose an average. Thing is, even if you are lucky with your colour choice, First World War ships were powered by coal, so there’s a huge smoke plume acting as a signpost for every periscope around.

Artist Norman Wilkinson, inspired by bird plumage came up with Dazzle camouflage- you don’t try and hide the ship, you try and to make it difficult to tell how far away it is, and even, which direction it’s steaming in. So this is why ships appeared in zebra-like, migraine inducing stripes as so;

dazzle

USS West Mahomet 1918 in dazzle camouflage Photo #: 19-N-1733, Naval History and Heritage Command website

In fact if you look closely it’s difficult to see where the ship ends. As an artist I’ve become a bit obsessed with these patterns and a have made a series of sculptures inspired by them and by the historic photographs of the ships. As so;

Dazzle- image embedded in resin on raku ceramic Mark Gibbs 2014 Detail

dazzleSo inspired by Wilkinson and his team of artists our students camouflaged some ship cut outs- learning about colour mixing, contrast and pattern, as they went. Then we held a competition, comparing designs against a selected sky colour [the carpet colour actually!] Only the most confusing survived, and here were our winners.

The Winning DesignsThis workshop was followed up by a full day outreach workshop lead by myself and artist Celia Burbush, focussing on Kiefer’s work. For day 2 we  made our own version of one of Kiefer’s monumental; ‘ploughed fields of history- splash it on an inch thick’ paintings…. That’s an official art historical term.

dazzle workshop 2

Many thanks to Celia and the students from William Howard School.

Mark

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Up and running

It’s been an eventful week in THe Shed.

After the slight chaos of Half Term where the volume of people meant lots of people saw and enjoyed the What’s in Store space, it also meant that wolf received way more strokes than it should have (the museums constant battle – preservation versus access) we were in need of the slightly calmer events of this week.  It started last Thursday evening where the space played host to its first evening event, a very well attended opening for the Remembrance 100 project, where over 80 pupils, their parents and teachers from Trinity School came along.  I’ve shared a few of the photos below.

Following on from this there was a lovely piece in the Evening News and Star on Tuesday 11th.

Also this week the vote for the Roman object closed.  The winner will be featured in next summer’s show Carlisle in 10 Objects and we are collating the results as we speak – the name of the winning object will appear here next week.

As the voting ended it was replaced by a brand new photography exhibition ‘I remember when…’ This new show in the Work in Progress space is part of the Raw Talent series.  It’s presenting a series of works by young people responding to a brief by The Image Unit for the Carlisle Photography Festival.  Their challenge was to take a single photograph with their mobile phone that finished the question ‘I remember when…’  The results are remarkable.  The festival may have finished but you can see these works on show until 30 November.

Remembrance 100 opens in THe Shed

The first of our series of seven exhibitions opens in THe Shed tomorrow.  The co-curator of Remembrance 100 Mark Gibbs is our guest blogger today who shares his expereince of creating an exhibit from such thought-provoking subject matter.

Remembrance 100   6 Nov- 23 Nov
A big part of my job is to build connections between schools and Tullie House, so I’m delighted with how Remembrance 100 has turned out. It’s a show in Tullie’s new experimental Shed space, where we try to do displays differently. The project is a partnership between the Museum and Trinity School in Carlisle. It combines student artwork, powerful artefacts, a web based archive and an interactive peace wall.  Continuing the theme of collaboration, I’ve enjoyed working closely with the Curator of Social History Edwin Rutherford.
The background to the show comes from Tullie’s interest in marking the 100th anniversary of the War’s outbreak, and the research two Trinity teachers carried out.  Trinity’s Head of History, Linda Hodgson and maths teacher Sarah Lee-Adamson researched the service history of the school’s old boys who were killed in the First World War. Through this they found three names not recorded on the school’s memorial plaque, and so these were added in a dedication service led by the Bishop of Carlisle this October. Their research is recorded in Trinity’s Memorial website, which visitors can access in the show or at home. The school’s year 9 (13-14 year olds) were then asked to design an image to use for the invitations to the event.  

Eloise helping out

Remembrance 100 combines this display of 100 of these student artworks with artefacts from our collections, including a set of letters from Lance Corporal Joseph Hall, who was killed in action at Arras in 1917. We have his last letter home, family photograph and death notification telegram.  This is powerful stuff which made a big impact on the group of eight Trinity students who came over to design the labels and information boards: ‘Our first impressions were indescribable’ said one student pair.  That’s where the innovation comes in.  One group of students designed most of the text in the show and a second group of six students came over to install the show – Museum Assistant Eloise Stott helped us to put the display up making sure everything was level – no mean feat with 100 small artworks!

So Remembrance 100 is a jointly curated show, with student artworks, powerful stories,
and the Memorial website providing a digital element. There’s also an interactive part; a peace wall where visitors are encouraged to think how we can all promote peace, and post that thought on the wall. Suggesting perhaps that Remembrance can be active, and continuing the interest that Tullie has already shown in conflict resolution with the Living Wall display, in the Roman Frontier Gallery (this reminds viewers that border walls are still very much part of our world). It also connects with the debate on the ethics of war themed toys in our current Wargames show.
A short documentary film will provide a permanent record of the show.
Filmaker Paddy preparing for the big shot

Mark Gibbs
Secondary and post 16 Learning Officer

Tullie House
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