Tag Archives: Exhibition

Lee McDonald, Kinetic Artist

Following the student group meeting on the 16th January, I thought about the prospect of working with a kinetic artist for the Council House project.  Although I have used kinetic mechanisms in some of my own artwork in the past, I do not feel confident and fully equipped or knowledgeable in producing a working, professional piece which would last the duration of the exhibition (which I expect to be for several months).

Thus, later that evening, I recalled earlier conversations I have had with Southwest artist Lee McDonald during Plymouth College of Art’s Ephemeron, “Artist as Curator”, Critique Event at Karst in April 2013 regarding his sound pieces – particularly his Sonic Reverber pieces.  (Lee also has a studio at Karst, Plymouth.)

Lee McDonald, Sonic Reverber, 2012.  Image available at: http://www.leemcdonald.co.uk/sonic-reverber/
Lee McDonald, Sonic Reverber, 2012. Image available at: http://www.leemcdonald.co.uk/sonic-reverber/

After visiting his website again to refresh my memory, I could see that Lee is predominantly interested in the mechanisms of objects and explores the reactional processes and properties of such objects i.e. pushing their capabilities and possibilities in terms of physics and sound (McDonald, 2014, online).  

Lee is also interested in audience participation and although there may be a restriction on sound pieces, there is still the opportunity for movement.

He also uses many recyclable materials or “dead” mechanical objects i.e. objects which have had a live use but are now defunct.

I personally feel that his pieces would work particularly well in the Council House building because it would be completely unexpected.

Lee has showcased his work in gallery spaces, as well as festivals and it seemed that he has a positive attitude  in bringing his art to new audiences.  Much of the art on display at present in the Council House is fairly traditional and Lee’s kinetic work could  literally “liven up” the somewhat serious nature and atmosphere of the space.  I also feel this would be an excellent opportunity to promote discussions regarding art and its environment – especially as the student group are looking at the role of the artist as curator.

I mentioned asking Lee if he would be interested in the project to my fellow student group members and received a positive response from them.  On this basis I emailed Lee a week later and received a reply back, advising that he would be interested and suggesting the group meet up to discuss.

Contents of email sent to Lee McDonald artist



McDonald, L. (2014) About [online] Plymouth: 2014 Lee McDonald.  Available at: http://www.leemcdonald.co.uk/about/


Saltram House Orangery: Ideas Discussion with Student Peer Group 16/01/2014

On Thursday 16th January 2014, the BA(Hon) Fine Art, Critical & Curatorial Practices students discussed the curatorial opportunities and possibilities to be undertaken as part of our CURA300 assignment.

During this meeting, the group brainstormed ideas for the summer exhibition at Saltram House’s Orangery.

As well as my own idea of documenting visitor experiences of Saltram House through visual or audio media, other themes included astronomy and use of shadows.

After explaining my idea (see earlier post), the group discussed how the experience of Saltram House and its grounds could be demonstrated through sound.

Group member Reiss Portman suggested a sound piece which would involve recordings of the natural elements around the Saltram grounds i.e. flowing water, the singing birds, the trees/grass rustling in the wind etc.  This would bring the outside environment into the orangery and perhaps emphasize the many and varied sounds the visitor would hear walking around the grounds.   Visually the environment is particularly beautiful and it could perhaps be possible for the visitor to be distracted from fully responding to each of their senses – including hearing.  A sound piece, would certainly make the visitor more aware of the natural “song” taking place around them.

There was also some discussions about making free-standing screens around the space (possibly displaying text) to allow the sound to travel around the room, as opposed to disappearing across the high-ceilinged room.

Initial Ideas for Saltram House’s Orangey

There was a brief discussion about security particularly if we were to use sound/audio equipment.  We decided as a group that because the exhibition is over the summer, it would probably be best for students who are staying/living in Plymouth to take part in this exhibition with a view to possibly invigilating.  The group, including myself is:

  • Reiss Portman http://reissportmanart.wordpress.com/
  • Jem Williams http://jemwilliamsartistascurator.wordpress.com/
  • Elena Simpson
  • Tes Yates http://estheryatesart.wordpress.com/
  • William Danby http://danbynation.wordpress.com/
  • Sarah Hughes


Council House Building: Ideas Discussion with Student Peer Group 16/01/2014

On Thursday 16th January 2014, the BA(Hon) Fine Art, Critical & Curatorial Practices students discussed the curatorial opportunities and possibilities to be undertaken as part of our CURA300 assignment.

We were yet to have specific dates for when the Council House exhibition would take place, so we discussed possible themes and ideas.

As mentioned in my earlier post,  I had initially thought about the word “hub” and its meaning, with regard to the axle and movement.   I presented my idea to the group and the relevance of how Plymouth City Council has become more and more supportive of the arts in recent years – moving forward toward a more creative future.

I suggested a way of possibly demonstrating this would be through some kind of kinetic sculpture, which would perhaps be completely unexpected within the traditional environment of the Council building.

My suggestions seemed to be met with positive responses from the group and we went on to discuss possible ways of moving this idea forward.

We discussed the possibility of either making a sculpture ourselves, commissioning an artist and/or borrowing work from Plymouth Museum’s collection.

Other ideas and problems which we may encounter were discussed as follows:

  • sound – no loud sound can be used because meetings take place within the building and this could be disruptive.  However, if a video/sound piece was used, headphones could be used to allow audience members to listen to works without causing a disturbance;
  • lighting – the Council House lighting is artificial, with no direct natural light.  The group discussed the possibility of using filters or screens over the lighting to change the intrusive lighting.  Also suggested was whether kinetic mobiles could be hung from the ceiling or lighting.
  • video projection – if a film/video piece was used, the work could relate to the Council House’s existing relationship to the sea (each room is named after a ship and there are already large model ships within the space) by projecting a video onto a sail.
  • funding – we were unsure whether there would be any funding for the exhibition and briefly discussed methods of generating funding i.e. Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/) and crowdsourced funding initiatives.
Student Group Initial Ideas for Council House
Student Group Initial Ideas for Council House

The student group confirmed to work on the Council House exhibition, including myself is:

  • William Danby http://danbynation.wordpress.com/
  • Maddy Crossley http://madelainelouise.wordpress.com/
  • Kath Howard http://kathhoward.wordpress.com/
  • Tiffany Smith http://tiffanysmithcura.wordpress.com/
  • Sarah Hughes
  • Jess Bent http://jessicabentcura300.wordpress.com/

Ideas for Council House Building

In the last few years, there seems to be a surge in arts’ activities and developments throughout Plymouth and the local Council appears to be encouraging a growth in arts and culture in the city.

Although Plymouth lost in its bid to become the City of Culture for 2017, one of the organizations Plymouth2017 who were involved in the bid stated that:

Plymouth is ready now to be a cultural hub (BBC, 2013, online)

Plymouth City Council were part of Plymouth2017 and pledged £20,000 to the bid, proving how dedicated the local government have been in trying to make Plymouth a City of Culture.

Further evidence of the Council’s support of the arts was seen in July 2013 when they gave the go ahead for a new “arts hub” (Plymouth Herald, 2013, online) Ocean Studios in Royal William Yard

The following month news of plans for the Civic Centre were released:

If a funding bid succeeds, a new home for Plymouth Arts Centre will be built between the Civic Centre and the Theatre Royal, creating a new cultural quarter for the city (Rossiter, 2013, online)

Also, September 2013 saw the opening of Plymouth School of Creative Arts for 4-16year olds in Millbay, with their purpose being

personal, professional and cultural transformation through creativity, the arts and high quality education (Plymouth School of Creative Arts, 2013, online).

With these examples in mind – one word kept springing to mind – namely “hub” i.e. “cultural hub”, “arts hub” etc.  Although I knew that hub meant a centre of activity, I looked up the definition on oxforddictionaries.com:


  • the central part of a wheel, rotating on or with the axle, and from which the spokes radiate.
  • the effective centre of an activity, region, or network:the city has always been the financial hub of the country the kitchen was the hub of family life
  • central airport or other transport facility from which many services operate:the airport authority’s policy promotes Manchester as an international hub; the city’s major transportation hub for bus and rail[as modifier]:major hub airports have grown up all over the world (Oxford Dictionaries, 2014, online)

The first part of the definition interested me and I thought this could be incorporated into an exhibition.

The Council House comes across as a very traditional space and I felt that some motorized, mobile or kinetic installation work surrounding the idea of the wheel or axle could create a more fun and dynamic atmosphere.

Examples of artworks which inspiration could be gained from could include Charles and Ray Eames Do Nothing Machine, 1957 and several decades later Edgar Olaineta’s, Solar Do-(It-Yourself) Nothing Toy. After Charles Eames in 2012:

Charles & Ray Eames, Do Nothing Machine, 1957, Image available from: http://architoys.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/charles-e-ray-eames-das-casas-aos-pioes.html
Edgar Olaineta’s, Solar Do-(It-Yourself) Nothing Toy. After Charles Eames, 2012. Image available from: http://www.carnegiemuseums.org/cmag/feature.php?id=318

Also, Alexander Calder’s work could be of interest and Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, 1913 or Rotary Demisphere, 1925:

Mobile circa 1932 by Alexander Calder 1898-1976
Alexander Calder, Mobile, 1932, Image available from: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/calder-mobile-l01686
Click Image to view: Marcel Duchamp, Rotary Demisphere, 1925, Image taken from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MpcOWSoFOc

I will present my idea to my fellow students tomorrow to discuss.


BBC (2013) Plymouth City of Culture bid failure ‘disappointing’ [online] London: BBC. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-22969022

Plymouth School of Creative Art (2013) Vision [online] Plymouth: Plymouth Colleg of Art. Available from: http://plymouthschoolofcreativearts.co.uk/vision/

Oxford Dictionaries (2014) Hub [online] Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available from: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/hub?q=hub

Rossiter, K. (2013) Civic Centre to Become Four Star Hotel [online] Plymouth: Local World. Available from: http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Plymouth-Civic-Centre-star-hotel/story-19681415-detail/story.html


Ideas for Saltram’s Orangery

The trip to Saltram was a very enjoyable experience and a great break from the city.  This made me think about how Saltram House and its grounds affect the people who visit and how this could be incorporated into an exhibition.

With this in mind I looked on tripadvisor.co.uk to see the comments people had made.  Here are two recent examples:

  • One of my favourite places to explore ,relax and enjoy. Views are beautiful and walks around to take at your leisure. Great to go as a family or to walk your dog’s. I personally like the bird life and cows close by . Well kept grounds grounds to see all for free. I like to end the day with a visit in the shop then a nice hot chocolate and cake in the cafe (Tripadvisor, 2013, online).
  • Beautiful gardens and a walkers paradise. We took our 5 year old twin grandchildren who thought it wonderful even though a little overwhelmed by the size of this magnificent house, that is part of the national trust. Home to the Parker family for nearly 300 years, the house with its original contents provides a fascinating insight into country-estate life throughout the centuries. Could not believe how many people visited this fine venue on a Tuesday afternoon but it seemed that all enjoyed themselves. Will recommend to everyone. (Tripadvisor, 2013, online).

I also thought that Saltram House would probably have a visitor book full of positive comments from visitors over the years.

This led me to think about an exhibition using text based pieces that would share people’s experiences of Saltram over the years and possibly centuries – as Saltram is, after all, a historic building with connections to literature – novelist Jane Austen no less and was also used in the filming of the 1995 period drama film Sense and Sensibility.  I thought there would possibility be a wide and varied selection of text from visitors, novelists and actors about Saltram House.

As mentioned in a previous post, as the property is a listed building, picture fixings cannot be drilled into the walls of the orangery.  An answer to this could be the use of large canvases which could lean against the walls around the room or vinyl lettering which could be removed following the end of the exhibition.  Examples of this, that sprang to mind were Bob & Roberta Smith’s recent pieces at the art centre:

Bob & Roberta Smith, Letter to Michael Gove and
Bob & Roberta Smith, Letter to Michael Gove (left) using vinyl letters and Cuts to the Arts (right) large ‘canvas’ made from wood, used to paint on text, displayed at Plymouth Arts Centre, 2013

To make the exhibition more participatory, a visitor book, wipe board or blank canvas could also be displayed to allow visitors to add their own comments of Saltram to the exhibition. If this were to be the case, then a student would need to be present to prevent anyone from drawing anywhere other that the designated books/boards etc.

Another idea, would be to interview and record members of the public – young and old about their experience of Saltram, which could then be used as a sound piece.  Several interviews could be played at the same time around the room to create a sense of ‘conversation’.  As I am unsure of how the acoustics would travel in the building, students may have to experiment with acoustic boards – perhaps text could be incorporated into these boards.

This made me think of sound and video installation artist Imogen Stidworthy and her 2003 piece The Whisper Heard where she used curtains and a parabolic dish to control the acoustics:

Imogen Stidworthy, 2003, The Whisper Heard
Imogen Stidworthy, 2003, The Whisper Heard, Image taken from: http://www.mattsgallery.org/artists/stidworthy/exhibition-1.php

I’m not sure how curtains or material could be hung without the use of screws but portable screens could be a possibility – similar to the ones used in our Studio 11 work space.

The window panes could also be potentially part of the exhibition as a way of advertising that there was an exhibition in that building, which would encourage people walking through the grounds to take a look.

This instantly made me think of Low Profile’s recent exhibition Against All Odds in 2013 at Exeter Phoenix where vinyl letters were placed on the window panes of the Phoenix:

Low Profile, 2013, Never Give Up at Exeter Phoenix, Image available from:https://www.exeterphoenix.org.uk/never-give-up/

I experimented with this idea briefly using the text “Dear Saltram, we love you” – which I felt would be an appropriate text to the exhibition idea:

Edited photo of Saltram’s orangery with text on windows

I thought that the text would work better horizontally because the windows can be moved up and down, whereas if they were placed vertically, the letters may overlap as the windows move down in front of the fixed windows.  I’m not sure how well this example would work, as it doesn’t seem very clear from a distance.

I will present and discuss my ideas with my fellow students tomorrow.


Tripadvisor (2013) Saltram Gardens (National Trust) [online]. Tripadvisor LLC. Available from: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186258-d215032-Reviews-Saltram_Gardens_National_Trust-Plymouth_Devon_England.html

Visit to Plymouth City Council House Building: 15 November 2013

As part of our CURA300 project, we have been asked to submit a curatorial proposal for an exhibition.  One opportunity we have been offered, is the possibility of creating an exhibition of artwork in the City Council House’s members’ lobby which we, as a student group visited on Friday 15 November 2013.

The Council House has recently started a new scheme called Open Art which gives local artists the opportunity to display their work, as the Council website highlights:

This is a new scheme designed to demonstrate the breadth of contemporary visual art and craft currently being produced in Plymouth. It also aims to highlight the commitment of the Council to creativity and to Plymouth’s aspirations to be a City of Culture in the future (Plymouth City Council, 2014)

The Council House blog further emphasizes that this is a free opportunity and sets out its objectives:

By opening up a Council building, it aims to provide a free opportunity for Plymouth visual artists to raise their profile and showcase their work in an inspiring and iconic city centre location.


In devising a new Open Art Display, we hope to:

  • establish a transparent and representative open call and selection process

  • establish a selection committee made up of key Council Members from both parties

  • develop a series of programme of changing displays of original artworks by local artists for display in the main hall on the ground floor

  • provide an opportunity for artists to raise their profile amongst Council Members and the wider public, through display, promotion and events held in the Council House and Council Chamber

  • further develop display cases to allow 3D works / craft to be displayed (Council House Art, 2014)

The first thing that struck me as soon as I entered the lobby was the wooden paneled walls, chequered marble floor and artificial light.  The space did not strike me as a typical gallery space for displaying work and although there is a sense of authority and a stereotypical official environment, it does seem a little antiquated for my taste.

At present, artworks selected by Plymouth Councillors of 26 graduates of Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth University and the University of St Mark and St John are being displayed in the lobby.


The works on display are inoffensive and fairly ‘safe’ which I presume is because, after all it is a serious, governmental building.  There is one work which is a cast of a woman’s vulva in white and although this may seem shocking to some, I did not find it shocking at all, especially when you think of ancient greek sculptures of nude men and women, Da Vinci or Michaelangelo sculptures or the multitude of paintings of nude women over the centuries.  However, it seemed, that as a compromise for anyone who was offended by the piece, a portable display text was placed near the work and could be wheeled in front of it at any time.


From what I gather, there would perhaps be a limit on what mediums could be used i.e. sound pieces may be a problem when Councillors are holding meetings.  Furthermore, as mentioned above, there will probably be some restriction on what can be displayed in terms of how offensive a work may deem to be.

There are several tables and chairs in the area that could be rearranged if necessary, but with fixed warning wall signs and equipment i.e. fire extinguishers, toilet signs etc, these cannot be removed due to health and safety and will need to be considered when curating an exhibition.

Click here to view Council house wall measurements


Council House Art (2014) About [online] WordPress. Available from: http://councilhouseart.wordpress.com/

Plymouth City Council (2014) Council Buildings [online]. Plymouth: Plymouth City Council. Available from: http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/homepage/councilanddemocracy/aboutus/lordmayoralty/councilbuilding.htm

Plymouth City Council (2014) Council House – Open Art Display [online] Plymouth: Plymouth City Council. Available from: http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/homepage/creativityandculture/museums/artdevelopment/artsprojects/artscouncilhousedisplay.htm

Visit to Saltram House, Plymouth: 21 November 2013

On Thursday 21st November 2013, the CURA300 students visited Saltram, Plymouth with a view to potentially putting forward a curatorial proposal in the forthcoming months for an exhibition during Summer 2014 in the orangery.

Saltram House is an Georgian mansion owned by the National Trust, formerly the home to the Parker family for 300yrs.  The picturesque grounds consist of the house, an orangery, gardens and a chapel.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, the orangery was the focus of our visit and we met with Saltram gardener Antony Cockell to discuss the building.

The orangery (designed in 1773) is a large rectangular building with three large bay front windows in the centre and two either side, totaling 240 individual glass window panes (48 per bay window).  The windows allow for maximum sunlight exposure during the summer months, which is ideal for a summer exhibition considering there are no fixed artificial lighting facilities in the building.  Furthermore, the building is open to the public from 11am to 4pm, so visitors should be able to view the exhibition easily during these hours without the need for extra lighting.

The Orangery, Saltram, Plymouth
The Orangery, Saltram, Plymouth

At present, the orangery (as the name suggests) is home to the citrus trees during the winter months.  The trees will naturally be moved outside over the summer, however the plants in the corners and along the back wall will remain.



The other physical obstacles to consider when curating an exhibition here, are the fixed statues and a corner sink in back left corner.


Also, the property is a listed building and therefore no fixings that could damage the walls can be used i.e. drilling screws into the walls for hanging work is a big no-no.  Similarly, the walls and floors etc cannot be painted.

There is the potential to use electrical equipment i.e. audio or projector equipment, as there is a power supply in the building.  However, with regard to audio pieces, there may be a problem with how sound travels due to the large open space and high ceiling.  If audio were to be used, sound/acoustic boards would probably be required.

With this in mind however, there may be an issue with using electrical equipment because the central bay windows are kept open, therefore allowing the natural elements to a

ffect the environment within the building i.e. heat, wind, rain etc.  Also, there would possibly be a need for a student to be present during the opening hours because of the lack of security over additional equipment used.

Antony also advised that there would be no money to fund the exhibition but he could look into the possibility of sponsorship.

There is no doubt, that the beautiful property and grounds are breathtaking and the possibility of curating an exhibition here is a fantastic opportunity for work to be shown in a popular and stunning environment.  However, the limits on what can be achieved could prove challenging.  Hopefully, through our student collaboration, we will be able to brainstorm ideas and use our imaginations to create something worthy of this striking, stately property.


National Trust (2014) Saltram [online] Swindon: National Trust. Available from: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/saltram/