‘Eye of the Beholder : Taking Inspiration’

Jack Lynch is our Print and Digital Media trainee and has been working with some of our staff to promote ‘Eye of the Beholder’ in both phases of the exhibition.  He’s also written a blog post about the experience:

When I first started my Traineeship at Cartwright Hall, the ‘Eye of the Beholder’ show was in its first phase. The show was full of an eclectic mix of Bradford’s international art collection. Everything from contemporary art, calligraphy, decorative arts, jewellery and artefacts were on display together. One of the most remarkable things about the exhibition was the sheer breadth of the work it showcases. From Bradford’s own collection of International and South Asian arts, it demonstrates changes in culture through time.

Photograph of Cartwright Hall
Cartwright Hall –  Taken during #Museumsweek 2015

Twenty-five years since the establishment of Bradford’s International and 110 years since the opening of Cartwright Hall, what I liked was the vast array of work shown which demonstrated changes in the cultural make-up of the city over time. From traditional ceremonial pieces through to contemporary takes on South Asian culture, the exhibition parallels the ever-changing nature of cosmopolitan Bradford. To do work relating to an exhibition with so many elements was a good starting point to learn the ins and outs of how exhibitions in a building like Cartwright Hall operate.

Ten pointed neon star by Eric Broug
Ten pointed neon star by Eric Broug

For the second phase of the show, eight different artists were commissioned to make pieces that responded to pieces from the city’s international art collection. This ‘Taking Inspiration’ component of the second phase was relevant for me because just as the artists came in to choose pieces they could make responses to in their commissions; I was also just becoming familiar with the works myself. The unusual idea of boldly taking inspiration and creating responses was something that made the commission process seem more of a journey.

As a part of this journey, interviewing visual artists to make a series of videos has so far been a highlight. Getting to know the artists and finding out things about their education and practices was really eye opening. Visiting some artist’s studios and talking to artists one on one made us have a deeper understanding of their work and their methods. This is interesting because rather than just seeing the work and reading the bios in the gallery this added another element for us.

Unfinished ceramic Tiles in Lubna Chowdhary's studio
Unfinished ceramic Tiles in Lubna Chowdhary’s studio

The idea of the exhibition as something to inspire people was seen through the workshops I helped with and attended where adults and children could learn first hand about art forms in the exhibition like Islamic geometry and calligraphy.

The idea of experiencing more than a simple exhibition is a recurring theme with the eye of the beholder and something that keeps making my job interesting. Having not only fine art, but also traditional Indian Music by Sehaj Singh, a story and poem by Nick Tokzek and a dramatic Indian dance performance from Kala Sangam brought more energy to the exhibition. Rather than some private-viewings, which can be dry and unexciting, the ‘Eye of the Beholder: Taking Inspiration’ opening was a vibrant showcase of music and dance.

Examples of Calligraphy during a family workshop
Examples of Calligraphy during a family workshop

One of the biggest take aways from the Eye of the Beholder project is the breadth of different people and pieces that the international collection has directly inspired. Having started the traineeship after having a background in marketing, the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ is something which is often criticised of the art sector. Having a project based on inspiration is great because it takes aspects of the collection and brings them into a new context. For an international collection belonging to a cosmopolitan city it has been fun to see the collection used, valued and enjoyed by artists, staff and the public alike.

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