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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Fish printing and reanimating the dead

By Eleanor Morgan, on 14 May 2015


Inking the fish

How do you reanimate things that are dead? Since beginning my role as Artist in Residence at the Grant Museum I’ve been worrying at this question. My focus is on the Museum’s collection of glass sponges, but over the past six months these extraordinary animals have pushed me down other paths to explore. Some of these have led to very productive failures.

I’m thinking in particular of my attempts at waterless lithography, which is printing technique that uses silicone (in the form of bathroom sealant) to repel ink. You draw an image on a piece of metal, cover it in bathroom sealant and then once it is dried you wash the metal and the sealant will come off the areas on which you drew your picture. You now have a negative of your picture, which you can ink up and put through a printing press. I thought this was an ideal technique and material with which to explore glass sponges, which are themselves formed of silica. However, the problem came when I looked closer at the bottle of silicone remover that I was using – printed on the back of the label was a drawing of a dead fish. These chemicals are deadly to sea creatures if they enter their ecosystem. It seemed particularly grim for me to pursue a method of making images that could potentially kill its subject.


I’ve recently been exploring another fishy route. I had been told about an old Japanese technique called Gyotaku, which translates as ‘fish rubbing’. (more…)

‘Second Person Looking Out’: The Sixth Annual Slade School of Fine Art / UCL Art Museum collaboration

By ucwchrc, on 29 May 2014

'Getting close but then again not close at all' by Olga Koroleva

‘Getting close but then again not close at all’ by Olga Koroleva

The themes, materials and presentations of the annual collaborations have varied immensely, and this year there is a great diversity within the exhibition itself. The range of media is particularly striking, as is the way digital technologies have been used and portrayed to give new experiences of space – particularly the spaces of the UCL Art Museum itself.

There are four time-based media works and one beautifully crafted light box installation, giving emphasis to technological media within the show. However, an array of oil paintings, intricate drawings, etchings and even a bronze cast are also part of this exhibition.


'Entombment' by Lara Smithson

‘Entombment’ by Lara Smithson

Glowing at the back of the UCL Art Museum, in between the cupboards storing prints, is one of the most enchanting works of all. This is the light box, which constitutes the installation entitled ‘Entombment’ by Lara Smithson. It cleverly depicts the somewhat hidden UCL Art Museum painting store, giving us a glimpse of the racks of paintings mostly by former Slade students. This image has been overlaid with a painting by the artist herself, which results in a merging of different types of artistic spaces and temporalities. ‘Entombment’ seems to reveal things behind the surface (most notably the UCL painting store), while also reflecting on the (literal) surface of painting and the material properties – or potentials – of glass.

Another work that interrogates the materiality of its medium alongside its processes of production is a bronze cast work called ‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith. This artwork achieves this using the word ‘fonte’ as both the subject matter and form of the work. In this way, the work prompts investigation into the etymology of the word ‘fonte’. The meanings include ‘to spring’ and ‘to pour’, actions that can be linked to the process and discourse of bronze casting itself.

'Fonte' by Maxima Smith

‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith

A play with words is also immediately apparent in Katja Larsson’s hand carved slate, entitled ‘Hullmandel 4:3’. Here the artist has decontextualised a phrase she has taken from Charles Joseph Hullmandel’s 1835 lithography manual. Using this lithographic manual as a source is both a subtle and pertinent reference to the main body of the UCL Art Museum’s collection of artworks, which are prints. The artist’s chosen words are beautifully carved onto the slate – a process that mirrors the processes of printmaking. Using slate as the medium also reminds us of the lithographic process, being a traditional tool and material in lithographic production. This emphasis on process and action reflects one of the dominant themes in the entire exhibition.

‘Second Person Looking Out’ is on show at the UCL Art Museum weekdays 1-5pm until 13 June. On Friday 13 June the exhibition will become part of the One Day Festival in the City with several of the artists from the exhibition extending ideas from their work to engage visitors in interactive installations and other creative activities. More information on this to follow, so check this blog again soon. 


Helen Cobby is a volunteer at UCL Art Museum and studying for an MA in the History of Art at UCL

University Challenge: exploring university and museum relationships in the ‘Share Academy’ project

By Leonie Hannan, on 21 March 2013

Museum of Brands, QRator Project

Museum of Brands, QRator Project

Museums and universities teaming up to score shared rewards

In the autumn of 2012, Arts Council England funded University College London [UCL], the University of Arts London [UAL], and the London Museums Group [LMG] to investigate how those working in museums and universities could effectively team up in order to reap the rewards of collaborative partnership. With just six months to find out what kinds of collaborative work was already taking place across the sectors, identify new projects to launch, and provide practical guidance on our findings – we got off to a prompt start. From the outset the project team were aware of the big issues that affect grassroots work, such as the scarcity of funding across the cultural sector and higher education, the perceived inequalities in status, power and resources between museums and universities, and punishing schedules that make forging new working relationships a luxury rather than common practice. However, in a climate of funding cuts and demoralisation amongst the arts and culture, pooling resources and expertise seemed not only desirable but vital, and as far as our project was concerned, the opportunity to help bridge the divide between these two different but deeply connected sectors was hugely exciting.


Guest post: Central Saint Martins at UCL Art Museum

By Krisztina Lackoi, on 15 August 2012

Guest post by Mary Evans, Central Saint Martins

artwork on wall consisting of nails hammered into symmetrical discs of waffle

Artwork inspired by the cross-hatching in Van Dyck’s etchings, (c) Mary Evans installation photograph


In the spring term 2011/2012 a group of second year Fine Art students from Central Saint Martins embarked on a research project at the UCL Art Museum. The project was part of the Expanding Practice unit which is designed to support and broaden students’ approaches to practice and resources for research, production, and reception of works of art. The whole second year cohort across all Fine Art pathways participates in projects in collaboration with other art institutions in London to give students the opportunity to work in new ways and develop new skills. The Guardian Archive, The Petrie Museum, Camden Arts Centre, The Wellcome Collection and UCL Art Museum among others were our collaborators this year.

Curator Andrea Fredericksen expressed what the UCL Art Museum collection had to offer our students thus:

What happens when you have a collection of 10,000 world renowned prints and drawings, dating from the 1490s to the present day, at your fingertips during the development of your artistic practice? Be inspired at UCL Art Museum – home of old master prints by Durer, Van Dyck and Turner as well as innovative works by Slade artists – where you can have hands-on access to this remarkable collection of old and modern treasures. UCL Art Museum invites you to revisit the past masters within their collection to create new work in response; to continue to develop your own practice using contemporary media and contemporary modes of thinking while taking time to consider and appreciate what has gone on before – all in the context of a traditional print room. (more…)

England Looking Outwards

By Nina Pearlman, on 28 October 2011

Our regular readers will by now be familiar with the delight we take in talking about our Pop-Up Exhibitions. The reason we like talking about them is because this simple low tech platform offers huge possibility for new ideas to emerge. Research is a strange beast. It’s origins never singular. An argument can develop out of a hunch or a passion and upon occasion even an obsession. Mix in a welcome happenstance or two, and you are on your way to a great idea! The colour mauve wasn’t discovered by someone who was looking for a colour, and photosynthesis was discovered by someone who was not a botanist at the time – he simply went on holiday to a country house to escape the grind of his day job (which if my memory serves me correctly had something to do with the chicken pox vaccine (?)).

Anyway…. as I ramble on…the bottom line here really is that research doesn’t come from nowhere, and neither do interdisciplinary collaborations, so you really need an environment that is conducive to this type of thinking. The Pop-Up set up offers just that. To our guest curators we say – bring your passion or even your research driven agenda to our rich and vast collections of print and drawings and see what happens!

Our recent Pop-Up exhibition by Professor Helen Hackett was all about cultural promiscuity. Yes, the hybrid, the appropriation of images and ideas in support of often competing ideologies… all this was present hundreds of years ago, way back in the Early Modern Period. We didn’t invent it. Helen’s Pop-Up impressed further  these ideas, starting with the Albrecht Dürer’s Whore of Babylon. It’s relevance to issues confronting contemporary British politics was recently highlighted in this blog by Lara Carim (Editor, UCL News). I hope you enjoy the read.

Alex Sampson’s Pop-Up exhibition is on Tuesday 15th November 1-2pm.

Pop-In for 10min or more!