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Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins

Sarah S Pipkin27 October 2021

A brown square with a banner at the top that reads ‘Library Services, UCL.’ The text in the square reads ‘Word As Art: Beauty in the Margins. October 2021-July 2022. An online exhibition featuring items from UCL Special Collections and the work of students at the Slade School of Fine Art. ucl.ac.uk/library/word-art-beauty-margins. #UCLWordAsArt.’ The square is decorated with a black and off-white floral pattern and a small drawing of a kingfisher.

Our new online exhibition, Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins, is now open!

Writing is an essential part of everyday communication. It permeates every element of our society so that it is easy to forget its prevalence. Yet every time we put words down on a page or type them on a screen, we are creating a piece of art unique to us.

Our new online exhibition, Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins, explores the permeable borders between art and writing. We examine manuscripts, printing, textiles and objects that celebrate the way in which we have embellished the word, making it far more than just a means of communication.

In addition to items from the Library collections, the exhibition includes three pieces of art by students from the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL. Their interpretations of writing and communication demonstrate that the books, manuscripts, and letters of the past continue to inform and inspire creative practices of the present.

The inspiration for the exhibition is the Slade 150 anniversary year, celebrating fine art teaching and research since 1871.

The exhibition runs from October 2021-July 2022, with plans for a physical presence in the UCL Main Library from December 2021.

To view ‘Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins’ visit our exhibitions webpage.

A two page spread decorated with gold leaf and floral patterns. At the centre of each page is two column or writing in Farsi script.

‘Word as Art:’ Call for Slade Student Art Submissions

Sarah S Pipkin30 April 2021

Decorative image that says 'Word as Art: Call for Art'

UCL Special Collections is asking for submissions from current undergraduate and postgraduate students at The Slade School of Fine Art who would like to be included in an online exhibition with the working title ‘Word as Art.’ This exhibition will help highlight the historic artistry of the written word while connecting it to the present legacy of The Slade School of Fine Art. 

‘Word as Art’ is an exploration of the artistry that takes place whenever we make words physical. It includes manuscripts, printing, textiles and objects that celebrate the way we have embellished the word and make it more than just writing on a page. We are inviting students at The Slade School of Fine Art to join a collaborative exhibition of selected works from UCL Special Collections and contemporary arts worksWe would like to see reflections on words and writing that challenge us to think about how writing reflects ourselves as much as the meaning of the word on the page. 

Three candidates will be selected for inclusion in UCL Special Collections Library Exhibition celebrating the artistic works present in UCL’s rare books and archives collection. It will be displayed online alongside rare books, manuscripts, and archival items. By being featured alongside items from UCL Special Collections it can help provide a new perspective on the exhibition themes as well as connect the artistry of the past to current practices.  

Due to Covid and space restrictions, artwork will be displayed online. Digital artworks are welcome, alongside photos and videos of physical or performative artworks. Currently there are no plans for a physical art display, but we will re-assess this on a case-by-case basis.  

The selected artists will receive a £100 prize for successful submissions and the opportunity to publish a brief statement about this work in the exhibition catalogue.  

If you would like to contribute, please send your artwork alongside a brief explanation (no more than 200 words) as to how your artwork ties into ‘Word as Art.’  

Deadline for submissions is midnight on May 31, 2021We aim to reply to all applicants in mid June and the exhibition is expected to go live in September 2021. Please send your submissions to library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk. 

Image of MS Pers 1, an item that may be included in the exhibition. It features arabic caligraphy with a decorative border

Masnavi-i Akbar Sultan, a proposed exhibition item. (MS PERS/1)

A Sampler with decorative elements

Sampler, a proposed exhibition item. (HUGUENOT LIBRARY ARCHIVES. SAMPLER BOX)

Online exhibition on Isabel Fry

utnvwom25 July 2017

A few months ago a group of students from the MA Archives and Records Management course used the Isabel Fry collection at the IOE archives to create an online exhibition. The exhibition, which is a fantastic resource on Fry, can be found here.

Isabel Fry (1869-1958) was an educationist and social activist. She founded, and was headmistress of, two experimental schools: The Farmhouse School, Mayortorne Manor, Wendover, and later, Church Farm, Buckland, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. She came from a famous reforming Quaker background and was the daughter of Sir Edward Fry (1827-1918), jurist, and sister of (Sara) Margery Fry (1874-1958), penal reformer, and Roger Eliot Fry (1866-1934), artist and critic.

I hope this sensitive interpretation of Fry’s archive continues to be available so people can enjoy a snapshot of the collection.