A strong defence of delicate things, Auction House, 23 to 27 June 2021
Anna Lucas, Melanie Stidolph, Alice Walton
A strong defence of delicate things was the result of an ongoing conversation between three women working with film, photography and found images. The installation brings together photographs from artist’s practice and archives, social media and fashion, staged within a provisional structure. Over five months meeting online the artists developed their shared interest in collaborative looking, working with images that fell loosely within categories of inside & outside, women in the studio, building materials, water, rocks and bodies.
Coming at the end of a three-week residency, the installation gathers multiple photographs, moving image and audio, presented across the walls and temporary structure. Each image holds a place in the artists’ life and research, which ‘stick’ because looking at them still raises questions about why they remain significant.
Half-way through developing the project an image posted on social media became an anchor for others gathering on an online board. This black and white photograph was taken around 1943, by an unknown photographer, from inside Porthmeor Studios, St Ives, Cornwall. The dark interior of the studio contrasts with the sunlit scene outside and contains a still life arranged on the window sill, curtains pulled to one side. On the beach, level with the window, a woman and a man lie alongside each other. The woman is the artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, the man is likely Robert H Wagner, an American GI who she formed a close relationship with during the war. Both in swimsuits with their legs stretched out, mirroring each other. A shovel leans to one side of the open window, suggesting they have dug their way out through the sand.
Interpretation of the photographs and their relationship suggests multiple correspondences through content and across space. The lure of biography is interrupted through a kind of image making and installation that seeks to remain shifting and fluid, for itself and for all our potential meanings.
With many thanks to Auction House for the invitation to be part of their programme and special thanks to Liam Jolly for his support. Thank you to the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust both for their kind image permission and generous financial support of the exhibition.
Video and photo credits: Oliver Udy