Open at Lakeside Arts Reimag(in)ing the Victorians features sculptures, paintings, film and photography by leading artists who take inspiration from the Victorian era and its legacy.
Their works address themes of conquest and empire, the rediscovery of forgotten women’s lives, old photographic techniques and the art of taxidermy.
Highlights in this exhibition include artist Yinka Shonibare’s lively dressed mannequins and Heather Agyepong’s edgy and impactful Victorian-style self-portraits.
Since the Black Lives Matter movement, the question of whose historical past we represent has been hotly debated. The Victorian era has emerged as particularly controversial because it saw the rapid global expansion of British rule. The Empire’s impact on the lives of individuals and nations today is explored by a number of artists in the exhibition including Ingrid Pollard and Sunil Gupta.
Dr. Isobel Elstob, who curated the exhibition, said:
“The contemporary artists in this show explore who the Victorians were, whilst also making us think about who we are…”
The exhibition also shines a light on forgotten female scientists from the 19th century who contributed vast amounts of knowledge to the field of natural history. They are celebrated in a series of photographs by Mark Dion and a film by Dorothy Cross called Come into the Garden Maude.
Some of the more unusual contemporary pieces in the exhibition incorporate taxidermised animals and share the Victorian passion for hand-crafted objects made from natural materials. Tessa Farmer takes her cue from Victorian fairy paintings to create elaborate sculptures in which sadistic skeletal fairies attack antique stuffed animals.
Exhibited alongside are Mark Fairnington’s large and detailed oil paintings of bird skins. Together they are a sober reminder of the thousands of creatures sacrificed by the Victorians in their quest for knowledge of the natural world that are still held in museum collections around the world today.
Reimag(in)ing the Victorians has been curated by Dr. Isobel Elstob (Assistant Professor in Art History) with Neil Walker, Head of Visual Arts Programming, Djanogly Gallery.
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