It’s incredible how much the context of where an artwork is placed, how it’s hung and the relationship it has with other work in the same space dramatically changes the viewer’s experience of it.
The Flock Together exhibition opened on 12th September at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton. In contrast to the interim exhibition which was held in the Nissen Hut Barn, where the work was shown in all its rawness, in the midst of where it was conceived. Works in progress were held up by bulldog clips and felt at home against the stained brick walls of the barn, in the company of two of Tony’s finest Rams.
Here, against the white walls of the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, the finished works have been carefully selected and meticulously displayed. Somehow different from how they have previously appeared, they are slightly more polished, confident and yet have not lost any of their original energy; finally feeling resolved.
Angela Charles, Curator at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, talked to me about the process of decision making that goes into the final hang of a show.
“It’s about getting the balance between showing enough of the work to tell the whole story without it feeling too crowded or as if there is too much information to take in. There has to be just the right amount of space for each piece to be appreciated in its uniqueness whilst still speaking to the other works in the exhibition and so that everything on show comes together as a whole. I always deliberate between several different options, moving the different pieces from room to room, analysing the lighting, the white space around them and how it all feels in this gallery in particular, with all of its idiosyncratic features. Sometimes there’s a conflict between hanging work so that it is dead central or perfectly level and how it appears to the eye, but you get used to it, I’ve learnt to develop certain methods that mean the pieces may not be laser straight but look as though they are, it’s all about getting a balance and using the other pieces to help with that.”
The Thelma Hulbert gallery was home of artist, Thelma Hulbert, who lived here between 1984-1995, the gallery spaces themselves were used as Hulbert’s own studio. You can imagine how perfect the spaces would have been to paint in, with the light beaming in through the large windows, appearing slightly blue in one room and more yellow in the other. And you certainly feel when you walk in, there’s a welcoming atmosphere, as though you have come into a friend’s house, a cosiness to the slightly wobbly walls and the original wooden flooring throughout the gallery, that you might not otherwise have a sense of in most of the larger museums and galleries. Viewing the work above the old fireplaces, the brickwork a nod back to the bricks in the Nissen Hut, it is perfectly complemented against the homely atmosphere and seeing it all displayed as a completed series means the exhibition as a whole has a big impact.
The story of the artists project takes slightly more of a backseat in this environment, the work strong enough to stand on its own artistic and aesthetic merit; however it is still there – the titles of the work a clue to the process and history of this project. There’s more to find out for those with a sense of curiosity, just ask one of the volunteers!