Founded by William Rossiter c.1870 to bring contemporary art to the working man of South London, the South London Gallery collection has had many incarnations, from being a philanthropic centre of learning and art appreciation, to a disparate archive of historical fragments.
Today the collection, which includes works by Leighton, Millais, Spencer, and even a lock of John Ruskin’s hair, remains in storage. Thrown open to the interpretation of ten different artists, the collection has revealed a myriad of stories and histories that have been the inspiration for new work.
Anna Best staged a pony race in Burgess Park based on an original 19th century poster found in the SLG collection. A video documentary and race paraphernalia are shown in the gallery beside the original poster. Juan Cruz has been working exploring links between the visual and textual properties of the language. For Summer Collection ’97 he has created a book of his descriptions of works in the exhibition. His work will remain an integral part of the collection after the exhibition has ended, in tandem with the current process of re-cataloguing, underway at the SLG.
Ritsuko Hidaka provides visitors with narrated information on five landscape paintings from the permanent collection through headphones fixed below each painting. One painting does not have this audio information and is accompanied by a video monitor showing visitors apparently describing it. Matts Leiderstam has worked extensively with historical collections in the past. For Summer Collection ’97 he explores the awakening awareness of being an object of others erotic fantasy by creating an installation around the portrait of a young boy, found in the SLG collection.
Jason Maling communicates his fascination with fragments of history through the construction of elaborate games. For Summer Collection ’97 he has created a large jigsaw puzzle based on a photograph from the SLG collection archives. Visitors are welcome to play with it and to use the ladder for a different view. Gary Perkins has been working largely with CCTV technology and recently showed work in Material Culture at the Hayward Gallery. For Summer Collection ’97 Gary is giving public access to an otherwise inaccessible archive, or maybe not.
João Penalva’s recent work has been concerned with blurring the boundaries between facts and fiction. For Summer Collection ’97 he produced multiples of the lock of John Ruskin’s hair held in the South London Gallery’s collection. These will be displayed alongside a trickster’s betting game which might offer further clues as to which is the real piece of history and the fake models of it. Hanna Styrmisdottir works with the idea of distance. Her knowledge of the works on show was based on a random selection of titles sent to her by fax. Her work for Summer Collection ’97 is the production of postcards, consisting of a message relevant to the titles of the works. These are freely distributed to the visitors of the exhibition.
Charlotte Mew & Steve Jensen work collaboratively in projects exploring the crossover between art and architecture. They have built two motorised printing wheels whose journey marks the place where a beautiful mosaic parquet with the words ‘The source of art is in the life of a people’ lies beneath a protective covering.
Summer Collection ’97 is curated by Marina Fokidis, Heather Galbraith & Bettina Wilhelm as one of several projects initiated by students on the Goldsmiths MA Fine Arts Administration and Curatorship Course.
Anna Best, Juan Cruz, Ritsuteo Hidada, Matts Liederstam, Jason Maling, João Penalva, Gary Perkins, Hanna Styrmisdottir, Charlotte Mew & Steve Jensen