Friday, 26 February 2021

Under Arctic skies

Under Arctic Skies

a nomadic lifestyle in close connection with nature and seasons

Introduction by Gordon:

We called this project “Travelling Stories” as a reminder of the histories that the objects involved have been carrying around the world for years

Carved antler - Sami?

really appealed. The objects in the Schools Loan Service brought the stories of their homelands to the people of Derbyshire, inviting visitors to investigate – or speculate – on the stories behind the artefacts. Now, those objects and their stories are moving on again. Some pieces are following long wandering trails back to where they came from. Others are moving on to new homes, taking their stories with them and hopefully sharing those stories in different ways with new people.We invited our artists (or maybe challenged them) to respond to objects within the collections that were going to their individual museum.

Ingrid Karlsson is one of the artists working with the material coming to Buxton Museum. Here there is a collection of pieces from the arctic: carvings and models from the Inuit and some beautiful spoons carved from antler

Ingrid takes up her story now:

As an artist using mixed media, the notion of telling the stories of objects immediately appealed to me, and my curiosity was trigged from the moment go. 

On my first visit to Buxton Museum in late November I was very taken with the current exhibition Between Two Worlds, a unique collection of work from artists in the 20th century affected by war and intolerance, with headings such as Degenerate, Imprisoned and Persecuted. 

carved spoon, Sami
The Buxton material includes a small collection of Sámi spoons, hand carved from antler in the traditional way by the Sámi. One of the old Arctic peoples, the Sami have lived as reindeer herders for centuries in the most northern area of Europe. Now known as Sápmi, the Sami lands cover parts of Arctic Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. My connection with the spoons is to some extent personal, in that I am Swedish and grew up in the coastal part of Sápmi. I grew up learning a stereotyped view of The Lapps, who were already greatly affected by colonisation, state intervention and climate change. 

There is a lot of story to tell here, and the timing feels most poignant. Under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic and a more acute threat from climate change than ever before, our view of the world is having to change as the future becomes increasingly uncertain. We are beginning to understand how vulnerable our modern world with its consumerist lifestyle is to such challenges. Arctic peoples like the Sámi had a very different spiritual relationship with the natural world and its resources which has given them the strength and resilience to cope with such uncertainty. The old Sámi calendar reflects a cyclical world view, with its eight seasons completely ruled by weather and landscape with migrations dictated by the needs of the reindeer herds. Like the Inuit, the Sámi negotiated with the climate, weather, nature and animals for survival. Both the history of the Sámi lifestyle and their close reciprocal relationship with natural elements reflect their adaptability as well as innovative technical skills in using resources like antler, horn, skin, bone, fur and wood for clothing, protection, tools and equipment.

mountains in Västerbotten, part of Sápmi(older image by Ingrid)

The story, history and life cycle of the Sámi is best described as a continuous circle without beginning or end. It is this round concept which appeals to me and I hope to visualise the origin of the carved spoons as a triptych looking at the circumpolar geography, the seasonal calendar and the nomadic lifestyle in close connection with nature and seasons.

Sápmi flag

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Honey for the soul


Honey for the soul

the continuing journeys of a collection

From Inuit bonework to Chinese temple carvings, from Japanese prints to African ancestor figures, the collection of the Derbyshire Schools Loan Service tells many stories. Each object carries its own tales of beginnings and travel and use that reach from nomad journeys to temples to tourist marketplaces to resting beside the fire-scorched stones of a family hearth. In the next phase of the continuing dispersal of the collection, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has invited artists to work with Buxton and 5 other museums to explore the stories their new objects tell. Creeping Toad is one of those artists and trying to manage the rest of the team, keeping artists working towards some sort of goal…..

For over 80 years in the 20th century, school children in Derbyshire had a privileged opportunity to see and handle objects with remarkable stories in their own classrooms. However, changes in the way education is delivered both in the classroom and through television and the internet meant that the resources to maintain this collection diminished. Eventually, the collection was withdrawn permanently in 2018. With the help of the Esmee Fairburn Collections Trust and the Museums Association, staff at Buxton Museum have been turning a sad story into a happier one. 

 “I know this art project is good and will enrich both mine and Harv’s future. As I said before: ‘Art is milk for the eyes. And honey for the Soul.’” Jonathon, Prism Arts*

Over 50 museums across the country have welcomed the opportunity to acquire new material for their collections, from paintings by giants of the art world in the 20th century through to delicate objects from around the world and steeped in cultural significance. While the project has managed to return items to communities in North America, we have mostly found homes in museums where there are already complimentary collections and where there are curators with the skills to understand, explain and care for them. In total, 442 ethnographic items are being rehomed, including objects from China, Japan, Africa, Fiji, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Tonga , Australia, Afghanistan, Tibet, Palestine, Canada, USA, Papua New Guinea, India, Greece, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, and Finland.

Now, artists are getting to grips with the new collections – or as much as they can!  Inevitably plans are hampered by the current situation: we have objects caught between collections, we have museums closed so artists cannot get in to see and handle new objects. We have staff – both museum and arts staff on furlough.  But we have the teams now, and artists are being as creative as ever, working with photographs and good will. And the challenge? Where does the story go to next….

“I found out about new facts and cultures, finding different designs for buildings, having fun and doing my artwork. And it has given me something to focus on during lockdown.” Harvey, Prism Arts*

We are hoping that our assorted company of artists will produce a set of exciting new pieces of art: prints, drawings, paintings, poems, puppets are all brewing….and we hope we’ll have an online exhibition of Travelling Stories (there might be a book as well) 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll post blogs as artists start muttering, or scribbling, or laughing or wondering. We invite you to share in our creativity, and see where our Travelling Stories take us….

*Artists from Prism Arts are working with Japanese prints going to Tullie House


Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery 

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery is Carlisle's finest visitor attraction, and houses considerable collections of fine and decorative art, human history and natural sciences.  It also boasts a wide range of  exhibitions and events, brought together in one impressive museum and art gallery.

A selection of Japanese prints from the Derbyshire SLS are joining the Fine Art collection includes 4800 mainly British paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, sketchbooks and a small collection of sculpture dating from around 1650 to the present day.

Prism Arts 

"Prism Arts was established in 1987 by a group of five artists committed to developing opportunities for excluded people to participate in the arts.

For over 30 years Prism Arts has been developing and delivering arts projects which are accessible to everyone. We are based in Carlisle but works throughout Cumbria.

We predominantly work creating visual arts and theatre productions with people with additional learning needs, older people and younger people. Our visual art is showcased in exhibitions in galleries and public spaces and our productions are performed in theatres, schools and community spaces.

Prism Arts’ mission is to create opportunities for people facing barriers to engagement in the arts because of health, finance, age or disability; to realise their full creative potential through active participation in, and exploration of, the arts.
Our goal is to develop and create diverse artists, who discover their voice and then develop the confidence to use it. We believe in progression and development of all our people through the arts.”