A wonderful opportunity has presented itself whereby through acquisition and the building of a unique collection we can appreciate the influence and inspiration the county has instilled in creative people across the centuries. This has been made possible as part of the HLF “Collecting Cultures” Creative Wiltshire & Swindon project.
Creative Wiltshire aims to gather together work from across artistic disciplines by writers and artists of international, national and county reputation with a creative/physical connection to Wiltshire and Swindon.
The works purchased are for the benefit of all and may be enjoyed at participating archives, Local Studies, libraries and museums throughout the county. Already the Creative Wiltshire project has amassed a substantial collection of paintings, literature, sculpture, ceramics and music. However, one of the criteria for an item to be included is it must be over ten years old.
In early 2017 artists Julie Smith and Mervyn Grist, were approached to devise and facilitate a project whereby contemporary practitioners; artists, writers, and sculptors etc., could reflect upon and discover inspiration from the collection and produce their own creative response. We were impressed by the scope and quality of this material so far. Thus was born ARTeology.
UNCOVER. DISCOVER. CREATE.
15 participants felt about the right number and a call of interest was quickly over-subscribed. With significant input and guidance from Joy Bloomfield of the Wiltshire & Swindon Local Studies, a programme and project parameters were set out and our fifteen artists enrolled.
A meeting took place during April 2017 when the group discussed the aims and objectives behind ARTeology. Creative Wiltshire gave access to the collection in the form of artwork, notebooks, manuscripts, ceramics, sketchbooks, photographs and objects, for example, a number of Pelham Puppets. The ‘ARTeologists’ were invited to study any artefact of their choice to use as source material for their own new work.
Initially the collection was explored via the Creative Wiltshire database and then, if necessary, by visiting museums in the county to look at items purchased on their behalf by the Creative Wiltshire project.
Artists were required not only to produce a work, but were encouraged to undertake a certain amount of enquiry and research into the backgrounds of their chosen subject, looking at the wider body of their work, techniques and personal vision.
It was felt a major component is that each participating artist should record their own creative process. Notes, and especially sketchbooks and observations are important elements and will help translate and explain how the ARTeologist gathered initial ideas, how they selected and chose the way they developed their response. Over the past year participants have come together in a series of workshops/seminars hosted by the Local Studies at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre to meet, share and discuss a project overview and personal progress.
What became immediately apparent was the diversity of media and creativity that was being utilised. Besides traditional drawing and painting, artists are responding through the written word, stained glass, collage and graphics.
At the History Centre Open Day in October 2017, some of the work in progress, plus notebooks/sketchbooks were displayed for the first time. Julie Smith also facilitated and devised a highly successful ‘concertina book’-making event on the day primarily for children, although it attracted a fair few adults, which proved entertaining, stimulating and educational.
The ARTeology ‘practical’ first submission concludes at the end of February 2018 when it moves into the next phase. Each artist will select one piece of work they have created for the project so that we can present a number of ARTeology public exhibitions. Already confirmed is an exhibition at the Manger Barn, Lacock from April 6-9th 2018. Following on in October 2018 the venue will be Chippenham Museum. We hope to add at least one further exhibition so that as many people as possible have the opportunity to experience the fascinating and exciting work produced for ARTeology.