A student volunteer’s perspective on “The Observatory” – An art exhibition giving a new view of research at the University

Having finished the final submission of my degree at the beginning of May I was eager to distract myself from any impending results. Luckily, The Observatory: perspectives on landscape, society and spirit were looking for support in the run up to and during the week of the art exhibition and I readily volunteered with aid from Access 2 Internships’ Widening Participation fund.


A call-out to artists from the Arts and Culture team had been sent out earlier this year, inviting artists to submit works based on the University’s key research themes. From a large number of submitted works a selection was made by a panel of judges representing artists (Volkhardt Mueller), the City of Exeter (Val Wilson, Arts and Events Manager, Exeter City Council), the student community (Tristan Gatward – Vice President, Activities, University of Exeter Guild of Students) and the academic community (Professor Melissa Percival, Associate Professor – French, Art History and Visual Culture). The eventual selection showcased work from 40 South West artists which, after three rounds of careful and lengthy judging, I believe successfully reflected the diversity of research at the University.

“The Observatory” in the Forum, 11 – 18 June 2017.

“The Observatory”

“The Observatory”. Copyright: Elizabeth Dunne, Sara Henson Pelling, Georgina Towler (left to right).


















I invigilated The Observatory whilst it was on show in the Forum on the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus from the 11 – 18 June 2017 and noted that despite the lack of term time student numbers there was consistently someone interested in the exhibition. The other invigilators and I were tasked with encouraging these visitors to vote for their favourite piece. This was one of two awards, the other winning artwork having been chosen by the panel of judges.



  • Julia Hutton won the Judges’ award for BURNING LIGHT, The Passing Day (Morning), a burnt line drawing which emerged through a combined process of direct observation and research with the Met Office. The drawing captures the passage of sunlight over a given time through a process of direct drawing.  The work linked to the research theme of Climate Change and Sustainable Futures.

Julia Hutton’s “BURNING LIGHT, The Passing Day (Morning).” Copyright: the artist.

  • The Visitors’ Favourite award was won by Amy McCarthy for her stained glass piece A World Without, depicting members of the artist’s family and others on their journey on the SS St Louis in May 1939 fleeing Nazi Germany. The artwork invites the viewer to contemplate our shared history and to consider the simple fact that somewhere in every British family tree there is an immigrant or refugee.  The work linked to the research theme of Identities and Beliefs.

Amy McCarthy’s “A World Without.” Copyright: the artist.

As an Art History and Visual Culture student it was thrilling to work for a project that aimed to exemplify how art, research, artists and academics have continued to inform and inspire each other. During the exhibition week a series of associated public events were held, promoting the collaboration of art and research at the University and also its special collections and campus environment.



In particular, I was able to help run Creative Conversations which provided a space for artists and researchers to network in hopes of sparking new collaborations and ideas. Also, Think…Art, a family day of creativity and learning, which hosted arts activities and displays that linked to the University’s research themes allowed families to engage in artistic workshops based on a research theme. This was a very busy day as there were many people in the forum; the artists and researchers, the participating parents and children, plus the other volunteers helping keep the day running smoothly. Altogether, The Observatory exhibition week was a whirlwind of events, art and people. I am proud to say I helped make it all happen and was really pleased to hear such positive feedback and desire for more events like it in the future.

Double Elephant print workshop for Think…Art.

Art workshops in the Forum.

Painting butterfly greeting cards.











 Two new sculptures on Campus

This Spring has seen two new sculptures on the Streatham Campus.

The first is a specially-commissioned bronze bust of Baroness Floella Benjamin, who has recently completed her ten-year tenure as the University’s Chancellor.

Baroness Floella Benjamin by Luke Shepherd

Created by Devon-based artist Luke Shepherd, the sculpture is set at a height at which visitors can approach and touch the work.

The second sculpture is created from Kilkenny limestone and was made by sculptor Peter Randall-Page RA, who is an Honorary Graduate of the University.

By Another Ocean III by Peter Randall-Page RA

Peter has kindly loaned the work, By Another Ocean III to the University for all to enjoy.

Both of these sculptures now form part of the University’s Sculpture Walk and you can view all the sculptures in the walk and download a pdf Sculpture Walk map here.


 A Student’s Eye View of the New Kurt Jackson Exhibition…

Boscastle JMW Turner engraved by Edward Goodall 1825 reproduced courtesy of University of Exeter 4

Kurt Jackson Boscastle s morning sunlight after a nights heavy rain 2015 -1


















In order to avoid having to start the mountain of reading that was hanging over me last week, I decided to take a trip to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and see this Autumn’s exhibition, ‘Kurt Jackson: Revisiting Turner’s Tourism’. And I’m so glad I did.


The inspiration for the exhibition came from a series of engravings that were made from J.M.W Turner’s watercolours and sketches, produced while he toured the South-West in the 19th Century. Jackson decided to return to the locations that Turner visited, nearly 200 years later, in order to paint and record how these landscapes have changed. The Turner prints, that form part of the University of Exeter’s Fine Art collection, and the RAMM’s own archive, are hung up in the gallery alongside Kurt Jackson’s paintings so that you can see the similarities and differences.


Jackson’s dynamic paintings evoke a truly sensory experience. His use of collage (in fact, in one piece a few leaves fell onto the canvas while the paint was still wet and he decided to let them dry there) and the fierce brushwork, creates a tactile surface that you’re fingers are dying to explore. The works also include, in true Jackson style, a few words, or snippets of the painter’s interior monologue, that evoke the sounds and smells of the space around him while he was working on location. Standing in the gallery, I really felt transported for a moment, down to Boscastle cove, or onto the side of a road in Launceston.


The exhibition is running until the 4th December 2016 so I recommend you have a wander round if you’ve got a spare hour or simply want to procrastinate. And don’t worry if you’re a poor, struggling student like myself, who will have to think twice before buying anything over about £5, the exhibition is completely free!
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00am to 5:00pm.


To find out more about the exhibition: http://www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk/event/1297/revisiting-turner-s-tourism/

Sarah Waite

 An artistic collaboration showcased

The exhibition ‘We Construct’ documents the collaboration between the University’s Graduate School of Education, Spacex Gallery and Ladysmith Junior School in Exeter.


All three have worked together over the last five years to engage children – along with teachers and parents – with the work of contemporary artists in order to widen their horizons and inspire their own art making and creativity.


The exhibition documents the project in text and images and showcases some of the artwork produced.


Come along and see the exhibition which runs daily from 8 am – 8pm until 21 March on the mezzanine floor of the University’s Forum building.  Entry is free.

We Construct blog pic 2We Construct blog pic 1



 The Magic Lantern – creating images to shock and delight

On Saturday just after my Spiller & Tait Coffee I went along to the Gothic Magic Lantern Show organised by the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum on Campus. The show was given by Mervyn Heard, one of the country’s foremost lanternists.

melvyn heard and his magic lantern blog


The lantern itself was a wonderful feat of engineering from a bygone age – with polished wood box, a slot at the front to hold the lantern slide plates and two extending brass tubes protruding from the front. Before electricity, lanterns were lit by candles and later “limelight”, created through a very dangerous process of heating a piece of limestone in burning gas until it became incandescent and gave off a very strong light.  The lantern on Saturday was thankfully lit by electricity! It projected very effectively images from glass slides measuring about 10 cm in height onto a large screen.




Mervyn Heard took us through a range of fascinating slides which at one time would have shocked and enthralled audiences, in a time before the cinema, after which people became used to seeing moving images on screen. Figures in slides appeared to ‘move’ –  and images of landscapes changed from night to day – this effect was created by the lanternist carefully moving one slide behind another.


Older slides were intricately hand-painted, but later slides might be photographic images, either black and white or black and white with tinted colours.


Storytelling was also a huge part of the lanternist’s  art – through the pictures projected from the lantern and artful storytelling, wonderful and shocking tales would come to life.  Mervyn explained that in fact, the magic lantern could be said to be more akin to theatre than cinema, as the success of the images to move the audience depended on the storytelling and acting skills of the lanternist.


The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum has a huge collection of lantern slides, some of which are on display in the Museum on the Streatham Campus.  Others can be seen in digital format on the Museum’s website.

Lantern slide depicting a Tiger, courtesy Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

Lantern slide depicting a Tiger, courtesy Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

 Take a trip to Faerie Land…

We’ve just been to see a new exhibition located in the Forum building on the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus.

Poly-Olbion 2

The Faerie Land is inspired by the poet Michael Drayton’s 17th century epic topographical poem of England and Wales, Poly-Olbion, accompanied by a series of maps created by William Hole.


This magical exhibition explores the relationship between landscape and British identity and how Drayton’s evocation of history and folklore ripples through our lives today.











The Faerie Land exhibition is the result of a collaborative effort between researchers in the University’s English Department, led by Professor Andrew McRae, Professor of Renaissance Studies, and Flash of Splendour, an arts education organisation who has been working with six South West special educational needs and disability (SEND) schools to create a fantastical display of art work.


Cartographic artist Stephen Walter and painter David McInnes have also responded to the project and juxtaposed contemporary work with the original 17th century imagery, providing the opportunity to view Hole’s maps up-close for the first time.


The exhibition will be running from the 7th October to the 20th November 2015 so make sure you don’t miss out.


For more event information go to: http://www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk/event/1003/the-faerie-land/


Image 2 restoration for blogImage 1 restorationclose up of frameOne of the University’s largest paintings, ‘The Four Corners of the World’ is currently being restored and cleaned.  The painting with a canvas of around 210 x 345 cm in dimension unframed, is an 18th century copy of a Rubens painting, ‘The Four Continents’, the original being painted in 1615.


The painting has already been taken out of its framed and glued, using a special removable glue, onto a strong new canvas which will enable it to be re-stretched on its frame.  Cleaning of the artwork is now underway and then decisions will be made about what areas of the painting might need to be re-touched before it is then varnished.


The restorers have discovered that the frame is very special in that it is hand-carved, rather than being decorated with a cast plaster design.  It is probable that the frame was originally made for another painting, as there is evidence that the painting’s canvas has been enlarged to fit it.


It is hoped that the cleaned and restored painting will be re-hung in the University in early July 2015.


Click here to see an image of the original Rubens ‘The Four Continents’ by Rubens, on which this painting is based. It represents the four continents of Europe, Asia, America and Africa –  Australia had not yet been discovered in 1615.




Today Exeter PhD candidate and digital artist Richard Carter presented examples of his latest artwork and gave a fascinating talk on the thinking behind their creation.


image for blog

Richard’s creative practice involves computer encoding written messages into intricate visual patterns, producing images that explore the structures and processes underpinning our contemporary digital environment.


In his talk, Richard discussed how he is seeking to not only open up new perspectives on technologies that are continually reshaping how we perceive and engage with the world around us, but to demonstrate how artistic practices can function as significant tools of academic research.


Using 256 sequences of computer-generated triangular tiles, Richard’s works are created to a greater or lesser extent by himself; he makes creative decisions about colour and sequence of some of his works using rules and systems, but the patterns emerging in other works are generated randomly by a computer sensitive to atmospheric sounds immediately around it. He is fascinated that computer glitches and external forces can generate new dimensions to his work and are out of his, the artist’s control. The pictures are contingent not only on the actions of the person at the computer, but by the surrounding active material world.


Some of Richard’s work will be on public display in the Wor(l)ds in Collision: Visual Art and Wittgenstein’s Philosophy exhibition in Byrne House on the University’s Streatham Campus on weekdays from 12 June to 15 September 2015.

 Exhibition in the Forum opens – an artistic response to research into mood disorders at the University

E van der Beugel Anxiety A review of the literature I crop for blog.A new exhibition entitled After the ideal; piece by piece has just opened in the Forum building at the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus.  After a residency in the Mood Disorders Centre with Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology Dr Heather O’Mahen, Elizabeth van der Beugel is exhibiting artworks exploring  the effect of perinatal anxiety on women’s identities. The works, in mixed media such as silverpoint, gesso and ink are beautiful and sensitive.  The residency and exhibition are supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.   The exhibition continues until 27 May 2015 and is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm.  Entry is free. More information about the exhibition and Elizabeth van der Beugel’s residency here.


 Paddon Award 2015

On March 18 the Judging Event for the Paddon Award 2015, the University’s cross-arts competition, took place on campus at Roborough Studios. The celebratory award evening was attended by over 60 guests who came to hear the shortlisted entrants present their pieces.

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Guests viewing the shortlisted works at the Judging Event

The night showcased the spectacular standard of creativity amongst the staff, students and alumni from the University. From poems to paintings, from stories to film, each of the 20 individual pieces represented the artist’s unique interpretations of this year’s theme ‘Transformations’.


Visual creations included a painting showing four stages of a sunset, a digital image derived from Morse code messages from the First World War, a drawing of a pregnant life-model, a painting of the transforming Living Systems building on campus, a chameleon and a set of paintings showing the life cycle of amphibians.


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Staff member Tom Stevenson’s shortlisted piece ‘Four Scenes Towards Evening’

Creative writing entries included poems about coffee and dreams, a trilobite, a chrysalis and growing into an adult as well as a story about the changes in one child’s life.


Christy Ku scooped the first prize for ‘It All Passes’, a very touching and sensitive poem about the ephemeral nature of life. Second prize was awarded to Jordan Edgington, a graduate in Sports and Exercise Science, whose story ‘Ghosts’ about his first experiences as a graduate was identified with by many in the audience.   The joint third prizes went to Bethany Ashley, a Liberal Arts undergraduate, for her beautifully designed poem ‘Kindling’, in which the second stanza was the inverse of the first, and to Clifford Roddy , Film undergraduate, whose challenging short film ‘Cosmia’ addressed the theme of someone achieving a transformation by ‘putting on a face’.


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First prize winner Christy Ku performing her poem ‘It All Passes’

The judges for the evening were Honorary Graduate and International Curator, Thomas Trevor, folk singer and fiddle player Jackie Oates, and the Student Guild Vice President for Activities, Matt Bate.Their unenviable task of judging the shortlisted entries resulted in them choosing a first, second and joint third prizes. Thanks to the generosity of John Paddon, who attended the event, it was possible for the judges to offer the extra third prize.


The Paddon Award was established in memory of two alumni of the University of Exeter who contributed greatly to fostering collaboration between alumni and students for the benefit of the University.  Both were very interested in the arts so an annual prize was set up to encourage participation in some aspects of the arts.


If you didn’t get the chance to view the shortlisted works at the event, you can view them at the Paddon Award Showcase 6-19 May 2015 in the University Reception.