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.











 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

 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

 Being Human festival showcases Humanities Research at Exeter

We’re nearly half way through the wonderful series of events being organised by the Humanities Department of the University of Exeter as part of the national Being Human Festival which is designed to engage the public with Humanities research.

singing the past newsletter


All the events are free and cover diverse subjects.


Last week I went to see ‘Singing the Past’ ; a fascinating performance given by Dr Freyja Cox Jensen, a researcher in Early Modern History at the University of Exeter.


Along with her brother Dr Oskar Cox Jensen, Research Fellow at King’s she performed a series of ballads from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Ballad sheets were an early way of spreading stories in musical form, ballad sheets being sold in their thousands, on topics such as notorious crimes, famous leaders and lost love.


The performance was given in the recently-refurbished tudor house The Walronds in Cullompton, which helped to create just the right setting for the historical ballads.


If you would like to attend some of the wonderful events still to come as part of the Being Human Festival, check them out on the Arts & Culture website or click on the list here.


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.




 Event Exeter and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra celebrate 50th anniversary

BSO in the Great Hall for blog

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the Great Hall, University of Exeter

Professor Janice Kay, Provost of the University of Exeter and Dougie Scarfe, Chief Executive of the BSO signing the partnership agreement

On 22nd January 2015, the 50th anniversary of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s (BSO’s) concert season at The Great Hall at the University of Exeter was celebrated with two unique performances.


As well as an evening concert entitled ‘London Town’, featuring music by Elgar, Rachmaninov and Vaughan Williams, a brand new free schools concert sponsored by Investec Wealth & Investment took place during the day for over 1,300 school children from 20 schools across Devon. Event Exeter, the venue management team at the University marked the occasion by presenting each child with a bespoke musical themed notebook, to use back in the classroom as a reminder of the special event.

The University of Exeter and BSO cemented their relationship by signing a partnership agreement, confirming and celebrating their shared ongoing commitment to delivering world-class symphonic music to people living in the South West of England.


Geoff Pringle, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Exeter said “We are thrilled to be commemorating this remarkable anniversary by strengthening our relationship with the BSO. As one of the largest concert halls in the South West, The Great Hall is the perfect musical venue for people to come and enjoy wonderful performances from one of the best orchestras in the country.”

Dougie Scarfe, Chief Executive of the BSO said “The future of an Orchestra in the 21st Century is built on strong, positive and collaborative relationships, the signing of a partnership agreement with Exeter University, in the BSO’s 50th year of performing at the Great Hall, Exeter is testament to our shared commitment to delivering world-class symphonic music to people living in the South West of England. The BSO are focused on broadening the reach of the Orchestra with our venues, partners and funders, introducing the power of music to new and diverse audiences.’’

The excellent acoustics, moveable seating and fixed tiered balcony make The Great Hall a perfect venue for classical concerts and choir performances. With a maximum capacity of 1,400 seated and 1,800 standing, the venue also attracts a range of other live musical and theatrical events, as well as providing a great space for gala dinners, conferences and exhibitions.

Faces of Conflict – University partners with RAMM on new exhibition


Last Saturday saw the opening of Faces of Conflict, an exhibition at RAMM examining the impact of the First World War on facial reconstructive surgery.


This exhibition has been developed collaboratively between the University of Exeter and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), funded through an the EU INTERREG IV-funded project called 1914FACES2014, led by Prof Bernard Devauchelle (Institut Faire Faces) and Prof David Houston Jones (University of Exeter).

Paddy Hartley - Walter Ernest O’Neil Yeo, sailor uniform Copyright the artist back 1

Paddy Hartley – Walter Ernest O’Neil Yeo, sailor uniform.                         Copyright the artist

The exhibition looks at the unique historical situation of the facially injured soldiers of the First World War, the complex question of their reintegration into society and the long-term cultural legacy of that situation. It features photographs, film and artworks. The subject of the exhibition is challenging but important, as it exposes the realities of war and our reactions to it.

To enable you to explore the subject more deeply, RAMM has organised a series of events to accompany the exhibition including a debate on 12 February ‘Rethinking the Face’ in which World-leading facial surgeons, artists and campaigners discuss how they collaborate towards new understandings of the face and of disfigurement.

The project has also hosted an artist in residence at the University, Paddy Hartley, who has been focusing on retelling the story of Plymouth Sailor Walter Ernest O’Neil Yeo who sustained terrible facial burns in the Battle of Jutland, and subsequently underwent pioneering facial surgery at the hand of surgical pioneer Sir Harold Gillies.

The exhibition runs until 5 April 2015 and is open daily from Tuesday – Sunday,10 am – 5 pm except bank holidays.  Entry is free.

Student project to digitise University Turner engraving featured on Tate blog


FAC 01953 ExeterEarlier this year, first year students researched and made a digital map of a JMW Turner engraving of Exeter in the University’s fine art collection.


This project has been reported in the Tate blog: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/art-maps-digital-futures-grand-challenge


The project, focusing on digital archives, was carried out as part of Grand Challenges, an initiative which gives interdisciplinary groups of first year students the opportunity to work together to research and address some of the World’s most pressing issues. A huge issue for the future is the creation and use of digital information.

The result of this project can be seen on the Arts and Culture website: http://www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk/j-m-w-turner