New Light on Newlyn: A talk with the Curators

New Light on Newlyn
Plymouth City Museum
20th October – 12th January

Curated by Emma Phillip, curator of Fine Art at Plymouth City Museum, New Light On Newlyn features art both old and new from the Newlyn Art Society , (a group of around 140 artists all with strong ties to the South West area).

Fifteen contemporary artists viewed classic oil paintings, from as early as the 1880’s, and came up with proposals inspired by the work that they had seen, encouraging new ways of looking at the historic paintings. A rigorous selection process followed, in which artists’ track record and reputation were considered, as well as the quality of their ideas. No commission was involved with the project, instead the show offered artists a chance to profit from a platform to increase their visibility and viewership,meaning the selected artists had to self-fund their work.

As an exhibition, New Light on Newlyn had several aims. Many of the traditional works had not been on public view for a considerable amount of time, so the show allowed the opportunity to re-display the historic works. Plymouth City Museum is constantly reaching out to new audiences, and New Light on Newlyn encouraged those viewers inclined to contemporary art to consider traditional art, and those who preferred traditional artworks, to appreciate contemporary pieces.

A creative process of discerning the layout and design of the exhibition was implored, a lot of ‘tweaking’ took place, such as working out the square footage via discussions with the artists. Emma Phillip confessed New Light on Newlyn was a tricky show to curate; work had to be placed and re-placed in multiple positions around the gallery space so each work received maximum impact and its messages and concepts were successfully construed. None of the artists exhibiting were involved in the hanging of the show, due to the exhibition being collaborative, instead, artists were asked to make a submission statement about their work and interests which helped the gallery staff to place the work successfully in relation to other pieces. A balance was carefully observed between the constriction of a floor plan and freedom, helping the artists to best express their intentions.

newlynFig 1. Image taken during the installation process of the exhibition

Although not to personal taste, New Light on Newlyn was a valuable exhibition, bringing classical oil paintings back in the public eye, providing the works with a new audience and perception.



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