What an amazing opportunity to exhibit work in such a historic space. We are extremely grateful to Hannah Henderson, curator at the Museum of Norwich, for her support and enthusiasm, in allowing Bookscapes Collective to exhibit work in this unique space. Responding to various objects from the museum"s collection, and with this site in mind, we have all enjoyed producing work to install in the wonderfully atmospheric undercroft.
'Light form the Dark' brings together the varied histories of Norwich : stories that merge and echo through each others artworks.
As you step through the door and descend the steps, you can't help notice the history which has been etched across the surface of these delicate crumbling walls for the past 700 years. This first room is flooded with light. Progressing into the building the light grows dimmer, and the atmosphere becomes palpable. Light seeps through small grills high in the walls. While the modern age has seen the introduction of electric lighting, we wanted to keep this atmosphere and opted to work with the limited natural light. Work was presented in subdued light, individually lit to enhance the mood of the place. Visitors were given the option of having a torch as they move through the rooms.
While soft light filters through these atmospheric rooms, we were aware this space has a dark history. Initially built as a wealthy merchants house, the building then became a prison or 'house of correction' from the 17th century. These rooms would once have been used as a place of punishment.
Four pieces of work by myself were displayed in this first room:
Title; The Poems of Mrs Opie: A Return to Possibilities,
Title: Out of the Ashes: The Observer Books, I & II,
Moving through to the second room, visitors were presented with work by Karen Apps and Heather Hunter.
Karen Apps Title: The Confines,
Karen Apps Title: Slaves to the Needle
Heather Hunter Title: In the Tapestry of Life
Heather Hunter Title: Woven Stories
'The Confines' by Karen, juxtaposes two women living more than four centuries apart - Julien of Norwich and Lorina Bulwer. Both lived in seclusion - one by choice, the other detained against her will. Julien elected to be an anchoress, while Lorina was committed to the workhouse by her family.
Both Karen and Heather were drawn to the textile heritage of Norwich. The city once had a thriving industry. Karen's installation "Slave to the Needle" brings attention to the use of child labour which is often overlooked, but a played a part in the production of fine embroideries. Children as young as four were put to work.
Heather's attention was more specifically pulled toward the weaving heritage. She was intrigued by the arrival of The Strangers, who settled in Norwich during the 16th Century. Fleeing religious and political persecution, they brought weaving skills and tools which helped the cities textile trade to flourish. The Strangers also brought their small canaries which would sing as the weavers sat at their looms.
Continuing through the building the rooms become darker with less natural light. Jules Allen and Jo Howe's work explores differing aspects of the social history of Norwich, highlighting the toll poverty, and harsh working conditions had on peoples well being.
Jo Howe. Title: Embodied Emotions
Jo Howe Title: Baggage
Jules Allen Title: A False and Deceitful Colour
Jules Allen Title: Softening the Blow and A Dark Time.
Finally Jen Fox's installation references the industrial heritage of Norwich. Jen explores this connection to place through walking and documenting what she sees. Much of that history is still evident throughout the city. Her research revealed one hundred and fifty different crafts and trades were carried out during the medieval period.
Jen Fox Title: To Have Within: Hold: Contained: Share.
More detail about each artists work can be found on the Bookscapes Collective website.
I am also part of Bookscapes Collective.
Bookscapes is a group of six artists that have developed a group practice specialising in site specific interventions and exhibitions.