Tag Archive | Sarah Taylor Silverwood

Artist in Residence Sarah Taylor Silverwood – Week 4

I have spent the last month researching the collections during my residency here. I have now finished at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) and moved back into my studio. I’ll be channelling these ideas into a new commission for BMAG for January. The residency has encouraged a new direction for my work, where my public facing studio encouraged conversations and interactions with staff and the public. These daily conversations have fed into my artistic process and encouraged me to rethink my relationship with ‘the gallery’, and the editing process that I go through while making work. It has also given me an insight into the direct art historical context of the materials I use, and how drawing and works on paper have been used.

The studio itself has been a significant influence on how I’ve been working.

The studio space at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The studio space at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The view looks out onto Victoria Square and Town Hall.

The view from studio looking onto Victoria Square and Town Hall

The space has been used for both workshops with the public and my daily studio practice.

The mirror within the studio with illustrations on it

Sarah's illustration

Maps and postcards of Birmingham

These sketches are the beginning of the exploration into my new work, which evoke familiar motifs of journeys, place, and landscape.

Sketch of people

Sketch of the clock tower at Birmingham Museum

Sketch of museum assistants from 1900s

A collection of Sarah's sketches

During my time here, I have looked at a huge range of landscapes and topographical views in the collection. I also spent some time with photographer David Rowan, who showed me the work he had done documenting the view from the roof of the building, and also how the roof and dome at BMAG have gradually been restored. This has pushed me to think more about the importance of viewpoints within a changing city.

I keep coming back to this painting within the collection, titled ‘Birmingham from the Dome of St. Philips Church’, painted by Samuel Lines in 1821 (the church is now a cathedral).

Birmingham from the Dome of St. Philips Church by Samuel Lines, 1821

It was made from the dome, which is inaccessible to the public now. The dome was then the highest point in the town, and still seems very high – it is said to be the same level as the cross on St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It is a fascinating perspective on the city and I was captivated by the idea of recreating this view today.

The Dome of St. Philips Cathedral today

This week I met with Catherine Ogle (Dean of Birmingham) and Rob Hands (Head Verger at St Philip’s). Rob and I climbed the precarious tower to the top of the dome, then compared the views. Thanks to a compass and a selection of historical maps, I worked out the angle from which Samuel Lines created his painting. The original painting was made pointing southwest – I overlaid old and new maps to give a rough idea of the angle.

I will be spending the coming weeks exploring the idea of this view, or ‘prospect’, and its historical and cultural significance. The BMAG team will be documenting my new commission and its development. For now, here is a view of the clock from inside the tower and the gravestone of Samuel Lines himself, in the graveyard of the Cathedral.

Inside the clock in the dome of St. Philips Cathedral

Gravestone of Samuel Lines

I’d also like to add a huge thank you to all the staff at BMAG who have been generous with their time and resources to help me develop this residency and commission.

Sarah Taylor Silverwood,
Whitworth Wallis Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence Sarah Taylor Silverwood – Week 3

This week I have been to the Museum Collections Centre, I’ve been taking photographs on the roof of the gallery, and I ran a ‘Big Buildings’ drawing workshop. It has been really busy but full of inspiration and I’ve made a start of the final work I’m producing for the residency.

I want to produce a view of Birmingham inspired by some of the topographical views in the collection. When looking through these works, I have been trying to work out what angle they are taken from. It is difficult to find a good viewpoint (often people use a bit of artistic license to get what they want in) so I have been trying to find the perfect spot to draw from. The new Library of Birmingham has some fantastic views, so I climbed to the 9th floor to see what part of the landscape I could get in:

View from the new Library of Birmingham

It wasn’t quite the right angle, and I wanted to get something that looked out from BMAG if possible. The BMAG security team took me up onto the roof of the gallery. The views are incredible, especially looking back at the library – you can see the tiny figures in the roof garden.

View of new Library of Birmingham

The roof space above Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Alongside finding the right viewpoint I wanted to explore more of the work in the collection so spent a day at the Museum Collections Centre (MCC). It is a treasure trove of incredible things, from buttons to computers:

Buttons from the collections

An old computer at the Museum Collections Centre

I am particularly interested in the work of Samuel Lines, so Jo-Ann Curtis (Curator) showed me this sketch done in preparation for making the painting below. It seems much less restrained than some of the more finished pieces.

Samuel Lines sketch of Birmingham from the Dome of St Philip

Samuel Lines painting of Birmingham from the Dome of St Philip

Henry Harris Lines, eldest son of Samuel Lines, is a brilliant draughtsman and also uses Birmingham as the subject for his work.  These two pieces depict the city which is very different from today but still holds some recognisable features:

Henry Harris Lines sketch of Birmingham

Henry Harris Lines sketch of Birmingham

The formality and style of some of these prints of Birmingham architecture is something I’d like to replicate in my drawing:

Prints of St Pauls Chapel and the Free Grammar School, Birmingham

Print of the Free Grammar School, Birmingham

Finally I asked if we could look at some trade cards used by Birmingham based industries. They are beautiful objects in themselves, each full of intricate detail and typography. The importance of industry to Birmingham’s heritage is something I’d like to bring in to the new work. Thanks to Jo-Ann for a great day exploring the collections at MCC.

Trade card for portable gas stoves

Finally, thank you to everyone who came to the Big Buildings Workshop on Saturday 12th October! We had over 100 visitors in 2 hours and they created some beautiful artworks. Below are a few photos of the giant window landscapes:

Children drawing on the giant window at the workshop

The big buildings workshop giant window

Looking out of the giant window

Drawing of a building on the giant window

A drawing of a church on the giant window

Drawings of buildings on the giant window

Sarah inside the giant window landscape

And people also made their own big buildings to take home. Maisy Kate Neal made a drawing of the Council House and Art Gallery, and then collaged over it.

Collage of Birmingham Council House

Building collages made by children at the workshop

This is my final week at BMAG. On Wednesday I am running a final Open Studio from 1-4pm. Come and find out more about the Artist in Residence programme and the new artwork I am making. Also there is an opportunity to be a part of my new work. I am asking members of the public if I can photograph them to draw from. Thanks to all the members of the public who came to be photographed last week, this is Shengwei posing for hers:

Shengwei standing inside the giant window landscape

Sarah Taylor Silverwood,
Whitworth Wallis Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence Sarah Taylor Silverwood – Week 2

It has been a really busy second week and I’ve been meeting many members of the public and staff here. On Wednesday afternoons I have an open studio, and last week lots of people came in to see the work I’m making and chat about what they have been doing in the gallery. It has been fascinating to be right in the midst of the ebb and flow of the gallery.

I had a meeting with Curator Victoria Osborne this week, and she showed me a selection of works from BMAG’s incredible stores.

An archival box from the art stores

Sarah's written notes and artwork from the stores

I have tried to be quite focussed with my research as it is easy to get carried away with the vast collection! I want to spend some time looking at landscapes, works on paper, drawing, technique, Birmingham-related landscapes and objects connected with Birmingham’s industrial heritage. The works that Victoria showed me were mainly drawings or prints on paper. There is nothing quite like seeing the works unframed. It was particularly interesting to investigate the sorts of paper used and see inscriptions on the back of drawings.

I saw a variety of works by Samuel Lines (1778-1863), a significant artist who focussed many of his works on the Birmingham Landscape. Many of his drawings depict the (very different!) 19th century landscape of Birmingham. This drawing is called View from No 3 Temple Row West (presumable from his home which was on Temple Row).

View from No 3 Temple Row West by Samuel Lines

This detailed tree drawing was made by Henry Harris Lines in 1826 (son of Samuel Lines).

Drawing of a tree by Henry Harris Lines

I love this piece made by Birmingham artist Alice Barnwell. She has used two different shades of ink to distinguish the foreground and background.

Drawing of trees by Alice Barnwell

This print depicts the Hall of Memory (another Alice Barnwell). Victoria explained how they acquired two of this particular print because one of them had a written inscription but was not as good quality as this one.

Print of the Hall of Memory by Alice Barnwell

Finally, one of my favourite things I have seen here is a book of drawings that were done by Jocelyn Gaskin as a child. These beautiful, lively drawings were all made when she was about 9 years old, around 100 years ago. As a big comic book fan myself, it was great to see some comic-like drawings in the collection!

Drawing by Jocelyn Gaskin of her father playing golf

Drawing of a child by Jocelyn Gaskin

Drawing of a teacher by Jocelyn Gaskin

Drawing of a man holding flowers by Jocelyn Gaskin

Finally here are a few books I’ve been looking at ready for a visit to the Museum Collections Centre with history Curator Jo-Ann Curtis next week. I’ll be looking at works by Alan Edward Everett, Frank Lockwood, Arthur Lockwood and Samuel Lines.

Open books

Come and take a closer look at my work every Wednesday (until 16th Oct) at my open studio sessions in the Activity Zone between 1pm and 4pm.  I will also be running a free family drawing workshop on Saturday 12th October from 1pm – 3pm. Visit the BMAG website for more information: http://www.bmag.org.uk/events?id=2918

Sarah Taylor Silverwood,
Whitworth Wallis Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence Sarah Taylor Silverwood – Week 1

It is coming to the end of my first week as Artist in Residence at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve had a busy week moving into the studio and meeting many members of staff and public.  I’ve also had a chance to immerse myself in the amazing art and museum collection. I’m here for a month and during that time I will be making a new piece of work inspired by the collections. I’m really enjoying working in the new studio space:

Studio in the Activity Zone at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Studio in the Activity Zone at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

My work is mainly drawing based, and previously I’ve made drawings that are often reminiscent of comic books, maps or landscapes. You can find out more about my work here: www.sarahsilverwood.com.

You might have passed by and seen me working in the studio, which is in the Activity Zone. With a large glass wall I feel like a museum object myself! I like to see how the public are interacting with the art work in the galleries, so have been sketching as they walk by.

I often use historical ideas and themes in my work, especially in connection with the City of Birmingham, so a residency at BMAG is a great chance to make new work. I have got a lot of enthusiasm for working with narrative, and enjoy weaving some sort of storytelling aspect into my work. I spent some time in the Birmingham history galleries, discovering the importance of Birmingham’s industrial past. Helen from the Front of House team gave me a quick history of the gallery itself, explaining how it has changed over the past century. The studio wall is filling up with images like these:

I was particularly struck by a door from the old Debtor’s Prison in Birmingham, which I made a quick sketch of. It has a sign that reads, ‘Note the bars thro which charitable passers-by dropped coins to the inmates’.

Next week I’ll be spending some time at the Museum Collections Centre with History Curator Jo-Ann Curtis. It is an amazing place where many of the collections are stored. I’ll also be exploring some of the Fine Art collection with curator Victoria Osborne.

My studio is open to the public every Wednesday 1-4pm. I’ll also be posting on the blog every week. I will be running a free family drawing workshop on Saturday 12th October 1-3pm. We will be painting the walls and windows and decorating the studio with an amazing cityscape!  Check the BMAG website for more information: http://www.bmag.org.uk/events?id=2918