Curated by eleven students on the MA in Curating the Art Museum at the Courtauld Institute of Art and hosted by Somerset House, Generations – Connecting Across Time and Place presents the work of twelve very different British and UK-based artists in a way that allows an intimate reflection of personal experiences by the artists, as well as give way to an understanding and exploration of human connections between and beyond generations. The exhibition, albeit small in scale, displays incredibly diverse and extensive ways of understanding and exploring identity, representation and perception within today's society.
The curators have created a very welcoming arrangement of selected works from the Arts Council Collection, introducing the visitor to the background of the artists displayed and bringing together the different meanings and expressions of the exhibits. Moreover, the exhibition encourages visitors to be interactive by asking for feedback on the question 'how do you connect to other generations?'. Free curator tours every Monday at 1pm and other events, such as Artist Talks with the artists of exhibited works, can give an even more detailed and immersed experience of the exhibition.
Interactive stand where one can explore how we connect with other generations ourselves.
The exhibits are grouped into three rooms, organised by different artists across generations from the 1980s until today, and shed light on different aspects of personal identity and relations.
The first room brings together considerations of historical reference and cultural identity. Notably, the work of Turner Price Winner Hurvin Anderson, Is it ok to be black? (2015-16), draws on many historical references to highlight issues of black identity, such as the whitewashing of key historical figures. The first room is a powerful introduction to the issues addressed and displayed by the art works of the exhibition. Placing younger artists, such as Alejandra Carles-Tolra and Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom, next to another generation of creative work, such as Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance (1988), successfully invites the audience into the conversation between generations that the exhibition seeks to introduce into the art world.
Work by Alejandra Carles-Tolra, Untitled, from Where we belong, 2017.
The second room, named Family Ties, showcases a more private sphere of the artists' personal lives by exploring family relations and personal experience. Themes—such as the duality of emotional closeness and distance in a family, displayed by selected works of artist Joanna Piotrowska’s series FROWST (2014)—draw an intimate picture of the search for identity and love that we all experience. Other works go even further, entwining very personal and intimate objects with political meaning or deep cultural references. Baba Deep Thing by Mum (2014), by Hardeep Pandhal, is a woven piece of clothing transformed into a reflection on cultural history and the artist’s relationship with his mother.
Speaking to History, the third room, mirrors the art displayed: a conversation between the personal and political, the intimacy and the distance of human relations and the relationship between one’s own experiences and the experiences of others. Lubaina Himid’s Cotton.com (2012) captures the attention of the room in an instant and is one of the exhibitions most touching displays. It shows the issues of colonial history and the collective trauma experienced by the oppressed by giving them a voice and creating an imagined conversation between the labourers on cotton plantation and in cotton mills on both side of the Atlantic. On the opposite side, the exhibition encourages the visitor to become immersed in Helen Cammock’s There’s a hole in the Sky Part II: Listening to James Baldwin (2016) which interrogates misplacement and cultural misappropriation and its impact on black identities. Speaking to History is made complete by Lucy Skaer’s creation Leonora (The Tyrant), (2006) intricately bringing together collective memories and our everyday lives in an object as simple as a wooden table.
Work by Helen Cammock, There’s a hole in the Sky Part II: Listening to James Baldwin, 2016.
The exhibition is as diverse in its forms of art—from hard materials and personal objects to digital and painted pieces—as it is in its choice of artists. But what truly makes it an outstanding experience is the powerful connections created between the artists’ works on display and oneself. I would advise recommend this exhibition to anyone, as an exhibition that can resonate among both your own and other generations.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor
Generations – Connecting Across Time and Place
8 June – 4 July 2019
Somerset House, East Wing Galleries, London