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Leicester artists reimagine museum artefacts as art for exhibition

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Leicester artists reimagine museum artefacts as art for exhibition

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities

Mr Lyon - ‘Credit: Peter Clayton’ Mr Lyon - ‘Credit: Peter Clayton’

Museum artefacts – from dinosaur bones to 18th century carpentry – provide the inspiration for an exciting exhibition of work by five Leicester-based artists.

Museum Metamorphosis is an exciting exhibition of new artworks inspired by the permanent collection at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery.

The exhibition was commissioned and curated by an international group of PhD students from the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

It will be held at the School, on University Road, from Thursday, 26 September to 10 February.

Artists responded to a call to select an object from New Walk Museum & Art Gallery and use this to develop their own interpretations or ‘metamorphoses’ using a variety of different media. 

After careful consideration, artists Elisa Panerai (mixed media), Lucy Stevens (mixed media), Michelle Morgan (illustration and design), Peter Clayton (printmaking) and Ruth Singer (textiles) were selected to reinterpret and transform objects of their choice from New Walk Museum & Art Gallery and create five new artworks for the Museum Metamorphosis exhibition.

The five artists spent the summer visiting the museum to observe, study and sketch their objects. Objects selected from the collection range from a Plateosaurus skeleton, to an 18th century Japanese display cabinet.

Ruth Singer chose to work from the museum's Nigerian Charm Gown as she was “intrigued by the idea of the fabric undergoing a metamorphosis from mere cloth to something with magical powers”.

She decided to create her own charm gown based on the life of her grandfather who died last December at the age of 96.

All the details used in the piece are from his life and his home, including garden plants, tools, documents and objects.

Peter Clayton’s piece is inspired by a taxidermy lion and “The Courtship of Mr Lyon” by Angela Carter, in which a lion-man is transformed into a human through love, respect and understanding. 

Elisa Panerai’s work carries an environmental dimension as she uses waste materials to create her artwork.

Elisa said: “This project really captured my imagination. I am interested in using materials headed for the recycling bin to make work, transforming and giving them new meaning through artistic intervention”.

Michelle Morgan was inspired to take part in the Museum Metamorphosis as she grew up in Leicester and have visited New Walk Museum on many occasions.

The “metamorphosis” of her piece has been to take some of the individual bones from the Plateosaurus skeleton as a whole and display them in a dissected manner using paper and Perspex, turning two dimensional materials into a three dimensional artwork.

Lucy Stevens’ piece, 'The Magic Voice' uses the visual interpretations of birds courting songs to fill its environment and replace a forest with a cityscape of Leicester in order to reflect its ability to mimic industrial sounds.

The feathers and body have been exaggerated in colour and pattern with some birds taking on the visual form of their own song.

PhD student Romina Delia, Exhibition Curator, refers to these fascinating transformations as “visual dialogues” while Haitham Eid, Exhibition Co-Curator, highlights that the exhibition is an opportunity to open a discussion on what change and transformation could entail especially relating to environmental and social contexts.

Laura Diaz Ramos, Exhibition Co-Curator and fellow PhD student, said: “The exhibition is a unique opportunity to appreciate the different stages of the creative process. Together with the pieces of art, we are also displaying pictures of the original sources of inspiration, the sketches produced by the artists and photographs of the artistic process. This allows us to see the metamorphosis undertaken from the original idea to the final outcome”.

Exhibition Manager Laura Crossley said: “It has been a real privilege to work with a great team to create an exhibition at the School of Museum Studies as it's a truly inspiring place, providing unique learning opportunities around museums, arts and heritage”.

The exhibition runs from 26 September to 10 February.

It has been developed to coincide with an AHRC-funded Collaborative Skills project and international conference, also called Museum Metamorphosis to be held in the School of Museum Studies on 5-6 November 2013.

The exhibition is free to the public and opens Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.

The University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies has the highest proportion of world-leading research in any subject in any UK university (RAE 2008).

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