JHG Footprints is an online exhibition using John Hansard Gallery’s archive. Four themes will be selected, each running for a fortnight, during which time we will be posting materials from artists and shows associated with the chosen concept. Our Head of Programme, Ros Carter, introduces the project.
Theme 1: Location and Architecture
Theme 2: A Sense of Place and Time
Theme 3: Artist and the Body/Performance
Theme 4: Transition and Migration
“In the summer of 2019, the John Hansard Gallery building at the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus was ceremoniously picked apart, piece by piece. Some of us visited to pay our respects as the giant machines rumbled and dismantled the building brick by brick. The significance of buildings and the unique stories they tell, is one of life’s great connectors – everyone can relate to the memory of a special building, a home, a location where so much personal time, energy and love has been invested.
Being a gallery was in fact the building’s second life. Originally constructed as a temporary building to house a tidal model of the Solent for oceanographic research purposes: the significance of site, location and research was inbuilt from the very beginning. Then, as a gallery, the research continued and the ebb and flow of the ever-changing exhibitions echoed beautifully with its tidal past.
We were eager that the demise of the original bricks and mortar should not pass by un-noted, but to instead be documented, and not just in a factual way, but through an artist’s eyes. Sam Laughlin was invited to undertake a commission to do just that, and the result is the beautiful film, Falling wall, rising dust. We were also keen to make the most of this opportunity to look back at some of the remarkable artists and exhibitions which inhabited that building. In Unconsumable Global Luxury Dispersion (2015-18), the artist Walter van Rijn worked closely with the Gallery to create a multi-faceted project that included a complete database of every artist and artwork exhibited since it opened in 1980. A phenomenal undertaking which covered the work of 1491 artists within 262 exhibitions.
Over the coming weeks we will present snapshots from the Gallery’s past. We have identified a number of themes that emerged throughout the programme and have selected a small number of projects that say something about that particular theme. The themes reflect not only ideas around the building itself and the importance of location, but also represent some of the recurring subjects that were such a driving force in the programme for so many years. However, as well as looking back, we also want to look forward. The John Hansard Gallery on the Highfield Campus was a remarkable and treasured home for many years, but like any family, we had to move house so as to grow and look to the future.
Our choices are of course highly subjective and there are so many that could have been highlighted, but we hope that you will enjoy this small selection of some of the amazing artists and exhibitions that we had the pleasure of showing within those walls over the years. Heartfelt thanks are due to each and every person we have worked with – it is they who made the building such a special place to be.”
Ros Carter, Head of Programme (Senior Curator)
Joined as Exhibitions Assistant in 1991