Elizabeth Murton: Exhibition experiences

Participants in Saturday’s symposium were invited to experience activities to extend their appreciation of the themes that underlie Elizabeth Murton’s installation. Presentations on anatomy, meditation and architecture enabled visitors to develop a deeper appreciation of Murton’s work, and prompted them to look more closely at the installation and the space that it occupies. Armed with new knowledge, these participants had new insights.

The tall gallery space has been “pulled together” by the white threads of Murton’s installation, making it a more “intimate space” to participants in the symposium, and encouraging consideration of the space’s features. Current MA Contemporary Crafts student, Alex, describes how the exhibition “connects” what have previously been seen as separate spaces, particularly when viewed from the first-floor concourse. Viewing the installation from above, audiences are made aware of different connections to those visible at ground level. Other visitors commented on the viewing angle too, acknowledging how different the installation feels from different perspectives. Elizabeth’s studio partner, Lizzie, observed that “approaching it from outside is really dramatic”, as the threads criss-cross the large window at the front of the gallery, appearing to form a barrier to entry.


This sense that the exhibition is experienced differently from alternative angles is enhanced by Murton’s choice of materials. Murton notes that the “off-white” of her yarn means that “the angle changes what you see and don’t see”. In places, the strands seem to blend into the white architecture, only becoming visible when the viewer changes her line of sight. Like a cobweb, the work is more visible in some light than others. In morning sunlight, the work feels ethereal,  with the pale strands barely visible against the light that streams through the high glass wall at the entrance. At night, shadows become more pronounced, the white threads contrast with the darkness, and the work seems to become more tangible.

In different lighting the strands of yarn appear to change.  In the early morning (left), they are like cobwebs – barely visible, with an ethereal transparency – and at night (right), when the strands cast shadows on each other, they seem to become more concrete.

A presentation on anatomy by Karen Atkinson inspired visitors to consider the architecture of the gallery in relation to the architecture of the body. UH graduate Karen reflected that the exhibition now prompts her to pay attention to her own body. The feeling that she is “walking through a huge body” when she passes through the gallery is now, for her, a profound experience that enhances her awareness of her own physicality. Discussion with the artist centred around the pillars as a skeletal structure, and in particular, the pipes that emerge from behind the wall were recast as part of a respiratory system. These pipes – extractors for the neighbouring ceramics, metalwork, and glass studios – were imagined to be processing the gasses expelled by a living, breathing gallery space.


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