Opening Event: 19 February, 3 – 5pm
Exhibition continues: 20 February – 10 April
Opening times: Wed – Friday, 10am – 5pm
Gallery and museum open the first and last Saturdays of the month 10am – 5pm
“A pioneering arts and museum space at the heart of Bethlem Royal Hospital opens to the public on February 19th. Where is the Work in the Work of Art? is our first exhibition in the new gallery. This inaugural exhibition reveals some of the stories, processes and structures behind the art of a diverse group of artists who are connected to the gallery. We will be asking: what takes place before, during and after the making of an artwork? And how are artists enabled to do what they do?
Where is the Work in the Work of Art? takes its lead from our recent Bethlem Salon by the same name. It looks at art’s relationship to labour from several perspectives: cultural theory, art practice and occupational therapy. The aim is to reach beyond art as an object and identify what might be called the ‘bi-products’ of the art process.
What work is for artists and what it could be has been of long debate. Do we consider the making of art to be work when that work is enjoyable? Is it work when the outcome does not take the form of a tangible finished object? Is it work when the work is of second nature to the artist and fully integrated into daily life? Or does the work lie in the minds of the audience, who after encountering the artwork, carry into the world with them new ideas, questions, feelings or forms?
When asked about the title for his recent exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery, The silence of sawn wood, artist P.J Baird said: “It indicates a happening, a poetic image. As you view the work you imagine the process involved, like a form of synesthesia.” Although often seen as a strictly controlled environment to reside in, the hospital can be an enabling context for the production of art; artists may have more time and freedom to work. When it comes to the reception and interpretation of artwork, the hospital context is much more problematic.
Artworks and works of art are predominantly discussed as finished objects viewed through the valorising contexts of galleries and museums. This exhibition looks at work that is not always visible, work that is present in process, failure, experimentation, advocacy and the many other aspects of work that forms and surrounds artistic practice. By making visible some of the usually unseen aspects of artists practice, we hope to give further weight to the work of some of the most dynamic, adaptable, resistant and innovative artists that we know.”
– Sam Curtis, Curator
The exhibition programme offers several lenses through which to consider artist practice and specific works:
Encounter and dialogue
What kind of encounter takes place between an audience and artists practice? How do artists set up situations for dialogue whether intentionally or unintentionally?
Working under constraints
Whether it’s within the rigorously controlled environment of a psychiatric hospital or the limiting space of home, the exhibition looks at how these artists adapt and evolve their practices to survive and flourish within specific constraints.
Art as a tool
The exhibition will explore how some of the artists use art as a personal tool, arming their practice with a specific use- value, a function in the artists ability to craft his or her own identity.
Methodology and process
Uncovering some of the complex and refined methodologies and processes of artists can tell us something about their focus, their skill and their persistence.
Does more time devoted to making art have a positive effect on an artist’s practice? The Bethlem Gallery acknowledges the importance of time, how time aids the establishing of mutual relationships of trust and respect with artists and the creation of a safe space where together we can experiment artistically.
How are artists enabled to continue practising? What support structures, both formal and informal create the specific conditions for their practise to take place?
Where is the Work in the Work of Art? features:
• Contributions by Albert, Clive, Dan Duggan, Daniel, George Harding, Liz Atkin, Matthew, Max Reeves, OccupationalTherapy Department staff and patients, Patient X, P. J. Baird, Raymond, Rodney, Ronald, Roydell, Steph Bates, Sue B, and Sue Morgan.
• Interviews and documentation of artistic process
• A mapped walk around the hospital site where visitors can discover an evolving array of artist interventions and
remnants of practice.
• An artist-created Wood Library situated within the diverse woodlands on the hospital grounds, open for reading,
borrowing, referencing and workshops.
• A Workshop for Unrealised Projects where unfinished or failed projects will be collectively explored and then remade through shared proposals
• The Bethlem Salon – Making and Unmaking – where invited speakers will discuss art, making and the production of subjectivities within the context of an exhibition showing the artworks resulting from of the Workshop for Unrealised Projects
• A series of talks and workshop to be announced on the gallery website
Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
Travel: Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon