conversing about narratives of space

conversing about narratives of space

  • curator’s standpoint

What is a curator and how did you become a curator?

Historically, a curator has been seen to be the safe-keeper of collections in museums; an archivist and custodian of important historical artefacts. In our contemporary society, this role has extended to beyond simple safe-guarding. It arguably now includes taking an active role in interrogating and exploring that which the curator ‘presides’ over. Moreover, it has expanded to include contemporary arts as well as historical artworks and objects. I see the curator role as multi-dimensional, especially in an arts society like ours in Namibia, in which this position is perceived to be relatively new. There’s the actual curating that happens, i.e. deciding in an exhibition of artworks (historical or contemporary) which art objects hang where, in line with the concept that the curator is working with. Then there is the admin, behind-the-scenes work which forms the bulk of the job – this is the paper work, research, writing and organizing aspect which allows for our services as curators at the National Art Gallery of Namibia, particularly, to be rendered efficiently and effectively to artists and other stakeholders.

I studied Fine Art at Rhodes University, specialising in Sculpture. During my studies I realized the merit of understanding and consciously working with placement of artworks, and objects; forming relationships by placing particular artworks close together or far apart, putting them on this wall, or that wall, in this building, or that building, all has a large impact on the way that the artwork is read by viewers. It is for this reason that the role of a Curator became interesting to me and I went in this direction as a career in the arts.

Out of what was the exhibition, Narratives of Space, born?

Looking at my role as the Collections Curator at the NAGN, this exhibition was as much an exploration into the artworks that exist in our collection as into the collection itself. It is the first NAGN Permanent Collection exhibition that I conceptualized and curated from the start, with the support and help of my two Curator colleagues at the NAGN. I decided to use the opportunity to begin to reflect on what different conceptual, physical, metaphorical spaces artworks can occupy, how that space or position can change over time and context, and furthermore what kind of space or role the Permanent Collection itself has to play in the Namibian and international visual arts world.

What is this exhibition conveying about the NAGN and arts in general?

The Narratives of Space exhibition shows the variety of works that have been collected in the NAGN Permanent Collection since its inception. It reflects the diversity of artists that we enjoy in our Namibian arts society. More importantly, it offers a space to reflect – to look at many artworks that span across different times, media, artist’s backgrounds and concepts in one space and re-explore them as they exist in relation to each other.

What is your favorite work in this exhibition and why? (One that you would bid good morning to)

I have many works in the exhibition that I like, and many groupings of artworks that I enjoy. If I were to narrow it down to one, I think it would have to be Barbara Bohlke’s Crown of Thorns. This artwork captivated me from the moment I saw it and still does every time I see it. The mixture between sharp-edged lines and blurred space created with the paint makes for good visual tension, and the colours are bright and bid me good morning when I walk into the NAGN every day.

How did you know that this exhibition is done and dusted?

I started the planning and preparation for this exhibition around August 2016, first by looking at conceptual ideas that I was interested in working with and exploring through the NAGN Permanent Collection. When we digitized the majority of the collection in October, I had the chance to see the Main Gallery filled with every single artwork in our Permanent Collection in one place. This gave me the opportunity to ‘meet’ each artwork and from there I began to think about pairs or groupings of artworks that would speak to each other in interesting ways about their spaces. I listed artworks for the exhibition, but it is one thing to conceptualise works together in a gallery space, and another to physically see them all together. So there were a few last minute shifts and changes when hanging. I think that the exhibition is ‘done and dusted’ when there is conversation across the artworks on display.

How do you keep artwork in this exhibition safe?

It is important to keep the artworks safe by ensuring that they are always handled with care when being transported and hung. They are hung securely to the walls, and they are kept away from direct sunlight. When they are in storage in the collection, the artworks are all kept in secure, safe conditions to preserve them.

What is the best way to control deterioration of works on paper, example those that have acid in their composition? (let’s say work created from newsprint and cardboard)

Works on paper are often extremely fragile and require specific preservation mechanisms depending on the medium and type of paper used. Many of the media used on paper are chemically unstable, and the paper itself can also be prone to degradation. To keep these works safe, if they are unframed, they are stored flat, between acid-free paper in dry conditions. If they are framed, we are currently in the process of purchasing acid-free mounting boards to ensure the same safe conditions. All works on paper are handled wearing white cotton gloves to make sure no oil or other substances pass from the hands of the person handling the artwork to the artwork.

.narratives of space-an exhibition of collections artwork, 8 December 2016 to 21 January 2017

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