Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Picture House at Belsay Hall, Northumberland.

These are a few pictures of corollarim, commissioned for English Heritage in 2006/7. Last year I was awarded the Belsay Hall Fellowship, the piece I created was called corollarium, and responded to the internal and external realms of Belsay. Initially I took inspiration from the remnants of wallpaper around the building, and began to work on creating a projected wallpaper that attempted to carry the life of the gardens back in to the house. I used specimens collected from Belsay gardens, which were then processed for use with various different micro and electron microscopes, combined with internal body footage, x-ray photography, time-lapse videography and animation. The results from these processes were integrated and sewn together to form an evolving, slow moving wallpaper, held by the original pattern already present within the upper bedroom. The exhibition, called Picture House and was on for a mammoth six months, including artists such as The Quay Brothers, Mike Figgis, Antony Hegerty and Hew Locke.

Belsay itself is an English Heritage site -

Here' a link to the Picture House website

and below is my catalogue text which explains a little about the Fellowship:

The Belsay Fellowship was established in 1997 after the first, successful design event called Living At Belsay. Funded by the Arts Council England it allows a recently graduated artist the same commissioning opportunity as those who are established within their field. For the last two exhibitions, the Fellowship has been supported by Northumbria University and awarded to one of their previous students.

Visual artist Francesca Steele has been commissioned to create a new work for Belsay, responding to the artists’ brief to consider the architecture, history and narratives that lie within this exceptional historic site.

Steele uses video, installation and one to one live performance in most of her work. This is mostly concerned with the concepts of beauty, mortality and presence and she uses a visual language that is heightened by the use of mirrors, objects or furniture to cite another time or to suggest an unworldly space.

For Belsay, Francesca Steele has created a new work that relates specifically to the site. The artist felt drawn towards the fragments of wallpaper that had been left on the walls of the room known as Stephen Middleton’s bedroom. The large, open flower heads printed in indigo and cream flow across the walls, creating a dense, sombre patterning. Steele voiced a need to continue the paper’s journey across the walls but to fuse it with her own design, made from microscopic film footage.

Francesca Steele has spent months collecting microscopic cellular film footage of the plants that grow in the Belsay gardens. It is important to her that the pattern you see is directly connected to the site, that the work is rooted in time, place and history. Yet the footage does not only contain plant imagery, the artist has also merged human organs and cellular structures within the patterning so that it becomes a visual portal that breathes a presence back into this old bedroom.

Francesca has created a video installation that seeks to carry a series of intimate botanical and anatomical portraits back into the architectural severity of this place. Breathing a presence back into the building, bringing a strange life into the now unoccupied house.

Judith King
Curator of Picture House

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