Having completed a photography pilot at York Art Gallery in July, we spent a day passing on the methodologies and specifications to photographer Iona Shepherd and Art UK Coordinator Lisa Gillespie in advance of a second pilot project at Paisley Museum and Art Galleries. Here, Lisa Gillespie describes the work they undertook during their three days in Paisley.
A wide variety of sculpture from the permanent collection was photographed on display in the galleries and behind the scenes in a studio setting. The Curator of Art also obtained permission from the trustees of the George Wyllie Foundation for us to photograph sculptures in the museum’s temporary exhibition ‘The Why?sman: Celebrating the Art and Life of George Wyllie (1921–2012)’.
We were fortunate in being able to photograph the majority of the sculpture on display on a day when the museum is closed to visitors and other works on subsequent mornings before the museum opened. The pilot highlighted some of the challenges of photographing sculpture in situ in a gallery setting such as changing light between shots from an atrium window. The problem was much less apparent on day three of photography when we reverted to typical Scottish summer weather with grey skies overhead!
Museum lighting could also be a challenge for Iona in internal galleries without natural light. We were assisted in photography by the museum’s very helpful technician who arranged for track lighting to be switched off when necessary. Working outside the museum’s opening hours allowed us not only to adjust the gallery lighting, but also meant that Iona’s photographic equipment didn’t obstruct visitors or necessitate gallery closures during photography.
Two sculptures from the George Wyllie exhibition were selected for photography. One of his signatory Question Mark sculptures was photographed at the entrance to the exhibition. Wyllie described his own art as ‘scul?ture’ because he said the question mark should be at the centre of everything. The other Wyllie sculpture photographed is a mixed media assemblage in two parts entitled ‘A Machine for Applauding Paintings with Critic’s Thumb Attachment and Mona Lisa’ (below). It provided a good example of kinetic sculpture for the pilot and we had Douglas the technician on hand to demonstrate it moving.
As in the York pilot, we photographed an example of a ‘sculptural’ studio ceramic. Although it is proposed that mass-produced ceramics and pottery will be excluded from Your Sculpture, the stoneware bird form by Alex Leckie (below) is an example of a work that collections might consider should be included in the project.
At this stage in the development of the project, it is also proposed that reliefs should be excluded from the project remit. Paisley Museum and Art Gallery has a considerable collection of miniature casts of the friezes from the Parthenon in Athens by the Paisley-born sculptor John Henning (1771–1851). This is another example of work that is excluded, but which curators may wish to be included in the project as it is regarded as part of the sculpture collection within the museum. We photographed an example of the museum’s Henning collection due to its importance to the collection.
On the final day of photography, Iona took multiple images of a work for photogrammetry to create a 3D image of the work. The work selected was a maquette (below) by the artist and playwright John Byrne for the set of his play The Slab Boys, which is set in a Paisley carpet factory. It should provide an interesting example of photogrammetry for the pilot study.
We are very grateful to Paisley Museum and Art Galleries for allowing us to carry out this pilot study. The sculptures and settings provided have highlighted a number of points for further consideration in the Development Phase of the project.
Lisa Gillespie, Art UK Coordinator