Nathaniel Pitt

Re-Considered (July 2010) PRESS RELEASE

Worcester City Art Gallery has collected contemporary art for 150 years, building up an outstanding collection, particularly strong in landscapes. The Worcester City Museum collection, of which fine art is an important part alongside natural history, archaeology and social history, focuses on the shaping of the English landscape. Worcestershire's landscape tells the story of England, from the geology of the Malvern Hills to the town planning 'rape of Worcester' which drove modern conservation movements. There have been two major pushes to purchase contemporary art: one between the opening of the current museum building in 1896 and the First World War; and the second at the turn of the 21st century. In the early 1900s, many paintings were purchased direct from the artists including favourites such as Chadding on Mounts Bay by Stanhope Forbes. From 1998-2003, Worcester was one of a small number of museum collections working with the Contemporary Art Society on the Special Collections Scheme. Paintings, photographs and film work were purchased from artists and galleries internationally for the Worcester collection through funding from the Arts Lottery and the Elmley Foundation.

This exhibition focuses on the latter, between 2001 and 2005 the curator and invited academics were asked to enter into lengthy acquisition process carefully considering works for procurement. With the help, support and guidance of the Contemporary Arts Society artists were researched, studio visits and gallery meetings were organised and over 10 new works were bought for the collection.

Nathaniel Pitt and Worcestershire Contemporary Artists / W-CA repond and curate.

In order to start a dialogue and to begin to understand the collection Nathaniel Pitt & W-CA visited the archive on a number of occasions to view the works and begin to think about the collection and tease out some ideas related to landscape and how it fits into a contemporary art world.

"At the start of the process as a group we were concerned with questions like how is landscape as a genre represented in critical contemporary art? Should a gallery focus on a narrow field of subject matter as the basis of its collection? And does the collection re-enforce stereotypical notions of non-progressive, conservative or figurative art practice in rural towns and provincial cities? However on viewing the collection these questions seemed to answer themselves, a lot of these concerns are challenged by the collection itself. The works in the collection are far more critical and context driven than simply a reflection of either a rural or urban landscape. They are as much about the interior as the exterior, they are environmentally political, they are socially political and they raise notions of identity." > Nathaniel Pitt

Two films were commissioned to further understand the collection, the first film is made by Various Artist; it is a pilgrimage of sorts, a road trip, a journey between Willy Lott’s Cottage in Suffolk to a lone tree in the Black Country. The film looks at the quintessential idyllic landscape in juxtaposition with an everyday gritty suburban street; from Constable’s The Haywain to Richard Billingham’s Tree by midnight in Cradley Heath. The second film is a series of interviews with people connected to the collection; these films include interviews with Paul Hobson, Director at Contemporary Art Society; Brendan Flynn, Curator at Birmingham City Gallery and Museum and the artists George Shaw and Carol Rhodes.

Artist / Curators talk at the Private View

-Philippa Tinsley