Putting ourselves in the picture: visual arts and the University

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'Story of a Sensible Length' image
Story Of A Sensible Length, 2014
Polythene, plaster powder, powder paint, thread
300 x 300 x 300 cm
GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland
Scottish National Gallery
Photo: John McKenzie
Courtesy National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
© The Artist and the National Galleries of Scotland. Courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne

Glasgow is a wonderful place to engage in academic work on the visual arts. From its medieval heritage, embodied in the Cathedral and its rich history, to the wealth of historic collections in the city, displayed at venues such as the Burrell or Kelvingrove, and up to the vibrancy of its renowned contemporary art scene, Glasgow offers many and varied opportunities to see art and to think about it. The University of Glasgow plays its own role in this, of course, via the outstanding collections of the Hunterian Art Gallery, but also through the many ways in which staff from different disciplines engage with visual art in their research. Just as art itself is incredibly various, so the kinds of work that is undertaken in relation to visual art are varied, and the forms used to share that work range widely, as we hope is evident from the case studies outlined on our website.

University staff from across the College of Arts have curated exhibitions, bringing their expertise to bear on the selection and display of works of art. They have contributed their knowledge to the interpretation of works, exhibitions and collections, through familiar academic formats such as the journal article or monographic book, and also through constructing websites and digital archives, writing texts in exhibition catalogues, generating publicity materials, interpretation panels and so on. Gallery talks are another medium for transmitting and sharing our work, and here again there is a great deal of activity, with staff travelling internationally to offer their insights to arts audiences. One of the great advantages of working in this way is precisely the fact that it enables academic knowledge to be shared with interested publics outside the institution, and for that knowledge to impact on a larger public understanding of visual art.

Because Glasgow is such a lively city in terms of the visual arts, it is also an ideal location for working collaboratively with institutions, curators, or directly with artists. In addition to collaborations of those kinds, staff have acted in advisory capacities, on steering groups and boards, for instance, helping to support partner organisations in varied ways, including with ambitious research projects. The University has itself benefitted greatly from its collaborations with, for example, Glasgow Museums, with The Glasgow School of Art, and with venues such as The Common Guild, all of which have brought professional expertise into the University, and ensured that ‘knowledge exchange’ is very much a two-way process. This goes beyond the local too, encompassing activities of a truly global nature, with exhibitions in Spain and Japan, for instance, amongst recent projects realized by University staff.

Visual art offers us many models for how to be interested in the world, and to present knowledge about it. Academia no doubt has a great deal to learn from art in this regard, and hopefully also a good deal to contribute. During November 2014 when there is a special focus on knowledge exchange and visual art, we hope that both our existing partnerships and perhaps some new ones too can develop in exciting ways.

How can academic research best work in partnership with the individuals and organisations that produce, collect, curate, display and interpret art for their audiences? Working together, how can we deepen our collective understanding of visual art, and perhaps enhance our enjoyment of it in the process?

Text by Dr Dominic Paterson (History of Art), Visual Arts Industry Sector lead. To view Prof Nick Pearce’s introductory video on Visual Arts visit our YouTube channel

To find out more about Visual Arts visit http://www.gla.ac.uk/colleges/arts/knowledge-exchange/themes/visualarts/ or email fraser.rowan@glasgow.ac.uk



Post Author: Fraser Rowan

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