Working with Visual Arts is a whole spectrum of activities from analysing Medieval paint work to raising the profile of French comic strips, known as Bande Dessinée. The College of Arts has launched innovative crowdsourcing projects such as Your Paintings Tagger and Art Detective to draw on expertise across the world, as well as using technology in a different way to 3D scan and print replicas of ancient theatrical masks. Since 2003, we have also worked directly with seven museum partners across Scotland to develop their collections and offer professional development to their curators.
Analysis of the Richard de Bury chest in the Burrell Collection shows in detail the pigments used to create red, blue and green paint layers. These paint layers can be dated to c.1340, telling us that the surviving colours are those that de Bury himself (1281-1345) would have seen. By examining the technical data available, researchers can add to our understanding of furniture painting in the Medieval period.
In a similar way, little was known about French-language comic strips – Bande Dessinée – before Laurence Grove from the College of Arts began promoting the research and teaching of it as a discipline. BD is now taught in around 20 universities in the UK and there was also an exhibition at The Hunterian in 2011 resulting from Grove’s related research into Renaissance emblems and emblem books, attracting over 15,000 visitors in three months.
Beating that total, over 23,000 paintings have now been tagged on Your Paintings Tagger, the first of two exciting crowdsourcing projects from the College of Arts. The Tagger enables oil paintings to be searched more effectively – over 5 million tags have now been added! Art Detective, linked to Your Paintings, is also using the public’s knowledge and interest combined with that of specialists to solve mysteries about the location, sitters or artists of paintings. The College of Arts’ Andrew Greg has been involved with these projects every step of the way from cataloguing the oil paintings to designing and monitoring the websites.
The new technology of 3D scanning and printing was used to great effect by College of Arts academic Elizabeth Moignard in collaboration with the artist Richard Williams and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Miniature 4th century ancient Greek theatre masks from museums in the UK and Italy were reproduced and hung from the ceiling of the Kelvingrove to create a visually stunning part of the ‘Expressions’ display. The reproductions have also toured Europe in exhibitions to illustrate ancient performances and have also appeared on stage!
Stemming from the National Collecting Scheme Scotland, Affiliate has assisted seven museum partners – including The Hunterian, The McManus (see image), Paisley Art Gallery and Museum, and Shetland Museum and Archives – to acquire new pieces of contemporary art and to interpret their collections with confidence. Representatives from the museums have become Affiliate Researchers in History of Art and are carrying out their own research projects to enhance their collections and careers simultaneously. One Affiliate, Jennifer Melville from Aberdeen Art Gallery, went to the Venice Biennale with funding from the project and commented: “I believe that it has certainly informed me in the direction I would like to take”.
Text by Jennifer Hilder. Watch Jennifer’s video ‘Visual Arts in 45 seconds‘.