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Liquid Crystal Concrete:
Experimental Modes of Making

Research Seminar – Inga Fraser, Rosie Ram, Lucy Reynolds

  • 29 June 2022
  • 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre and Online

The fourth in a series of summer research seminars on The Arts of Postwar Britain 1945–1965 with Inga Fraser and Rosie Ram, chaired by Lucy Reynolds

Inga Fraser – Oswell Blakeston: The “Magic Aftermath”

Oswell Blakeston (1907–1985) was known as an experimental filmmaker and critic before the Second World War. Afterwards, he adapted to the newly fertile art scene(s) emerging in London, moving beyond film to experimental forms of painting and writing. He began exhibiting as a visual artist in 1958 with monographic shows at the Grabowski Gallery (1962), the New Vision Centre (1962 and 1964) and the Drian Galleries (1965). He worked with “crystalgraphs” (paint mixed with salt crystals grown on canvas), glass and high-speed photography, and exhibited in group shows alongside artists and friends including Halima Nalecz, Aubrey Williams, S. Xoomsai and Franciska Themerson. Unsure of how to place his newfound visual practice, Blakeston went on to embrace such non-specialist exhibition venues as the Mount Street Post Office, a Hampstead butchers and Great Yarmouth Central Library. In Blakeston’s archive we find evidence of an art world efflorescing. Through his work as both artist and critic intersecting with successive postwar countercultures, we are able to trace a path of fleeting affiliations, marginal spaces and fugitive works. Blakeston’s tendency towards inconsistency and immateriality is inherently at odds with traditional art historical methodology. This paper presents findings from research in Blakeston’s archive as a hypertext – linking his work to that of his contemporaries, as well as to more recent research projects, revealing more of the diversity, connectivity and idiosyncrasy of postwar British art.

Rosie Ram – The Negative Logic of Parallel of Life and Art

Parallel of Life and Art (Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1953) is lauded as a landmark exhibition of the postwar period in Britain. However, the photographic logic that underpinned the display remains critically under-analysed. This paper argues that Parallel of Life and Art should be reconceived as constituting a collaborative, transdisciplinary and technologised form of research, one in which the photographic image was mobilised methodologically to offer disruptive and destabilising ways of studying the postwar world. Taking the most ephemeral traces of the exhibition as the focus, Dr Ram examines the photographic negatives that were generated by the organisers Nigel Henderson, Ronald Jenkins, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Alison and Peter Smithson to manage their inchoate research process. By analysing these negatives – conceived as the darkly translucent shadow of Parallel of Life and Art – this paper demonstrates the formative role of photographic negativity in the exhibition’s material, technological and conceptual base. Positioning Parallel of Life and Art across the inversional interface of the negative, she argues that the exhibition performs a photographic negation of artistic tradition, articulating a shift from the modernist forms of painting and sculpture towards more searching and uncertain research strategies within the nascent field of contemporary art.

About the speakers

  • Headshot of Inga Fraser

    Inga Fraser is a curator and art historian. She is currently a doctoral researcher working on a collaborative project with Tate and the Royal College of Art that explores artists’ engagement with film. Her thesis focuses on artists working in London in the first half of the twentieth century, intermedial practices and the developing discourse of “artists’ moving image”. She also teaches at The Courtauld Institute of Art and before beginning her doctoral research Inga was Assistant Curator of Modern British Art at Tate. Previously she held curatorial positions at the National Portrait Gallery and Central Saint Martins in London, and has written for journals and magazines including Document, Tate Etc., British Art Studies, Sculpture Journal and Costume as well as in books and catalogues published by Koenig, Ashgate and Tate.

  • Headshot of Rosie Ram

    Rosie Ram is Visiting Lecturer in MA Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art and Course Leader of the Curating Contemporary Art and Design short course programmes. In 2021, she completed her AHRC-funded PhD at the RCA, Image as Method: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Research. Rosie is a specialist in modern and contemporary visual culture and curating, whose research has been published across print, film and online formats. She has curated displays, taught and programmed events at Tate, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Central Saint Martins and Chelsea College of Arts. Most recently, she co-curated Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage at Tate Britain (2019–20) and co-convened the international conference and workshop programme Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now (2021). Prior to her doctorate, Rosie worked at Chisenhale Gallery in East London. 

  • Head and Shoulders photograph of a woman in three quarter pose. She has a short brown bob and a blue shirt.

    Lucy Reynolds has lectured and published extensively. Her research focuses on questions of the moving image, feminism, political space, and collective practice. She edited the anthology Women Artists, Feminism and the Moving Image, co-edited Artists’ Moving Image in Britain since 1989 and co-edits the Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ). She co-ordinates the PhD programme for the Centre for Research in Education, Art and Media (CREAM) at the University of Westminster and runs the MRES in Creative Practice. From 2022, she is a mid-career Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art. As an artist, her ongoing sound work, A Feminist Chorus, has been heard at the Glasgow International Festival, the Wysing Arts Centre, The Grand Action Cinema in Paris and Grand Union Galleries in Birmingham.