Thursday, 31 May 2007

From Simon Warner

Dear Richard,

I thought it would be interesting for your bloggers to read something about the Cornelia Parker talk at the National Portrait Gallery:

There was a turnout of over 100 art-lovers for Cornelia Parker's talk at the National Portrait Gallery on 26 April. Her presentation was specifically about Brontëan Abstracts, the exhibition produced for the Parsonage last autumn. The curator of talks introduced Andrew McCarthy who gave a spirited introduction to the Parsonage and the Contemporary Arts Programme that Cornelia's project kicked off.

Following an illustrated presentation by the artist herself, she was joined by writer Deborah Levy for a conversation about the inspiration behind the work and the methods she used to pursue different aspects of Brontë mythology.

Cornelia was especially eloquent about her unfulfilled ambition to implant strands of the Brontë Sisters' hair into Nelson's (the Duke of Brontë's) hair on Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. She felt this was an art intervention whose time has perhaps not yet come. (See this blog's archive to find Cornelia's full account of this)

I was struck overall by how much work she put in to Brontëan Abstracts - not just the electron microscope investigations, but the close-up photographs of the Jane Eyre manuscript, the Plymouth interview with Phyllis Cheney which I filmed for her, and the psychics' visit to the Parsonage. There were other enquiries too that were not followed up for the exhibition, such as the forensic tests offered by West Yorkshire Police on items of Brontë linen.

It was obvious from the talk that Cornelia Parker sets great store by her Brontë work, and will ensure that it is shown more widely. This can do nothing but good for the reputation and attraction of the Parsonage Museum. The project also shows the wealth of possibilities open to other artists as the Contemporary Arts Programme moves forward.

Simon Warner

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