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Hollow Chambers - project report

Green linear sculpture in a cave
Green linear sculpture in a cave
To You, To Me (Squeezeboxes) by Denise Poote. Student work in situ, Reed’s Cavern, Cheddar. Photo: Denise Poote
Written by
Post-Grad Community
Published date
23 April 2019

Article by Jenny Klein, student, MA Fine Art, CSM

Hollow Chambers is a multi-strand project which has to date encompassed new art works created in caves, a presentation and discussion for the DRAW Postgraduate Reading group and an exhibition showing work from across the UAL Post-Grad Community.

In November 2018 MA Drawing and MA Painting students from Wimbledon made a series of field trips to the Mendip Caves near Cheddar, UK to experience and explore the notion of caves and the underground. They worked alongside experienced cavers and supported each other to create new work in situ. This initial stage developed into a project bringing these direct encounters back to a wider group of participants across the UAL postgraduate community in the form of talks, discussions and an exhibition. As part of the development, the team successfully applied to the Post- Grad Community EXTRA Project Fund to fund the exhibition and develop a network of partnerships both within UAL student and staff body and outward to alumni and specialist organisations.

Research and development

In February 2019 the Postgraduate  Reading Group DRAW hosted Hollow Chamber's "Hollows, Marks and Lines of Thought: Psychology and Visual Imagery in Cave Drawings", a presentation and discussion by Prof Paul Pettitt from Durham University. Prof Pettitt gave a fascinating talk about the art, chronology, participation, materials and psychology of Palaeolithic art. This was also an opportunity to share some of the initial thoughts and work done by the Wimbledon group in response to the caves and to introduce the upcoming exhibition.

In March 2019, along with Postgraduate students from disciplines and sites across UAL, the team produced and curated Hollow Chambers, an interdisciplinary exhibition and collaborative project in which 26 artists showed innovative works, relating to ideas and notions around caves and cave-like spaces. Caves have been and still are intriguing spaces, for science, literature and art. For the scope of this exhibition, the “cave” was envisioned as a liminal space where different disciplines may interlink and feed into each other. Artists were invited to share their ideas around concepts of space, habitats and environments and how they engage with these notions as creative practitioners.

Work from the show

The venue for the exhibition was the Crypt Gallery on Euston Road, a particularly apt underground space. The curators were able to give artists the opportunity to place work in cave-like alcoves, or to create work which illuminated dark spaces, creating evocative shadows and sounds. As a result, visitors had a strong sense of entering a space which really took them away from the everyday and right into the chambers of the project’s title. The exhibition was extremely successful with visitors frequently commenting on the impact of the whole experience – the quality of the artwork, the fascination of the theme and the venue and the coherence of these elements working together.

The exhibition included archive material and interviews with members of the Mendip Caving Group (MCG) incorporating the study and conservation of caves and highlighting the importance of cave exploration in the context of ecological and environmental science. There were also two public events where artists and members of the public were invited to a talk and discussion with Tim Francis, caving expert and MCG member, about the ecology and exploration of caves. After that, exhibiting artists introduced visitors to their work in an exhibition walk-through event. Thus, over the week of the exhibition the gallery space functioned as a platform for exchange between artists, researchers and the wider public – and was itself transformed into a “hollow chamber” filled with thoughts, experiences and, above all, the quest for answers.

Find out more about the Hollow Chambers exhibition, including individual participating artists and an introductory essay by Geraint Evans alongside images of the work and collateral events.

Read a write up of the "Hollows, Marks and Lines of Thought: Psychology and Visual Imagery in Cave Drawings", a presentation and discussion by Prof Paul Pettitt from Durham University for Hollow Chambers, hosted by the DRAW post-grad reading group.

Hollow Chambers received funding from the Post-Grad Community Project Fund, making funds available to UAL postgraduate students to organise events, projects and cultural interventions that bring together postgraduate students from different disciplines, courses and colleges. With deadlines to the regular fund every term and the EXTRA fund once a year, find out more and how to apply.