As part of the Great British Art Debate, each of the partner galleries has set up ‘tasters’ which aimed to ask their audience what they thought about art, and then use their opinions to help influence the way the big exhibitions are put together. Up at the Laing Art Gallery they decided to mix John Martin with heavy metal. Here’s Zoe Allen to explain how they got on . . .
We used our exhibition ‘taster’ programme to highlight areas of contemporary culture which John Martin has influenced and get to know our visitors by asking them to tell us what they thought about the whole thing.
We asked questions about places that were important, and what made them so, about what kind of films John Martin’s paintings might have inspired. In a display entitled Rebel Nation, we showcased works by Luke Caulfield, and invited visitors to sing John Martin-inspired karaoke, with a backdrop of Martin’s painting The Great Day of his Wrath 1852.
John Martin’s paintings have motivated a host of heavy metal bands, including Angelwitch, whose self-titled album even featured John Martin’s painting The Fallen Angels Entering Pandemonium, 1841 as its album cover. The paintings we showed by Luke Caulfield showed images of teenagers dressed in death metal t-shirts. Alongside the paintings was a selection of vinyl records which had similar themes to those unleashed in John Martin’s paintings.
We asked visitors:
‘The people in Luke Caulfield’s paintings are wearing T shirts that represent something that is important to them. What would be on your T-shirt? ‘
Our visitors responded with drawings, writings doodles, scribbles, quotes, places and lyrics. Amongst other things, our visitors told us that they like living where they do, and are proud of where they come from. They are interested in all sorts of music, and like to draw and make things. They are a romantic lot and to many their favourite memories and places are where they got engaged or had a first date. Several of them like cheese.
The information gathered is an indispensable source for us here at the Laing Art Gallery. We will be using it to make our exhibitions and displays even more enjoyable and interactive for visitors to the Laing Art Gallery!