Painting Difference:European Collections, Identities and Future Histories’

Gorrill, Helen and Mottram, Judith (2018) Painting Difference:European Collections, Identities and Future Histories’. In: Europe Inside-Out, 2018-09-20, Lucca.

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Digital tools provide new opportunities to look at cultural data, enabling us to observe our patterns of acquisition and sharing in different ways. Our identity as European draws upon cultural, religious and social practices that have been shaped by migration and diasporic activity from both within and beyond the borders of Europe. Traditional disciplinary models have centuries-old practices and ways of working but new technologies, as with the advent of photography, enable us to look at the manifestations of culture using a different, digital, lens. Taking national museum collections as a dataset that manifests the social and symbolic values of the cultural gatekeepers of member states, we explore paintings and their makers. Our focus is on the contemporary, taking paintings executed since 1990 and acquired by major public collections across Europe as our source. Through analysis of biographical data on artists and pictorial content, we paint a picture of difference and similarity in objects and creators. We see considerable variation in the gender of collected artists between northern and southern Europe. We see surprising variation in dominant colours used in paintings, and in the scale of works. This paper will also look closely at identity-related matters such as the incorporation of signatures, abstraction and figuration and the lexicon accompanying the paintings through titles and catalogue descriptions. Our intent is to address European culture without overtly drawing upon our own social and cultural identity as researchers and practitioners of painting. We propose new approaches and methods that demonstrate cross-cultural dialogue and the exchange of transnational symbols from foundational datasets. Our contemporary reading of the field attempts to underpin propositions of unity and difference, with tracking of diaspora through education and professional achievement showing the reality of our multicultural present and providing new ways to see and track future histories.

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Contribution to Conference (Paper)
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Europe Inside-Out
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29 Jan 2020 15:00
Last Modified:
18 Jul 2023 08:56