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New, Found Treasures - a show at the National Museum of the Royal Navy

— July 2011

Associated media

Helen Snell, Flotilla © the artist, courtesy National Museum of the Royal Navy


In an exciting new collaboration between the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and nine artists, New, Found Treasures is an exhibition presenting new works interspersed with treasures found in the museum. The artworks are to celebrate 100 years of collecting and will encourage visitors to engage with the collections in ways they may never have done before.

Professional artists and master craftsmen will exhibit dazzling new treasures inspired by the NMRN collections. The nine artists (Linda Baker, Anita Bruce, Jan Byrne, Zannah Cooper, Mel Day, Sandra Hurll, Julieanne Long, Batool Showghi and Helen Snell) will reinterpret the collections exploring themes of courage, hardship, remembrance, love, freedom and reconciliation. From fine art ceramics to laser cut models, wire sculptures, mixed media photography art books and textiles, New, Found Treasures will showcase the collections as an on-going, ever-changing source of inspiration.

To gain inspiration for their artworks these newly commissioned artists each spent a day visiting the museum galleries and researching the collections. The sources of their creativity are diverse, varying from caricatures, diaries, photographs, uniforms, maps and charts to a prisoner of war’s log book, ship models and a sea chest.

Helen Snell’s laser-cut flotilla is inspired by the hand-coloured etchings of Gilray and Cruikshank in the museum’s archives, portraying the subversive humour of navy culture.

Sandra Hurlhas created three fabric sculptures ‘Here There and Everywhere’ inspired by the extensive collection of maps charting both land and sea.

Julieanna Long’s textile artwork was inspired by a visit to the Trafalgar Sail and books of eye-witness accounts of the battle. Her other piece is a clever renovation of the ‘Admiralty issue book on Seamanship 1937’.

Batool Showghiwas moved by the real-life accounts of naval life contained in the delicately illustrated love letters in the archives, old photo albums and diaries, as well as a sea chest containing personal belongings of a young soldier who died of a fever just aged 17. Her art books aim to celebrate and commemorate their life and work.

Anita Bruce’s sculptural textiles aim to explore the boundaries between arts and science, environmental change and biodiversity, taking inspiration from the ornate braiding that decorates naval dress uniforms.

Jane Byrne’s ceramics show a strong connection with the natural world and man-made vessels which have enabled the Royal Navy to sail the oceans over many past generations.

Linda Bakerchose to focus her textile pieces on the stories of hardship inspired by the Binstead diaries showing courage combating the slave trade and a wartime log of British prisoner describing life in a 1942 prisoner of war camp, as well as the blanket kept in the sea chest that also inspired Batool.

To commemorate the Royal Navy’s achievements, Zannah Cooper’s textiles draw attention to the suppression of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the early 19th century.

Mel Day has constructed ‘The Boat’ out of a mix of new and reclaimed iron wire and has given it the feel of being part of a story.

Deborah Hodson, Learning Manager at the NMRN commented: ‘Curating this exhibition has been a fantastic experience, made even more special by the enthusiasm of the artists. Opening up our collections to such a wide range of professionals has been inspiring for us too, as they have encouraged us to look at things in a different light and given us lots of ideas for how we might use them in the future.’

The artworks will be displayed in the Sailing Navy gallery from Wednesday 6 July until  30 December 2011.

Portsmouth Historical Dockyard 
HM Naval Base, 
Portsmouth, PO1 3NH. Telephone: 023 9272 7562.

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