Searching for Artworks
In July 2021, Lancaster Arts launched BRIDGES, a pilot programme that offered two Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA) graduates a bridge to professional practice. Megan Bowyer was one of the two early career arts professionals to receive a bursary which took place from July to August. In this blog Megan talks about her independent project that was developed during her time with the team at Lancaster Arts.
During my first few weeks based at the Peter Scott Gallery, I was searching for artworks using the gallery’s digital records system. However, I was finding it very difficult to find artworks with a similar feeling, colour quality, or theme without browsing through thousands of different records. I decided to come up with a quick and simple way to search through the collection, and create mini groups of artworks with a similar feel, so that curating exhibitions would be easier and more fun.
Semiotic Keywords System is the title of my time-saving tagging system.
‘Semiotics, put simply, is the study of how an idea or object communicates meaning — and what meaning it communicates. For example, “coffee” is a brewed beverage, but it also evokes comfort, alertness, creativity and countless other associations’.
It can link artworks together with broad keywords like ‘bright’, ‘sharp’, or ‘muddy’. These tag words act like signposts to different artworks, and you can move about the digital files following paths of similar artworks across all disciplines, styles, and mediums.
Focusing on a large plan chest in one of the gallery storerooms, I worked through the artworks piece by piece, adding 3-10 keywords which I thought described the works, and updated their records.
Even with the very limited sample size of the plan chest, the links between the works in the collection are getting more and more evident. Small bubbles of work have emerged. Both the variety of works in the Peter Scott Gallery, and the overarching links between sculptures, ceramics, photographs, paintings and drawings, start to become clear.
In the future, this easy system could move outside the gallery too, using social media to crowd source keywords from Lancaster Arts audiences. I’m planning to propose a curatorial module as part of my upcoming MFA Drawing course in Paris and this would be a great topic of conversation. Taking the discussion to France!
I really enjoyed this project and my time at the organisation, hiding in store rooms to work behind the scenes! This is the only opportunity I could apply for as a professional bridge between my undergraduate course and move to France. To sum up my experience in three works: informative, interesting, uncovered.
Megan Bowyer is a drawer, writer, and small space gardener extraordinaire. Hopefully she’ll be able to think of something to grow on a tiny Paris balcony as she completes her MFA in France next year.
- Image credit: Megan presenting a diary by Arthur Chambers during a PhD History talk at the Peter Scott Gallery (2021). Photo credit: Danielle Ash
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