Final reflections

“The paintings are more human now, they are people.” (Jackie)

week 3 (16) copyWow! I don’t think the Ashmolean ever expected 4 years of such an amazingly diverse, inspirational, inclusive celebration of people, art and portraiture when we started the campaign to ‘Save Manet for the Nation’ in 2012.

week 1 (5)Beyond the Balcony has been such a fitting way to end the activities around Manet’s Portrait of Fanny Claus: to explore and focus on the person behind the artwork, the portrait, the sitter and the viewer. Guiding the people in the MIND and Young Dementia UK groups, brook & black gave everyone the opportunity to see how artists work, to be part of the processes involved when responding to existing work and then creatively bringing responses together to culminate in digital videos and installations.

Live Fri edited imageThe artists also helped the museum refocus the work around Manet, giving community engagement a higher profile in the galleries, in large scale public events (the May LIVE Friday) and to rethink how we use the gallery spaces for people to be creative and respond to both the work and spaces of the museum. Through their workshops of photography, poetry, collage and video (using a green screen), they gave a solid platform for people to actively participate in art and in the Ashmolean: giving people the opportunity to experience the museum more confidently.

Jackie said “I feel like it’s like my lounge now, I want to go to sleep in the corner and watch”.

Calvin said “It [the Ashmolean] feels more accessible, I felt before restricted to go into certain areas but now I feel like I can come in and enjoy it more.”

YDUK week 1 (2)Most importantly, at the centre of all the activity was everyone’s individual stories and experiences. Beyond the Balcony was not only perfect approach of accessing art, portraiture, the museum: it encouraged us to look beyond the interpretation often presented to us as an audience at the stories behind the paintings and reflect and present our own stories. What is our connection with other artworks on display?

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Verse with a View – Friday 13th May 2016

Post written by OYAP Young Leaders team

IMG_1067In association with the Beyond the Balcony project, we (Tess Anderson, Emma Mayoux-Andrews and Lauren Baldwin) designed and delivered an interactive workshop for the Ashmolean’s Framed! Live Friday event on 13th May 2016.

We considered themes that brook & black had developed through their workshops with YDUK and MIND, and were drawn to the concept of exploring personal identity through the written word. Where brook & black used Dada inspired cut and paste poetry within a longer workshop to develop thoughtful and considered responses, we had the challenge of engaging an audience that was constantly changing and evolving. We decided we wanted to capture snapshots of the identity of each participant who visited our workshop, and collect these into a group identity, touching on the relationship between the individual and the collective.

Inspired by the Warhol exhibition, we devised a workshop where participants could create a pop art portrait of Manet by writing their responses to the question ‘what makes you unique?’ onto coloured card and sticking it in the corresponding colour section on the portrait wall. This open question ensured participants had the freedom to share as much or as little about their identity as they liked, and had the scope to interpret the question as they wished. By using the unique responses we were able to build a portrait of Manet using the identity of many.

Once we had solidified our concept, we then had the task of creating the portrait installation! We ordered supplies and began sawing, drilling and painting a 1.8 metre high by 3 metre long MDF wall which could be easily assembled, transported and deconstructed at the end of the evening. We designed a pop art style portrait of Edouard Manet and painted him in pride of place on the wall. After refining our marketing copy we created simple instructions for our workshop and painted these next to the portrait of Manet.

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The portrait wall was going to be installed in the Sickert Gallery (Gallery 63) for the duration of Live Friday, and this location meant we had to think creatively about drawing in the public from the busier lower galleries. We wanted to ensure enough participants engaged in our workshop and so we came up with the solution to give out tokens in the Ashmolean foyer directing the public up to gallery 63.

Our final preparations focused on the branding of our workshop. This included creating almost 500 clay tokens, by hand, featuring our gallery 63 logo. We also screen printed t-shirts for ourselves and our volunteers to wear, to make us easily identifiable when the public wandered into the gallery holding a token.









On the day of Live Friday itself it was full steam ahead from the second we arrived in Oxford. The portrait wall was in storage at Magdalen Road in East Oxford, and needed to be transported to the Ashmolean in the city centre. Nicola Bird drove the University Museums van full of our equipment across the city and as soon as the Ashmolean closed at 5pm we rushed to install our wall in Gallery 63, ready for reopening at 7pm for Live Friday. The tokens worked amazingly well throughout the evening and our volunteers (Sarah Mossop, Helen Ward and Nicola Bird) added a touch of mystery by handing out tokens to the public with just a hint of what they were for. This ensured that lots of curious members of the public stopped by gallery 63 to see what was going on, and got stuck in with the workshop themselves. We had a fantastic range of responses to the question ‘what makes you unique?’, spanning from the funny and bizarre, to the poignant and touchingly personal.


We would like to thank everyone involved in making our Live Friday event a success, with special thanks to Sarah Mossop for guiding us through the whole process and supporting on the night, with thanks also to Nicola Bird, Helen Ward and Sarah Doherty for their coordination and support from the Ashmolean side. We are also grateful to brook & black for opening up an opportunity to work with them through OYAP Trust, and to all the participants at Live Friday who helped to bring our portrait of Manet to life.

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Gallery 65: Beyond the Balcony

fanny and sophie (1)This week we installed the final artwork in Gallery 65 of the Ashomolean –   it was a week of excitement – as the installation began to take shape and we saw that it would work as we had thought, tension – as various technical snagging problems threatened to hold up the realisation, and eventually exhilaration as it all came together.

Here are some pictures of the team helping us, special thanks go to

Tiffany and AV

Tiffany with City AV Oxford – great job!

City AV Oxford for going way beyond the call of duty on Friday before the bank holiday weekend, – you saved the day! –

Cath          matthem and installation

and to Cath and Matthew from the curatorial team for bringing out the beautiful Manet sketches to hang next to the video portrait.

manet sketches

The lovely Manet sketches waiting to be hung

umbrella build

Delicate calibration of the moving umbrella


Mr Payne at the Ashmolean


Thanks so much also to Tim Payne our long-time collaborator and engineer extraordinary for the design and production of the umbrella sculpture mechanics –


and to brilliant Matt who stepped in to complete the install when Tim was laid up.


Andrew and the video portrait

tiffany and matt

Tiffany and Matt with the umbrella sculpture








Andrew Brown and Harry Phythian-Adams managed the installation despite having a delivery of extraordinarily large and precious display cases, for the same floor on the same day – no easy task!

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Ashomolean director Xa Sturgis and Tiffany Black discuss the installation. Thanks to Graeme Campbell, Design for lovely panels he created

tiffany and sarah

Sarah and Tiffany


Sarah Mossop and Helen Ward, who have nurtured and encouraged the project from the start were invaluable this week, oiling the wheels and giving feedback and support.


Last September the gallery looked like this –

our proposal was to transform it to this:

mock up

To find out what it actually looks like now – come and visit!

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brook & black review

Back in September 2015 we started reading and thinking about Fanny Claus, Manet, Baudelaire and the motif of the balcony. We wondered about making links with Manet’s painting in the Quai d’Orsay ……about visiting Boulogne where Manet manet first may have had the idea of the balcony painting, about links with Goya, about Baudelaire’s flaneur in Paris and about light and dark, inside and outside, about the protection and danger of the balcony, about painting and contemporary digital art.

garden sketch

sketching with ballustrades and mirrors










One thread of early research lead us to thinking about the strange perspectives in Manet’s work e.g. Dejeuner sur l’Herbe,

and the debate about Manet’s the Bar the Folies-Bergère

– is the view possible or not? – having always understood that the perspective was thought to be impossible and part of the mystery, meaning and of the importance of the painting we were interested to come across this link which demonstrates an angle of view that might make the picture possible…

In any event, the final impression of the compositions in some of Manet’s work, including the Portrait of Mlle Claus, is widely recognised as uneasy, almost a collection of collaged perspectives, which presents a new ‘Modern’ sensiblity, detached and isolating… it seemed important to root our work in the contemporary as much as the past

Ideas about lighting, viewer and composition continued to develop as we read Foucault’s “Manet and the Object of Painting” ………. his idea that the bright flatness of the front-on lighting on Manet’s models implicates the viewer – who was previously concealed in the darkness of the theatrical lighting of chiaroscuro – in a direct and confrontational line of view, that in part explains the outraged public response to works such as Olympia, and Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe….. this prompted a line of thought in our research that might have continued into the territory of exploring ‘the Gaze’ – on the balcony, who/what are we looking at, at what and how is Fanny looking, how is the painter looking at her?….and then the research took another turn.

young soso

Photograph of Sophie Prins Gapinski

On a web search we discovered that Fanny Claus played in the first ever all-woman string quartet, which had great success and in a website, an independent research institute specializing in musicological women’s studies we found that she had great great grand-daughter still alive, a painter, who had recently had an exhibition in France in a gallery in Cordes sur Ciel, in the Tarn district, close to brook & black’s studio, in the same gallery where Tiffany had organised a show of her mother, Jacqueline Black’s paintings a few years ago.

This descendant of Fanny Claus, Sophie Prins Gapinski, was the same age as us, and was living in Paris. We left messages through emails on several websites that may have been able to contact her, and then struck success through telephoning the mayor of Cordes and asking if Sophie’s email could be sent to us from the gallery records. We were in contact.

The violent events in Paris in November, asserted a darker backdrop to the project and brought the focus back to the present context and tension in so many of our cities’ streets…..and when we eventually organised to visit Sophie in January, on the drive to Paris we passed the gathering mass of people at Calais, police, wire, fences …when we arrived at Sophie and her husband Tadeusz’s flat in Boulogne Billiancourt, for the first part of our visit the conversation circled around the current anxieties and tensions, the movements of people and the Syrian war.


Sophie and Tadeusz Gapinski

On arriving at Sophie’s home ­we were surprised by another ‘coincidence’. We had decided by this point to ask Sophie to continue a line of work that brook & black had used in previous installations:

sketching on glass

painting on the picture glass – early sketch

the motif of the woman who paints onto the glass of a window or screen, and then having painted herself out of the picture, cleans the surface to re-emerge from the painted surface.

We had planned to ask Sophie if we could video her squeezing paint from the tube out onto the window/picture glass in front of her and then start to paint. It was a jolt of surprise to walk into her flat – before we had even talked about the work – to see this image in her living room.pic




Beyond this visual surprise we could never have predicted or hoped that Sophie and Tadeusz would be as welcoming, enthusiastic and helpful as they were, and that Sophie would have played her part so imaginatively and sensitively, creating, undirected, moments in the video that are really poetic and surprising, and for finding and reading the text that forms part of the soundwork for the installation in Gallery 65.  We cannot thank them enough and we are really delighted that they are both coming over to see the work on the week of Live Friday.


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The installation is up and running


We’re really pleased to that the two films made by YDUK and MIND with us as a result of the workshops earlier this year are now up and running in the Education Foyer at the Ashmolean.  On the evening of Live Friday (13th May) the two films will run one after the other and be projected large in the main museum space – so we’re really looking forward to them seeing them there too.

video projection

a snap of the final double video installation – come and see it in the Education Foyer!


A chosen view collaged with the balcony motif from Fanny Claus’s portrait


Greenscreen of Liz and LIz during YDUK workshop


early digital

Early digital sketch of the collaged video


Dave working on the animation of text

dave pub

A lovely job – thanks Dave

With the wonderful help of Dave Farnham over the last few weeks we have assembled the videos as the groups directed, using their artwork, poems and photographs as the content of the videos.

Accompanying the films is a collage of sounds collected from the workshops, of the voices of all the participants as they went through the creative journey, along with other sounds and textures from the project.  We were really impressed with the work that came out of the workshops, and we both enjoyed working with all the participants so much.

Tell everyone to come and visit!

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