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GLASGOW'S GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) attracted some media attention just recently for a display - or should that be non-display? - by Dutch artist Marlie Mul entitled 'This exhibition has been cancelled' featuring an empty display space.

The mission of this non-exhibition was apparently intended to be provocative.  We are supposed to question the function and the value to society of exhibitions and exhibition spaces. By extension we should then question the function and value of artists. One response to Marlie Mul et al might be to send a cheque for their fees marked 'This cheque has been cancelled'.

Sarah White introduces Anne Hitchcock at the SAC Spring Meeting

The mission of the Slade Gallery's Anne Hitchcock at our Spring Meeting on May 24th was also intended to be provocative - in a good way - and make us question the function and value of picture frames. What are they for? Do we even need them?

Anne treated us to a carefully considered presentation providing us with some thoughts about picture frames. To make her points she had brought with her a collection of works each intended to challenge aspects of our received wisdom about mounting and framing.

SAC Members at the Club's Spring Meeting.

Her first point to challenge our thinking was a slide of 'Fountain' signed by R. Mutt and dated 1917. So a century ago Marcel Duchamp was testing our conception of what constitutes a work of art. Duchamp claimed this urinal as a 'readymade' and was a work of art because he said it was. Similarly then can a painting be a work of art if it is not framed? Well, Anne’s answer was both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

????...........So framing some thoughts then.....

????  Should we just hand over our work to a framer and let her/him decide what is best?
????   Why do we need to frame?
????   Like artist Marlie Mul we should ask what is the function and value of a frame?
????   What is the context the framed work is intended to fit into?
????   Is the frame part of the painting?
The 'infamous' urinal becomes Duchamp's 'Fountain'.
As artists we should not surrender our artworks to the whims of a framer. We should engage in a dialogue with a framer and articulate our requirements. There may be some negotiation; framers can often offer advice and this is worth listening to. But ultimately we are the customers and we are sovereign here. The final decision is ours.

A frame differentiates our artwork from others, so if we are competing with other artists to sell our work at an exhibition then we need it to stand out. A frame can help achieve this. An important consideration too is that without a frame it would be difficult to hang a painting. Where would the D rings for the hanging cord be screwed in?

The mount and the frame are integral to the painting. They are elements of the artwork. Both Howard Hodgkin and Georges Braque, to name but two artists, recognised this and painted the frames around their paintings.

As to mounts, the colour of a mount should be in harmony with the painting; mounts should also be in proportion to the painting.

Glazing may not always be necessary. Some paintings benefit from not being glazed. If we decide to glaze then we should consider non-reflective glass.

Anne Hitchcock left us with two final thoughts:

1. She urged us to look at the frame as well as what it was framing. We always look at a painting, but seem to be frame-blind as we don't remember the frame afterwards. So we need to look more intently.

 2.And…no...frames purchased from charity shops and re-purposed will not do even if we claim to be virtuously recycling. Note to self then - don’t source my picture frames from charity shops in future.

Anton Bradburn
SAC webmaster.


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