Home is where the art is in new show at Sheffield Graves gallery

Home, sweet home – a new exhibition at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield looks at how artists have seen our domestic lives in the past.

By julia.armstrong1
Tuesday, 09 April, 2019, 15:04
Dr Abi Shapiro and Amy Farry with The Pink Shirt by Jack Smith. Picture: Chris Etchells

The show was put together by research curator Dr Abi Shapiro and looks at works dating from 1950 to 1980 by British artists including John Bratby, Patrick Caulfield, Helen Chadwick, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Anne Redpath and Su Richardson.

Abi said: “It’s looking at the home in British art and it's a collection-based display – mostly drawn from the Sheffield collections with a couple of loans.

Patrick Caulfield, Coloured Still Life, 1967 © The Estate of Patrick Caulfield. All rights reserved, DACS 2019

“We wanted to celebrate the modern British collection in Sheffield, which is a quarter of the visual arts collection.

“I’m here for a year to research the post-war period of the collection and this exhibition forms part of that research.

“In order to move through this huge area, I chose the theme of home and domesticity.”

In the first of two rooms, called Everyday Objects, the paintings on show are still lives, showing changing ordinary objects over the years, said Abi.

David Hepher, Upperthorpe, 1959 © David Hepher, Courtesy Flowers Gallery, London and New York

She added: “I looked at art and also feminist art, dealing with different domestic objects and their significance and everyday politics.

“It is something Sheffield is particularly well known for. We wanted to showcase some of those works.”

There’s even a crocheted piece – Burnt Breakfast – by feminist artist Su Richardson, showing a full English complete with burnt bits to represent a woman fed up at doing the cooking!

Sheffield was home to a quartet of painters – Jack Smith, John Bratby, Edward Middleditch and Derrick Greaves – known as the kitchen sink artists, because they painted everyday scenes of domestic life in the 1950s, using objects around them.

Anne Redpath, Still Life on a Table © Courtesy of the Artists Family, Bridgeman Images

One of Jack Smith's paintings dominates the back wall of room two, which is called Inside and Outside.

Abi said: “We are specifically looking at ideas of identity and intimacy in the home, particularly masculine identity.”

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One painting is View of Upperthorpe by David Hepher, dating to 1959.

Abi said his father was a vicar in the suburb and David Hepher wanted to capture changes going on as buildings were about to be cleared to make way for high-rise flats.

Dr Abi Shapiro with works by William Scott. Picture: Chris Etchells

Another work depicts the now-demolished Kelvin Flats.

Abi worked with a number of community groups on the exhibition, to open it up to new audiences.

They included older people from Park Hill and Manor Top who remembered the time period in question.

She said: “They came in and selected a number of works for the show. They offered a lot of comments that appear on the labels for the paintings.”

Some of the residents were interviewed and videos of them can be seen in the exhibition.

Abi said: “There’s all sorts of incredible stories about the changes in Sheffield over the years. For me the very special stories were about changes in technology.

Su Richardson, Burnt Breakfast, 1974-76 © the artist

“These included the first TVs, indoor toilets and central heating. There were some very striking changes to the home over the years.”

The Conversation Club that supports asylum seekers and refugees also commented on the works, giving a different perspective on what home can mean when you have to begin again in a new place.

Viewers can give their own responses in a living room area where they can also sit down and read books that look in more depth at the themes and artists.

This Life Is so Everyday: The Home in British Art 1950–1980 is at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield Central Library until July 6. Entry is free.