Selected Works & Context

Image: Oliver Laric, Lincoln 3D Scans (2013). Commissioned by The Collection and Usher Gallery, Lincoln through the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2012

Find out further information on selected works.

The Norwich School

Norwich born landscape artists, John Sell Cotman (1782-1842) and his son Joseph John Cotman (1814–1878) were members of the artist-led educational group ‘The Norwich Society of Artists’ (1803- 1833). In 1798 Cotman senior came to London and became associated with the circle of artists centred around Dr Thomas Monro, a patron also to DeWint and Turner. On return to his hometown, Cotman became Vice-president of the Norwich Society in 1810 and President in 1811. The Society preceded the establishment of the official Norwich School of Art, which was not formed until the mid-nineteenth century. Cotman kept a library of watercolours which he lent out to students. His artwork also provided an influential educational tool.

Jerimiah James Colman MP (1830-1898), founder of Colman’s – the Norwich-based mustard manufacturers –bequeathed 20 Norwich School paintings in 1898 to Norwich Museum. His son Russell James Colman (1861-1946) bequeathed more than 3,000 works in 1946 and supported a gallery within Norwich Castle Museum to house the collection, which opened in 1951. Mousehold Heath, Norwich (c.1810) displayed here is a facsimile, according to the terms of the bequest  “[the Museum] shall be at liberty to lend any of the pictures and drawings comprised in the Colman Collection (other than and except any pictures or watercolour drawings by John Sell Cotman or John Crome) for exhibition in any other institution or gallery…”  This was done in the spirit of civic pride and the deed specifies that Russell James Colman wished to present his collection “to the Citizens of Norwich as a valuable addition to their existing collection and as a token of his deep affection for the City of his birth”.

Hull Time Based Arts (HTBA)

Hull Time Based Arts (1984-2002) was an artist-led commissioning organisation which focused on artistic practices that incorporated performance and technology. Collective actions such as Throwing Stones in the Town Square, which took place outside Ferens Gallery, Hull (Man Act, Simon Thorne and Philip McKenzie, 1989), referred to earlier anti-establishment, co-produced art movements such as the Situationists and Fluxus and raised issues around access to territory on and offline. These issues were explored through the yearly ROOT (Running Out of Time) festival, which commissioned time-based media works that used performance, visual and sound-based new media, digital technologies and participatory practices; all of which were radical experimentations with materials and delivered statements concerning global politics.

Operating during the Thatcher era, HTBA adopted a punkish attitude; resolutely outside the art market, both in terms of the time-based and ephemeral nature of the work it supported, and its geographically isolated location in Kingston-upon-Hull. Many of the key figures, including Rob Gawthrop and Gillian Dyson were also teachers on a ‘Time Based Media’ BA course at Humberside College, a significant precursor to the later ubiquity of New Media Fine Art courses.

Oliver Laric

In 2012, the Collection and Usher Gallery in Lincoln, working with artist Oliver Laric, were awarded the Contemporary Art Society’s Annual Award for Museums. Laric initiated an ambitious project to 3D scan objects from the collection and make them available as free online file downloads. He will use the files to produce a new sculptural work for the museum collection, acting as both a facilitator and a user of the project. The project both extends and questions the initial inception of the museum.

The Usher Collection from which Laric is scanning objects is the collection of Lincoln-born businessman and jeweller James Ward Usher (1845-1921) who bequeathed to the city of Lincoln his collection and the money to build a gallery to house it. A keen collector of decorative arts, Usher’s fortune was generated through his ownership over the rights of ‘the Lincoln Imp’, a figure from Lincoln Cathedral. Usher utilised this image on a variety of products that his company sold. Whilst the existence and quality of the collection was built upon wealth accumulated through owning rights to intellectual property, Laric brings Usher’s philanthropic intention up to date by allowing audiences to download and use the collection from any location without regard for intellectual property protection. If you happen to find any of these models useful, the artist would be curious to know about it, please contact:

The project has been made possible due to the kind support of The Contemporary Art Society, The Sfumato Foundation, Arts Council England, Lincolnshire County Council, Seventeen London, The Collection and Usher Gallery.

Kett’s Castle

Kett’s Castle is the romantic local name for the ruins of St. Michael’s Chapel, named following the rebellion of 1549 led by Robert Kett against private landowners who began to erect fences to delineate property on common land. Robert Kett was a landowner who took the side of the peasants and led the rebellion against the enclosure of land which left the peasants with nowhere to freely graze their livestock or collect firewood as they had for centuries. The rebellion’s headquarters at the ruined chapel became known as Kett’s Castle.

Supressed by government forces, the rebels were defeated and Kett imprisoned at the Tower of London and later hung from the gallows at Norwich Castle. Norwich Castle Museum bears a plaque dedicated to Robert Kett, commemorating him as a hero who fought for access to common usage of land by the citizens of Norwich. The value we attribute to the English landscape and the elevation of Kett from enemy of the state to hero of the people can be attributed to John Sell Cotman and his contemporaries who found a subject in the common heaths and scrublands.

Facsimile of pencil and watercolour drawing of ‘Mousehold Heath, Norwich c.1810’  by John Sell Cotman
Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service (Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery)

The enclosure of Mousehold Heath began in the 1790s. John Sell Cotman (b. 1782) would have only just remembered when the open Heath was owned and worked in common. In the early nineteenth century, Mousehold was still an area of common land to the north-east of Norwich and considered the only place in the vicinity of the city where it was possible to retire ‘from the busy hum of men’. It is joyfully depicted as an open vista of rolling hills and winding paths created by centuries of free movement through the landscape.

There are several views of Mousehold Heath by Cotman, a similar version held in the British Museum, is significantly different in its politics as it includes a small area of enclosure in the lower right corner. On display here is a facsimile of the version held at Norwich Castle in which the artist chose not to include the hedges that indicate private ownership and agriculture.

Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809- 1892)

In Memoriam A.H.H, Manuscript Notebook known as ‘The Butcher’s Book’, 1842-1848
The Tennyson Research Centre, Lincolnshire County Council

Memoriam A.H.H. is a love poem by Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet’s beloved Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam. It includes passages on the ‘Wold’ open Heath in Lincolnshire featured in Peter DeWint’s paintings as land which was being turned over to private ownership via parliamentary acts.

I wake, I rise: from end to end
Of all the landskip underneath,
I find no place that does not breathe
some gracious memory of my friend.

No gray old grange, or lonely fold,
Or low morass and whispering reed,
Or simple stile from mead to mead,
Or sheepwalk up the windy wold

Northern Farmer Old Style, 1864
Read by Edward Campion and recorded in 1969. New recording  produced by The Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology 2009.
The Tennyson Research Centre, Lincolnshire County Council

This poem was written by Tennyson in the colloquial Lincolnshire dialect, which would have been spoken by the local peasantry.

There is a reference made to the commonly owned and worked heathland as,’Nowt at all but bracken and fuzz’. This suggestion, that the land was not arable, was often given as a defence by those supporting the enclosure and private development of land.

Thomas Harrison Hair (1810-1875)

Pemberton Main Colliery, 1839
Air Shaft,  Wallsend, 1839
Broomside Colliery, 1835
Gosforth Colliery, c. 1835 – 39
Watercolour on paper

Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University (Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums)

42 watercolour and ink drawings, executed between 1828 and 1842, of the landscape in the north east affected by the introduction of coal mining activity were reproduced as etchings for the publication Views of Collieries… of Northumberland and Durham (1844).

Between1931-1933, the watercolours belonged to William Cochran-Carr, President of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. He donated them to the Institute and they were displayed in the Department of Mining, Newcastle University for nearly 60 years until its closure in the 1990s. The works were then transferred to the Hatton Gallery.

Common Land and Enclosures

‘Common’ is collectively owned and worked land. Historically it provided a minimum welfare for the poorest, enabling them to sustain pasturage (grazing livestock), piscary (fishing), tubary (burning turf), estovers (burning or building with wood) and the right to glean after harvest. In Saxon times, all village land was assumed to be commonly owned and worked with the exception of few enclosed areas. After 1066, following the Norman Conquest, land was associated with a local manor and therefore owned by its lord with common rights bestowed to commoners.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, land previously granted as ‘common’ by landlords was gradually enclosed and put to more economically efficient use. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the industrial revolution in full swing, enclosure became government policy.

William Blake (1757-1827)

Illustrations to the Book of Job invented and engraved by William Blake
London: Blake, 1825
On fly-leaf ‘Alfred Tennyson, Farringford, Freshwater, I.W.’ [Isle of Wight]

The Tennyson Research Centre, Lincolnshire County Council

Book of Job is a biblical story in which God allows Satan to remove the material wealth of a man named Job in order to test his faith, prompting believers to question ‘Why do the righteous suffer?’.

This copy of Blake’s illustration belonged to Alfred Lord Tennyson.  ‘Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee’ (Plate 15) depicts God explaining his creation of the material world, represented by two creatures, the hippopotamus, Behemoth (the animal kingdom and land) and the snake, Leviathan (sea-life).  Job is made to experience the value of material wealth, property and ownership. The clouds, in Blake’s illustration, floating outside the ‘material world’ are related to the divine and suggest a freedom beyond property.

Fran Cottell

A Meeting Outside Time
Photographs and colour slides relating to performance in Northumberland National Park

Commissioned by New Work Newcastle ’88 in association with Edge ‘88
Supported by Projects UK, Northumberland National Park, Laing Art Gallery, Tyne and Wear Museum Services, Newcastle City Council, Northern Arts, The Arts Council and Riverside.
b/w photographs: Karen Melvin

Women who collaborated on this project:
Astelle Ablett, Gillian Allnutt, Amanda Ardila, Jenny Attala, Leonie Baldwin, Julie Ballands, Helen Cadwallader, Rachel Chapman, Karen Donovan, Coletta Doutrepont, Debbie Downer, Linda France, Liz Gardner, Janine Garth, Linda Gillespy, Helen Goodwin, Diane Green, Chris Greener, Joanna Greenhill, Tracey Hopper, Nicki Hornby, Pauline Hughes, Catherine Johnston, Susan Jones , Sandra Lathbury, Toni  Lazarus, Marcia Ley, Anji Mackie, Theresa McCue, Jean McNeil, Lynda Mello, Amy Melvin, Karen Melvin, Emma Mills, Janet Moody, Kaye Oliver, Cal Philpott, Vicky Ramshaw, Caroline Taylor, Su Tideswell, Liz Todd, Kate Tregaskis, Eileen Tunney, Heather Wilson, Vicki Winter, Louise Wilson and Alexa Wright

“With all this talk of walls falling, boundaries breaking and free trading, it is sickening to see the rise of fascism across Europe. Until internal perceptive boundaries change along with the physical ones, xenophobia will persist. A limited view of the world will only be challenged through education, stimulation and communication. Bringing together artists from across Europe to make work in Hull as part of ROOT 92 plays a small part in this process.”
Mike Stubbs, Director of Hull Time Based Arts, ‘ROOT 92’ VHS, 1992.