[Skip to content] [Skip to main navigation] [Skip to user navigation] [Skip to global search] [Accessibility information] [Contact us]

Previous Next
of 113 items

From Butterflies to Sawfish

Mami, talks about her experience volunteering, highlighting objects from our Handling Collection and some of our displays.

  • Mami holding turtle shell, Mami holding turtle shell, Mami
    Mami holding turtle shell, Mami

Hello, my name is Mami and I moved to the UK from Japan last year. I am a housewife, and my family members are my husband and a shiba-inu dog. I have been volunteering with the Horniman since May 2019. I am really excited to be working for the Horniman, because touching objects is very fascinating. So, I’m pleased to work and learn about the objects and English simultaneously!

I really recommend that you stop by at our touch tables when you are exploring the Horniman. I found it surprising because I had never seen a table like this in Japan. I had never seen a table like this before I came here or touched any museum objects before.

We have several objects: a sawfish, a turtle shell, a sperm whale tooth, a piece of seal skin and a fish skeleton. Today, I’d like to introduce a couple of these handling objects to you and my favourite parts of the Museum.

Sawfish (Anoxupristis caspidata)

  • Mami with sawfish, Mami holding sawfish, Mami
    Mami holding sawfish, Mami

Sawfish, Anoxupristis caspidata, are a type of ray that are closely related to sharks! They live I in shallow coastal waters like bays and estuaries in tropical and subtropical countries. Sawfish like to eat small fish and animals without a spine. They attack groups of fishes, cutting them into smaller pieces with their saws, making them easier to eat. Surprisingly, they can find food with their rostrum (nose extension) which contain sensory organs! They also use the rostrum as a club to stun the prey or to pin it to the floor before eating it. The rostrum is used as a defensive weapon against strong enemies, using it as a club to stun the prey or pin it to the floor before eating it.

All five species of sawfish are now listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is because of loss of habitat, plastic and being caught in fishing nets left behind by humans in the sea. They are also facing threats due to plastic pollution caused by us.

Turtle Shell

You are also able to touch the shell of a green turtle. Its scientific name is Chelonia mydas. The shell is hard, like a suit of armour and so tough even a shark’s teeth can’t bite through it! Its shell enables it to swim fast, but unlike many other turtles, the sea turtle can’t pull its head and legs inside its shell to hide from its enemies. Green turtles spend their entire lives at sea and only adult female turtles come ashore when it’s time to lay their eggs.

Sea turtles often drown when caught in fishing gear, nets and long lines. Further to this, they often eat plastic bags because the bags are mistaken for foods such as jellyfish. The plastics remain in their organs and they become to be unable to eat. In the Natural History Gallery, you can see a Green Turtle, currently on loan from The Natural History Museum, London. Its surrounding display highlights the effects facing sea turtles today.

  • Green Turtle, Green Turtle, Natural History Museum, London
    Green Turtle, Natural History Museum, London

As I Live and Breathe, Claire Morgan

  • As I Live and Breathe, As I live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan, Sarah Duncan
    As I live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan, Sarah Duncan

In addition to these objects, you can see the stunning works, As I Live and Breathe, created by award-winning, internationally-exhibited visual artist, Claire Morgan. A gorgeous installation of spheres, which are made from colourful waste polyethene hang from the ceiling in Gallery Square. Inside the Natural History Gallery her series of works continues, combining plastics and nature in a touching display of taxidermy. See her body of work until May 2020 and read more about the exhibition and Claire in About the Art.

Butterfly House

  • Mami pointing at owl butterfly, Mami with owl butterfly, Mami
    Mami with owl butterfly, Mami


Lastly, I would like to introduce another attractive display which ismy favourite place in the Horniman, the Butterfly House.You can meet a lot of beautiful butterflies, caterpillars and pupae! They are very friendly, and sometimes they will land on you (but please don’t touch them, sorry and the plants as well). The specially planted tropical garden is kept hot and humid for the butterflies, you may even feel like you are staying at in a tropical area. I missed Japan when volunteering here, as it is similar to Japans early summer season. Some of the butterflies come from South East and East Asia, including Japan. I would be pleased to show you them if you stopped by.

When I decided to volunteer for the Horniman, it was not only to improve my English, but I also wanted to get involved in a local community. Engaging in voluntary work is best practice for me and I extremely appreciate working here. Since I started working here, my life in England has grown to be more satisfying than before. At first I was really nervous but now I really enjoy volunteering, because I can work with friendly and lovely co-workers. Whenever I am struggling they always help me. Having lunch with them is the happiest time for me, and one of my favourite times of the day.

As a volunteer, I will really be pleased if I am able to speak English better and speak perfectly when you are visiting, and this motivation always stimulates me to study not only language but also the fascinating objects. Volunteering is becoming an essential part of my life, and assists in expanding my world in this country. I am gradually building my confidence and enhancing my skills throughout the voluntary work, thanks to my inspirational co-workers and all of the great visitors.

Thank you for reading my blog, and we hope you come and experience our touch tables and fascinating objects. If you are interested in volunteering at the Horniman find out more on the website. We look forward to your visit! Thank you, Mami

About the Art: Claire Morgan

We caught up with internationally-exhibited sculptor and artist Claire Morgan about her body of artwork, As I Live and Breathe.

Hello Claire, Can you tell us about yourself as an artist? How did you become an artist?

It might be a cliché, but as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

At some point during school I was gently told that you can’t actually work as an artist, so I started looking at fashion design, but everything kept going back to sculpture. I studied sculpture at Northumbria Uni, and as soon as I graduated I started applying for absolutely any opportunity I could find, regardless of the fact that I had no CV.

Basically, I just kept working every waking second, and eventually I got one or two temporary commissions, and it started to grow from there. About 10 years ago I was approached by Karsten Greve, and around that time drawing started to become more significant for me.

Now my practice spans a lot of different media, and the explorations in one area feed into the other areas. Day-to-day, the hands-on side of my practice usually involves drawing, painting, planning sculptures on paper, and doing taxidermy.

  • As I Live and Breathe, As I Live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan
    As I Live and Breathe, 2019, Claire Morgan

What would you like visitors to think about when they see As I Live and Breathe?

I would like them to think, and I feel like sometimes a written explanation limits the potential for that.

It is too easy to explain an artwork away to nothing, and I like my work to retain an element of ambiguity, so I don’t think it is helpful to spell out exactly what I want someone to think.

Aside from that, my work isn’t the result of a linear process – it isn’t a case of me figuring out how to make people think a certain thing, it is more that I think about certain things and the work comes out as a result of that. It’s more a process of me asking myself questions and exploring the unexpected possibilities that arise from that process of questioning.

That said, I can certainly tell you what I am thinking about, which leads to my ideas.

I am terrified by the aggressively selfish attitude we as a society have towards everything around us. We just keep consuming and consuming, and even now do little more than pay lip service to actually dealing with the mess we have made of the planet and the disastrous direction we are moving in.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that I am not complicit in this. I suppose that is part of what scares me. It is so easy to lead a double life – to be genuinely concerned about our impact, but to knowingly placate yourself by doing good yet relatively ineffectual things like refusing plastic straws, while still taking transatlantic flights and eating meat and dairy.

We hurt ourselves, mentally and physically, and we hurt what sustains us. And yet, amid all of this, there is the overwhelming beauty and frailty of life.

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

At the moment I have been working with pastels and pigments, and the bodies of dead animals. So a bit of a broad range there!

I like having the freedom to move between different materials and techniques. The thing I enjoy most is learning. That often means I put myself in the position of doing things I find very difficult, and therefore the process can be infuriating and slow.

What is the creative process of making your sculptures and artwork?

Whether the end result is a drawing or painting or sculpture or all of those things, all my ideas tend to start in the same way.

I need to move away from my everyday working environment. That can mean going outside and walking, travelling, visiting museums, cinema, gigs and reading books. Anything that can transport me either physically or mentally.

Generally, the most productive thing is to go elsewhere. Then ideas begin to appear in the form of words or shapes. I then start to sketch these things very roughly and discover connections between them.

What drew you to using taxidermy?

When I was younger I was not interested in taxidermy at all, and perhaps I even disliked it a bit because I had jumped to conclusions and never really thought about it properly.

But I’ve always used organic matter in my work. Animals are just a part of that.

Early on I was just using bits of animals, feathers and unpreserved dead things, but as my work developed I moved away from simply exploring decay, and became preoccupied with the specific roles of the lifeforms in my work.

I wanted to be able to manipulate the specific positions of animals, and to control them visually, and to halt their decay. I found that in order to do that I needed taxidermy, and as I started to learn the various processes, my understanding of it changed entirely, and the process of touching and exploring the dead beings has become a central part of my practice.

  • Sliding Out Cold, 2019, By the Skin of the Teeth, 2019, Sliding Out Cold, 2019, By the Skin of the Teeth, 2019, Claire Morgan
    Sliding Out Cold, 2019, By the Skin of the Teeth, 2019, Claire Morgan

What motivates and influences you as an artist? What other artists are you drawn to?

I don’t think I’m motivated primarily by other artists, perhaps more by their approach, their way of thinking, and their single-mindedness and determination.

Back when I was studying, like 20 years ago, I was really influenced by people like Anya Gallaccio, Rebecca Horn and Kiki Smith. Now I’m perhaps more influenced by people working in other artforms.

The writing of David Foster Wallace has directly inspired new ideas many times.

Music is a vital part of my process when I’m working on the more expressionistic parts of drawings and paintings, and when thinking of new ideas. At the moment I use Aphex Twin, Bjork, Jon Hopkins, Fuck Buttons, Nathan Fake, Nick Cave, and various other electronic/techno stuff. It’s not just reading and listening to tunes – I cannot make work without this.

Your artwork has been a residence in some beautiful places, such as the Musse Jean Lucrat. Where has been your favourite place to display so far? Or where is your dream location to display your work?

Working at Chateau d’Oiron was pretty amazing. The location, the historical details of the chateau, and the permanent collection of contemporary art there are all very inspiring. I was offered the attic of the chateau, and there was evidence of many animals living in that room currently – or at least using it – not just insects, pigeons and rodents, but barn owls, bats, and pine martens. There was an important renaissance fresco in the room directly below, and I developed my work in response to all these things.

Dream locations… Well an obvious one in the UK is the Turbine Hall. I’d be excited by any opportunity to work on a very large scale temporary commission in a culturally or historically significant location. That seems to be the kind of situation where I work best.

Your artworks seem to play with concepts of time and fantasy, what other narratives do you feel your artwork has?

Fantasy isn’t something I really think about in relation to my work. Everything I make stems from observations and concerns about what I see around me, consciousness and our perception of reality, and the physical world.

I’m interested in the passing of time, and our complete lack of control in the face of the change that brings. That affects every other aspect of our lives, and I think it does have a considerable role in the way we try to distance ourselves from other animals and from nature, because at the end of the day nature embodies change and mortality, and that is what scares us most.

What do you have coming up?

I’m currently working towards a solo exhibition at Galerie Karsten Greve Paris in 2020.

Some projects just culminated – my exhibition at the Horniman, and a new body of work for the Fondation Daniel & Florence Guerlain Drawing Prize.

Generally I am quite drained and need to start from scratch when I’ve finished a project, so now I’m really trying to focus on my studio practice, researching and experimenting a bit, and starting to develop new ideas for the solo show.

At the moment I also have work in some group exhibitions in Germany and France.

Two suspended installations and two paintings can be seen at Biennale Ephémères, Château de Monbazillac, France, until 30 September, and other works can also be seen at Bêtes de scène, Villa Datris, France until 3 Nov 2019, and ARTENREICH – Insekten in der Kunst, Museum Sinclair-Haus, Germany, until 13 October.

All my current and forthcoming projects (and my studio and cats!) can be followed @clairemorganstudio on Instagram and Facebook, and on the news page of my website.

Let’s Beat Plastic Pollution

As an organisation, we strive to be as environmentally friendly as possible. From improving energy efficiency inside to recycling and composting outside.

In light of our current #BeatPlasticPollution pop-up display in the Aquarium, we are looking at the effects plastic is having on the world’s oceans, marine life and us.

Did you know?

  • Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are bought every minute.
  • 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. 
  • Half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away.
  • Plastic rubbish on our streets is washed into storm drains, to the sea polluting our oceans.
  • A staggering 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans every year.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world-around the size of 500 jumbo jets.
  • Most plastic in the ocean breaks up into tiny particles, which are then swallowed by fish.

  • Fishtank and fact, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050!
  • By 2050, 99% of seabirds could have ingested plastic. Wild seabirds have started laying eggs that contain substances and chemicals found in plastic.
  • Animals get tangled in plastic rubbish like six-pack rings and old fishing nets.

  • Fish and fact 3 , Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Clownfish and plastic, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Whales entangled in derelict fishing gear can endure a slow death - the 'ghost nets' that have been left or lost in the ocean by fishermen, are often nearly invisible in the dim light, so hard to avoid.
  • Right now, there are microplastics inside your body, in the food you just ate and the air you’re breathing. It is still unknown to scientists what effect this may have on our bodies.
  • Coral reefs are smothered in plastic bags and litter destroying this important habitat. See what pioneering work our Aquarists with international partners are doing to help restore our coral reefs in Project Coral.

  • Fish and fact 2, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

It may feel like one person can’t do much, but by not taking that plastic bag at the supermarket or by using the cafe coffee cup on your morning order you are helping to make a big difference to our environment for our future to come.

Things we can do to help

  • Support local and national organisations – like us – who are taking action against plastic pollution.
  • Ask your local restaurant to stop using plastic straws, bamboo, paper and metal are the smarter alternatives. The Horniman Café refills water bottles, stocks canned water and uses plant-based packaging.
  • Bring your own coffee mug or travel mug to work.
  • Choose reusable products that are designed to be durable, repairable, reusable, refillable or upgradable.
  • Recycle - Separate your waste and turn metals, paper, glass, plastic and bio-waste into valuable resources.
  • Take part in a beach, park or street clean up. Get involved: there are probably clean-up efforts happening near you. If not, start one! Think creatively—the possibilities are endless!
  • Do not flush litter down the drain, much of it ends up in the ocean.
  • Helping to create cleaner streets, parks, forests, and beaches is a positive benefit for people and wildlife.
  • Spark a conversation about zero-waste living on social media.
  • Upgrade your apps! Find water-drinking stations using the Refill app or swap and find unwanted items on the Freecycle app on iOS and Android.

 

  • Reusable bottles and travel mugs in gift shop., Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Why not use reusable carry bags, totes or basket instead or the single-use plastic bag.
  • When you are out and about a reusable drinking bottle is long-lasting, refillable and so much more stylish. Our Gift Shop stocks a selection of reusable bottles, cups and tote bags.

 


Find out how we are working to become a more environmentally friendly organisation on our sustainability page.  Our #BeatPlasticPollution pop-up display is in the Aquarium until Thursday 1 August 2019.

Horniman and Homecoming

The Horniman is excited to be involved in the Homecoming festival this year. The festival takes place from 19-21 April in Lagos and London.

Homecoming is a great celebration of Lagos art and culture. This resonates with our work at the Horniman, our commitment to music, visual art and performance, and how artists offer new perspectives on our collections.

The Horniman collections are from all over the world, while our exhibitions, displays and events bring artists from different backgrounds to show their work in our galleries and Gardens.

Homecoming gives us the chance to share some of the ideas we are working on with artists and colleagues in Lagos, and this is great timing because we have a number of projects in development.

Grace Ladoja MBE, Homecoming’s founder, says:

Homecoming's purpose is to ignite a celebration of cultural heritage and creative exchange, through the lens of music, fashion, sport and art.

In the Horniman, we're delighted to have the support of one of the UK's most culturally significant institutions for this year's edition. Their collection - one of the most expansive in the world - is steeped in Nigerian heritage and the Museum is already doing some wonderful work with artists and creatives in Nigeria, particularly in the run up to the country's 60th year of independence in 2020.

I'm confident this collaboration with the Horniman will help bring new audiences to the Horniman, while creating heightened visibility for Nigerian creatives under an international lens.

We’d love to hear more about the projects that are happening in Lagos, find ways to connect to them and share our ideas with you.

So what are we doing here in London?

Jide Odukoyo, Turn it Up

Jide Odukoya is a Nigerian photographer, whose first photographic pursuits were on the streets of Nigeria, including cities such as Lagos, Ogun, Ibadan, Ekiti, Benue, Oyo, Calabar, Enugu, Abuja and Port Harcourt. Now he majors in both long and short-term documentary photography projects focused on lifestyle, socio-economic issues, health and gender equality issues in Nigeria and beyond.

  • An image from Turn It Up by Jide Odukoya, An image from Turn It Up, Jide Odukoya
    An image from Turn It Up, Jide Odukoya

We were interested in Odukoya’s approach at the Horniman, and commissioned a series of photographs and film footage documenting the busy street markets on Lagos Island for the new World Gallery back in 2016.

Odukoya will be showing his recent series, Turn it Up, on the Balcony Gallery above the World Gallery. 'Turn it Up' is Lagosian vernacular for lavish fun. Odukoya shows Nigeria abuzz through public displays of cosmopolitan affluence and indulgence, celebrating Nigerian weddings and parties as some of the world's most opulent and outrageous ceremonies.

Through his work, Odukoya also wishes to evoke the paradox of such opulence, highlighting how momentary overindulgence is an important part of Nigerian cultural identity because the wealth that supports it is so fragile. See this display from June 2019.

Music in South London

The Horniman has one of the biggest collections of musical instruments in the world. The objects within come from all over the world, from 4,000 year old Egyptian hand clappers, to one of the first dance band drum kits in London and many instruments from Nigeria.

Our home in the heart of South London, puts us in the midst of a thriving and dynamic music scene, including Jazz, Grime and Afrobeat. Over the next two years we will be working with a range of musicians from the area, giving them a chance to work with our music collections and develop new work.

  • 1930s Drum Kit, 1930s Drum Kit
    1930s Drum Kit

This project, which is the first of its kind, will result in a major exhibition and music festival in autumn 2020.

Textiles and Independence

In October 2020, Nigeria will celebrate its 60th anniversary of Independence. We will be marking this at the Horniman with a new display in the World Gallery focusing on textiles, objects, images, sounds and memories from Nigeria in 1960.

We have a significant collection of mid-century indigo-dyed Adire cloth, printed wax cloths and woven Aso’Oke and Ekwete from the south and east, as well as thicker woven cloths from Kano in the North.

  • A close up of Nigerian textiles, A close up of Nigerian textiles - 1968.434
    A close up of Nigerian textiles - 1968.434

These textiles speak to a moment of artistic production and cultural reflection that surrounded Nigeria’s independence. They also reflect how this moment was one of migration and movement, with these textiles following their owners, as both Nigerian and British citizens resettled in the UK.

We will also be working with Nigerian/British artist Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, weaving her own personal collection of objects and family memories from Nigeria in 1960, and creating new objects reflecting on the legacies of this moment in the present.

We hope to invite other people living in both Nigeria and Britain, to share their stories and photographs from and around the time of Nigerian independence, and to discuss how independence is remembered and reflected on today.


We’re interested in hearing what else is going on in London and Lagos, as part of this cultural exchange. What are your plans and how can we work together?

Horniman’s 5 Women Artists

When people have been asked to name five female artists (beyond perhaps Frida Kahlo) they struggle. Magnificent and talented as they are, there’s a wealth of female artists out there. At the Horniman, we have exhibited works by Lynette Nampijimpa Granites Nelson, Buffy Cordero-Suina and Olive Blackham to name a few.

So this year we have decided to take part in the challenge National Museum of Women in the Arts set again, and highlight female artists. We’re even giving you a sneak peek about who will be exhibiting later this year towards the end of this post.

Shauna Richardson

  • Photo of Shauna Richardson, Shauna Richardson
    , Shauna Richardson

Shauna Richardson developed a sewing technique called Crotchetdermy®. Crotchetdermy® creates a skin like visual by using the interlocking of looped stitches formed with a single thread and hooked needle. Her exhibition EVOLUTION of The Artist and The Exhibited Works compliments the taxidermy and narrative of evolution from the Natural History Gallery.

“Crochetdermy® is a combination of all sorts of things. I guess it’s a mash-up of me and my life. There are childhood pastimes such as museum visits and making things, and the adult interest in art theory, particularly in what constitutes art and perhaps more interestingly, what does not. Constant throughout there is rebellion, humour and pure devilment” – Shauna Richardson.

  • Bear Crochetdermy®, Bear Crochetdermy sculpture, Shauna Richardson
    Bear Crochetdermy sculpture, Shauna Richardson

Serena Korda

  • Serena Korda, Serena Korda , Chris Egon Searle
    Serena Korda , Chris Egon Searle

Have you seen or smelt the scented ceramics in our new arts space, The Studio?

English artist Serena Korda created them as part of her work with The Collective, a group of 10 people from the local community. Korda creates large-scale ensemble performances, soundscapes and sculptures that reflect communion and tradition and aspects of our lives.

This element feeds into The Lore of The Land exhibition, which asks us to think about our relationship to our natural environment. The exhibition features 100 objects from our anthropology collection, scented sculptures and a soundscape influenced by the chemical process that arises in trees and plants. You can visit The Lore of the Land until 2 June 2019.

  • The Lore of The Land , The Lore of The Land
    The Lore of The Land

Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman

  • Woyingi design piece , Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Studio Sikoki , Jatin Garg
    Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Studio Sikoki , Jatin Garg

Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman is an artist and industrial designer whose work explores the dynamics between the object, user, and the environment. 

Her piece in the World Gallery represents Woyingi. In Ljaw law, Woyingi is the goddess of all creation. Although many Ljaw people are now Christian, people still refer to God as Woyongi or Nana Owei.

Her beautiful pieces can be seen in the African encounter in the World Gallery.

Vuya Raratabu

In Fiji, Barkcloth, called tapa or masi, is a sacred material made from beaten mulberry bark. Traditionally, barkcloth is central to celebrations and milestones in family life. 

In the World Gallery, two examples of this can be seen. The dresses designed by Vuya Raratabu, were made to celebrate the 1st and 21st birthday of Shelley Marie Kaurasi. Traditionally these dresses only come in variants of brown and black, made with natural materials such as clay, dye and soot, which are representative of the land.

Across Polynesia, people share a similar understanding of mana as power, effectiveness and prestige of divine origin. In Fiji, mana is often associated with chiefs and healers. Mana also exists within objects. The chiefly regalia and barkcloth material you can see here reveal different ideas and experiences of mana.

  • 2017.85, Item 2017.85, dress by Vuya Raratabu
    Item 2017.85, dress by Vuya Raratabu

  •  2017.84, Item 2017.84, dress by Vuya Raratabu
    Item 2017.84, dress by Vuya Raratabu

Claire Morgan

  • Claire Morgan, Claire Morgan, David Holbrook
    Claire Morgan, David Holbrook

Claire Morgan is a UK artist, with a deep interest in humans and animals. Much of her work features taxidermy, creating tangible elements to something that would be lost.

“I am interested in humans as animals. What we have been, what we are, and what we could be or might be, as our way of living changes.” Claire Morgan

Morgan is in the process of creating special artworks that will connect to the Natural History Gallery. Watch this space for more news on Claire, as her pieces will be coming later next year.

Below are some of her preparatory sketches.

  • As I Live and Breathe (300 dpi-3547), As I Live and Breathe
2019
37 x 28.2cm (h x w)
Pencil and watercolour on paper

Photo: Claire Morgan Studio, Claire Morgan

Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz
    As I Live and Breathe 2019 37 x 28.2cm (h x w) Pencil and watercolour on paper Photo: Claire Morgan Studio, Claire Morgan Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz

  • By the Skin of the Teeth (c) Claire Morgan, By the Skin of the Teeth 
2019
67 x 101.8cm (h x w)
Pencil, watercolour, graphite, pastel on paper

Photo: Claire Morgan Studio

Claire Morgan

Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz
    By the Skin of the Teeth 2019 67 x 101.8cm (h x w) Pencil, watercolour, graphite, pastel on paper Photo: Claire Morgan Studio Claire Morgan Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz

 

And one more…

  • Katie Schwab, Katie Schwab, Sarah Packer
    Katie Schwab, Sarah Packer

We also recently announced a new partnership with Artist Katie Schwab who will co-produce a brand new artwork with a new Collective accompanied with a programme of events.

Share your stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

New year, new resolutions

It’s a brand new year and usually, that means we say goodbye to our old ways and give ourselves new goals to aspire to. Setting New Year’s resolutions is a tradition around the world, so what resolutions have you made? To give you some ideas, we have rounded up some resolutions to help you get your year off to a great start. 

Be more active

 

You may not want to sweat out in the gym and purchase that expensive gym membership. So how about a run, walk or even a stroll in our Gardens?

Apart from the health benefits from exercise, a walk in our Gardens is free and, no matter the season, there are always new blooms of life flourishing across our 16 acres of land. Have a play in the interactive sound garden, walk your dogs or discover quiet corners for contemplation.

There are also proven mental health benefits to spending time in nature, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety. So discover what our gardeners and curators have developed outdoors, to coincide with the Museum’s collections

Read a few more books

Did you know that every 1st Sunday of the month our library opens its doors to the public without any need for an appointment? The collection contains books covering anthropology to illustrated monographs and now has over 30,000 volumes.

The library is also staffed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and open to researchers on these days by appointment (please email enquiry@horniman.ac.uk).

Or, if you want to read more with your children, you can find books on our Natural History Gallery Balcony and a reading corner on our World Gallery Balcony.

Spend more time with family and friends

The Horniman offers many free activities, whether you are visiting alone, with a friend or with family.

From photographic displays on our World Gallery Balcony to our permanent collections, from exhibitions like The Lore of the Land to displays like EVOLUTION of The Artist and The Exhibited Works, there is always something to see and to think about.

In the Hands on Base, you can get closer to artefacts and objects. Whether you are interested in Mexican masks or want to learn more about endangered animals, who knows what you will discover in our free object-handling sessions.

Culture has a positive impact on wellness, so making some time for yourself in places like the Horniman, really can help you feel better.

View our Whats On calendar to see current and upcoming events and exhibitions.

Give something back to your community

  • Youth Panel , Balistic
    , Balistic

Volunteering gives an opportunity to give back to your local community, which has social benefits for groups like the over 40s.

Keep an eye on our website for ways to get involved or follow us on LinkedIn to hear about new opportunities.

If you’re aged between 14 and 19 and are interested in making a difference at the Horniman, why don’t you join the Horniman Youth Panel?


Whether it’s new year, new you or new year, same you, we hope you have a happy 2019 at the Horniman.

About the Art – Shauna Richardson

Crochetdermy® is a technique that you have created yourself. Can you tell us about the development process behind Crochetdermy® - how you came up with it and what it entails?

Crochetdermy® pieces are realistic life-size animals created using a freestyle crochet technique which I began to develop in 2007 when crochet was an endangered craft in this country. 

I came up with the name Crochetdermy® both to better describe what I do and as a way of holding people’s interest. Pre coming up with the name I found that people would drift off when I introduced myself as someone who crocheted animals.

Crochetdermy® is a combination of all sorts of things, I guess it’s a mash-up of me and my life.

There are childhood pastimes such as museum visits and making things, and the adult interest in art theory, particularly in what constitutes art and perhaps more interestingly, what does not. Constant throughout there is rebellion, humour and pure devilment.

I enjoy interventions and playing with preconceptions. The first piece of Crochetdermy® I created was a 7ft brown bear which I entered into the Burnham Market Flower and Produce show in the ‘One Crochet item’ category. The memory still makes me laugh.

What inspired you to create this exhibition?

This exhibition, EVOLUTION of The Artist and The Exhibited Works, was an opportunity to display not only a selection of Crochetdermy® pieces  which demonstrate surface skills, but also with the graphs and charts - a little of what makes me tick. If there was one piece in the Horniman collection that I could cite as a source of inspiration it would be the Mendelism mice.

The exhibition includes bears, lionesses, boars, and monkeys, what drew you to these animals?

The trophies form an intervention within the existing museum display, there is something intriguing about the juxtaposition. The baboon skin is a new piece created specifically for this exhibition. Although an empty skin, the baboon reveals something of the evolution of the works,  demonstrating technique and the creation process.

How long does a piece take to make? Do you use live examples or taxidermy to help you create your work (or both)?

I have made some very large pieces. The biggest - The Lionheart Project - was made up of three 25ft lions, this took 18 months to create. More typically something like the baboon skin would take 6-8 weeks.

I use all sorts of sources for anatomy reference but by far the most referred to and most useful is my (live) Jack Russell - The Bean. 

Are there any other mediums that intrigue you? 

Everything intrigues me. I annoy friends, family, and not least myself with wanting to have a go at everything. One lifetime will certainly not be enough.

What impact have Natural History museums and galleries like the Horniman’s had on you and your work?

The impact that Natural History Museums have had on my work I think is plain to see. This side of my character is a bluff old traditionalist, revelling in historic hushed woody rooms full of glass cases. 

 

How do you hope people will react to your pieces? What would you like them to think about?

My job is to make and display the pieces, people will react individually and on their own terms. Within the show there is a comment upon the status of creativity within mainstream education, it is a small gesture but secretly I would be thrilled if this were to be noticed. 

What is next for you?

A large bear is about to be unveiled at the opening of a new MOXY hotel in Downtown New York. Also America bound is a metallic gold wolf skin which is to be exhibited in Excellence in Fibres! at the San Jose Museum until January 2019. Private commissions tend to keep me busy.

Seeing things in Black and White

Black and white, the two most basic colours that make up our universe are also those imbued with the most symbolism to humanity.

Let there be light

Diametric opposites, the contrast between black and white has fascinated us from our earliest moments. In almost all creation myths throughout human history, gods have separated the light from the dark, the white and the black, a division that has come to represent all the dichotomies that continue to fascinate us to this day – light and darkness, day and night, order and chaos, life and death.

Even in their composition, the two could not be more different. Black is formed by either a complete absence or total absorption of all visible light, while white is composed of all visible wavelengths of light. For many centuries it was actually believed that white was the basic building block of all colours but in 1666 Isaac Newton demonstrated that in fact, the reverse is true.

  • Isaac Newton, Isaac Newton proved that white light was a composite of other wavelengths by separating it with a prism
    Isaac Newton proved that white light was a composite of other wavelengths by separating it with a prism

Not so blæc and hwīt

Etymologically, both black and white come from Old English sources, the former being derivative of blæc while white has developed from hwīt. Like most words for colours in the English language, this means that the origin of these words is Germanic as opposed to Latin as is the case with Romance languages.

While English and European languages have only one word to describe black and white, several non-European languages such as Japanese and Inuit have multiple words that can describe different hues of white. Sanskrit actually has different words for specific types of white such as the white of teeth, the white of sandalwood, and the white of cow’s milk.

Black and white all over

You would think that a black and white colouration wouldn't make much sense for animals but it's more common than you think and can help for a number of reasons.

Animals that live in snowy regions such as the Arctic or high mountains almost exclusively sport white fur as a means of blending in with their surroundings which is useful for both predator and prey. You are far less likely to come across an animal that is purely black in colouration and the most famous example, the black panther, is actually a genetic mutation of leopards and panthers. An excess of melanin leads to a darker coat which has its own advantages when it comes to stalking prey explaining the continued existence of these offshoots.

  • Black Panther, Leopards can't change their spots but panthers can hide them, Pixabay CC0
    Leopards can't change their spots but panthers can hide them, Pixabay CC0

Animals that sport a combination of black and white are some of the most well known and include pandas, zebras, and penguins. It is often asked why these animals have evolved to have such an unusual combination of colours, especially as you think it would make them stand out.

Scientists still aren't totally sure what the answer is. In some cases, it might be to help them blend with their surroundings regardless of the weather, or it may even be to help other animals identify them. Badgers, for example, may sport white stripes so that even in the darkness of a burrow, predators will recognise them and be deterred from picking a fight they may not win.

Black is the new black

Although these days it is increasingly common to wear black and white clothes casually, for generations black and white have been used to mark special occasions or to show importance.

An austere black is something we have grown accustomed to seeing sported by figures of authority since the medieval period. Judges across the world often sport black gowns, and politicians are also commonly dressed in black, suggesting to us a seriousness, solemnity, humility, and clarity is at play in their thinking. From the 14th century onwards, it even became increasingly common for monarchs in Europe to favour black garments over more ostentatious colours that had previously been favoured.

Around the world though, white is typically the colour of a bride's dress during a wedding although this only became a trend Europe and the Americas following Queen Victoria's decision to wear a white gown during her own wedding. Prior to this, brides would often simply wear their best clothing regardless of colour, now though white is ubiquitous with weddings. The reserved nature of black has also made it the colour of mourning in the Western world since the Roman period, although in Africa and Asia it is more common that white is worn when attending funerals. 

  • Queen Victoria, Although her wedding dress popularised white gowns Queen Victoria is most recognisable for the black outfits she wore during her long period of mourning for Prince Albert
    Although her wedding dress popularised white gowns Queen Victoria is most recognisable for the black outfits she wore during her long period of mourning for Prince Albert

In the 19th and 20th century, black became an increasingly fashionable choice when it came to clothing. No longer simply suggesting melancholy or seriousness, black began to be viewed as a sign of elegance and sophistication. Men's formal attire for parties or ceremonies was and remains black and white, but with the creation of her "Little Black Dress" in 1926, Coco Channel made a black dress indispensable for women's wardrobes, famously saying, "A woman needs just three things; a black dress, a black sweater, and, on her arm, a man she loves."

Throwing up the white flag

In the realm of politics, black and white are not colours that are often adopted by the mainstream. The colour black and a black flag have been the traditional symbols of anarchism since the 1880s. In the middle of the 20th century, black was also adopted by a number of fascist political parties and both the paramilitary wings of the Italian National Fascist Party and British Union of Fascists were known as the “Blackshirts”.

During the political tumult of the 19th and 20th centuries white was often associated with the cause of monarchism due to the white background of the House of Bourbon of France. The White Army which was primarily composed of monarchists and liberals opposed the socialist Red Army during the Russian Civil War.

White though is most famously associated with the cause of pacifism and peaceful resistance. White flags have been used as a symbol of surrender on the battlefield since the Roman period in Europe and the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. These connections, have seen it become the colour adopted by pacifists the world over, for example, the White Rose group, a non-violent resistance group of students who opposed the crimes of Nazi Germany.

  • anarchy-8265_1920, The austere and visible nature of black and white make them a popular choice in political movements, Pixabay CC0
    The austere and visible nature of black and white make them a popular choice in political movements, Pixabay CC0

Simply Red

What do you associate with the colour red? Danger? Love? Lust? Revolution? Red is a colour that defines often contradictory ideas and it has fascinated us from our earliest times on this planet.

Red in tooth and claw

It’s very common to find red in the natural world and the colouration can be caused by a variety of things. Most obvious perhaps is our own red blood which is caused by the oxygenation of haemoglobin in red blood cells. Iron present in haemoglobin reflects red light making our blood seem red. It is very common for iron oxides to be the source of reds in the natural world, most prominently the planet Mars is red due to a coating of iron-based dust on its surface.

Plants get their red colouring from a pigment called anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are responsible for colouring plants red, purple, and blue, depending on their pH level. They give fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, raspberries, and strawberries their colour, and also influence the shades and hues of flowers such as poppies. Anthocyanins are used in photosynthesis just as chlorophyll is but it’s thought that by not giving plants green colouration it can keep herbivores away.

  • Ladybird, The red colouring of this ladybird wards off predators by telling them they're poisonous if eaten, Pixabay CC0
    The red colouring of this ladybird wards off predators by telling them they're poisonous if eaten, Pixabay CC0

It is less common to find red in the animal world, with many of the creatures we would label as “red” actually being orange in hue. There are, however, many insects, frogs, and snakes that have red exteriors. Often this is to warn off predators by highlighting the fact many of these species are poisonous either through their bites or when eaten.

Reudh, reudh wine

The connection between humans the colour red is one that is almost fundamental to our existence. Red is one of the three colours that make up the RBG model of how humans perceive the world (find out more about that in our blog on the topic). As red is at one end of the visible spectrum of light it is rare among mammals to be able to see it, many animals such as dogs cannot tell the difference between red and green for example. Primates, however, are capable of perceiving the colour which it has been suggested is so that they can tell if certain fruit has ripened enough for consumption.

Red is also one of the earliest colours to appear in human art with our ancestors potentially making use of it as far back as 700,000 years ago. An abundance of iron oxides in nature such as ochre and hematite, which are easy to find, means that even our most primitive of ancestors would have been able to produce red dyes with ease. Having ground these minerals into dust or pastes they would have coloured their bodies or used it to create artworks such as the cave paintings in the Cave of Altamira in Spain. 

  • Cave painting, Some of the earliest art in human history was made using red ochre, Pixabay CC0
    Some of the earliest art in human history was made using red ochre, Pixabay CC0

It might not shock you, therefore, to learn that red is an ancient word, its origins, in fact, being from the Proto-Indo-European word “reudh”. As the common ancestor of Indo-European languages, this meant “reudh” would have entered languages as diverse as Sanskrit, Manx, and English.

Red and dead 

As a vibrant primary colour, red often has important connotations in various religions across the globe. In the Shinto religion of Japan entrance gates to shrines called "torii" which are considered entrances to sacred and profane places are painted vermillion. It is believed to have the power to resist and expel evil which is a belief also held by the Buddhists of China who paint their temples red for just such a purpose.

  • Cardinal, Red is this cardinal's colour, Pixabay CC0
    Red is this cardinal's colour, Pixabay CC0

In Europe, red has become closely associated with the Catholic church with cardinals and the pope often adorned in red robes. This use of red is to remind congregants of the blood of Christ and the spilled blood of the martyrs of the early church. The connection to Christ likely led to the adoption of red by European royalty too. It is still common to see royalty adorned in red cloaks as a symbol of their legitimacy and power.

Talking about a revolution

In the past 200 years, red has become a colour often linked to revolution and left-leaning politics. During the French Revolution, red flags became a rallying point as a symbol of protest and a celebration of martyrdom. In the 19th century, socialists would adopt the red flag as their own and the anthem "The Red Flag" was penned by Irishman, Jim Connell, as a call to arms. These days it may be the case that politically we associate reds with communist revolutions in Russia and China, but left-wing parties in Britain and much of Europe retain their connection to the colour. 

  • Kustodiyev_bolshevik, Boris Kustodievâs work "Bolshevik" is an example of how the red flag is associated with socialist revolution, Public Domain
    Boris Kustodievâs work "Bolshevik" is an example of how the red flag is associated with socialist revolution, Public Domain

Rembrandt to Rothko 

Artists have long been fascinated by the colour red as it draws the eye and evokes such strong emotions. Red can evoke ideas of passion and love and yet for every positive connotation, there is a negative one. Passion and love can just as easily be viewed as lust and temptation or sin. Courage or bravery goes hand in hand with danger. Red robes, dresses, and blood can be seen throughout the canon of art history, but perhaps the most defining use of red in art comes from Mark Rothko's work in the 20th century. Rothko's work so often would take the form of a simple block of red paint, perhaps of a number of shades or hues, on a large canvas. For Rothko, colour was "only an instrument" he used "in expressing human emotions tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on." All of which are emotions one can express with red.

  • Rothko, For Mark Rothko, colour was "only an instrument in expressing human emotion"., Pixabay CC0
    For Mark Rothko, colour was "only an instrument in expressing human emotion"., Pixabay CC0

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues

Given everything we've just been exploring it's no wonder musicians are still obsessed with the colour red. Check out our Spotify playlist on the colour and let us know if we've missed anything off. 

About the Art: Bryan Alexander

We spoke with Bryan Alexander, the photographer behind our new exhibition Yamal: The Stream of Life, about working in the Arctic for almost half a century.

What are you looking for when you capture a photograph?

When I am out on the tundra or in native camps, I tend to just react to whatever is going on around me. It’s hard to plan too much ahead as things can be so unpredictable in the Arctic.

If I am working on a specific story I will often make a list of the subjects that I feel I need to photograph in order to tell the story.

What are the difficulties you face working in and photographing the Arctic and how do you overcome them? 

The cold is one obvious difficulty when working in the Arctic, especially during the winter months.

With the right clothing though I find I can keep warm enough even when photographing in temperatures as low as -58° C. When it’s very cold I usually wear a combination of modern cold weather clothing and traditional native clothes.

Finding cameras that work well at these low temperatures can be challenging, particularly nowadays with most cameras being electrically operated. Batteries lose their power much quicker at extremely low sub-zero temperatures, so I always have to carry a lot of extra batteries.

Transport can also be a problem when travelling in the Arctic, where the distances are vast. Reaching isolated camps and villages can be difficult due to the limited transport. One camp I visited in Chukotka, Siberia took me a month to reach.

During my time working in the Arctic, I have travelled by a wide variety of transport from traditional Arctic transport like dog sleds, snowmobiles, reindeer sleds, and kayaks, to modern transport, like all-terrain vehicles, motor boats, helicopters, and planes.

  • Nenets Selfie, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

Having worked in the Arctic for 47 years now, what changes have you noticed to the landscape and to the people?

Of course, the whole world has changed considerably over the past 47 years and the Arctic is no exception.

The only place that I have been and noticed a significant change in the landscape is Northwest Greenland. The warming climate has resulted in the icecap and glaciers receding considerably there.

The Politiken Glacier, which I first travelled on by dog sled in 1971, was used regularly as a route to neighbouring villages and hunting grounds by the local Inuit during the winter months. Now it is impassable by dog sled because of the receding ice and the deep crevasses that have opened up.

To me, the most striking change to affect the Arctic’s native peoples has been the steady decline in their traditional culture. There have been positive changes too, better transport, schools, healthcare etc. I feel privileged to have been able to document this period of change in the life of some of the Arctic indigenous peoples.

What is your fondest memory of working in the Arctic? Or your most notable incident?

I have many fond memories of working in the Arctic, certainly too many to mention here. I think that the most memorable incident occurred on my second trip to North Greenland.

During the winter, I went walrus hunting with three Inuit hunters from the village of Siorapaluk. We travelled by dog sled and were about 30km out on the frozen sea when the ice broke up around us.

For three days we drifted out to sea on a small ice floe, before being blown back towards the Greenland coast during a severe storm. On our fourth day adrift, the local villagers realised it was likely that we were in trouble and alerted the authorities.

Once the storm had subsided a search for us began. Two helicopters searched for us for over five hours and the pilots were on the point of abandoning their search when one of them spotted us on the ice.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending for all concerned in this rather scary incident and a few days later, we all headed out onto the frozen sea to hunt walrus again.

What is your relationship with the Nenets? How did you gain access to their communities and lives?

I first visited the Yamal in 1993 on an assignment for an American magazine. Travelling in isolated areas of Russia at that time was difficult, so I was fortunate when I was offered a ride in a helicopter to visit a remote Nenets reindeer herders’ camp.

When the helicopter landed in a forest clearing, I was amazed to see how traditional the Nenets herders were. They were living in reindeer skin tents and everyone at the camp was dressed from head to foot in traditional reindeer skin clothes.

Sergei Serotetto, the head of the group of herders, invited me to have a meal in his family’s tent. We all got on very well and I ended up asking if I could stay with them. There was a problem in that I had lost my bag containing my cold weather clothing. Sergei and his family quickly solved that problem by finding me a reindeer skin parka and long boots to wear.

I ended up staying over a month with them as they travelled from the forest north across the River Ob and then onto tundra on their 1000km spring migration. The longer I spent with these herders, the more interested I became in Nenets culture and the problems the people faced.

After I returned to the UK, I managed to persuade the magazine’s editor to send me back to the Yamal again at the end of the summer, to re-join Sergey and his family as they began their journey south back to their winter pastures.

Since my two visits there in 1993, I have returned to the Yamal on a number of occasions to document life in different camps and communities. I have photographed, not only Nenets, but also different cultures like the Khanty, Komi and Selkup, who also live in the Yamal.

  • Young girl with goose, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

What was it like returning to the Nenets over the years? What surprised you the most about how the community has changed or hasn’t?

Although I have visited the Yamal region many times since 1993, it was only in 2017 that I re-visited Sergey and his family. They were at their winter pastures and it was wonderful to be with them again. It was just like visiting old friends anywhere.

At first glance, there didn’t appear to have been much change. Sergey and his family were still living in the same reindeer skin tent and his wife Galya still made reindeer-skin clothes for the family.

However, I noticed that there had been no snowmobiles in the group back in 1993, everyone travelled by reindeer sled. Nowadays every herder drives his own snowmobile.

In 1993, there had been no electricity at the camp, candles and kerosene lamps were the only light source. Now every tent had a small portable generator, bringing not just light but enough power for laptop computers and TV. Children can watch cartoons before going to sleep, and later in the evening after they have finished their work the adults can watch movies.

In 1993, gas development in the Yamal Peninsula was just beginning. I thought that within ten years there would be no more reindeer herding on the Yamal Peninsula but I have been proved wrong. Although the reindeer herders have lost a considerable amount of their pastures to the gas industry there are now many more reindeer in the Yamal than there were in 1993.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?

I would like to think that people will take away an insight into Nenets culture and that the exhibition may even inspire some of them to visit the Yamal see the region for themselves. 

What do you have coming up next?

At the beginning of September 2018, I will be in Moscow for the opening of my exhibition, “The Arctic Circle of Life” at the State Museum of Oriental Art. After that, I plan to travel to Siberia’s Gydan Peninsula and photograph there for about a month.

Previous Next
of 113 items