This week Art on Tour has been celebrating the fun and fabulous world of Pop Art, through exciting family activities and a brand new Art Snaps podcast. And really, who doesn’t either love or love-to-hate a bit of Pop Art?! Even now, 58 years on since Andy Warhol created Campbell’s Soup Cans, so much of what was created in the ‘50s and ‘60s still looks fresh and vibrant, and provokes such lively conversation.
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery’s current exhibition Pop and Prosperity celebrates the energy and excitement of art made in post-war Britain through an eclectic selection works from the collection. Most notable perhaps, is Richard Hamilton’s Interior Study (a), which reflects a growing interest in mass media and consumerism.
However, I want to take a moment to think about a great piece of Pop Art from the collection that isn’t included in the exhibition. Created in 1971, Nicholas Monro’s Igloos falls slightly outside the remit of Pop and Prosperity’s focus on the late 1950s and ‘60s. It’s still having it’s time to shine though (sort of, given the current circumstances), as it’s currently on show in Art on Tour’s exhibition at the Civic Offices.
The piece entered Swindon’s collection in 2017, as part of a large donation of works on paper gifted to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in tribute to Meryl Ainslie (Director of the gorgeous Rabley Drawing Centre in Marlborough). There’s a lovely link here, as both Ainslie and Swindon-born Monro have taught at the Swindon School of Art.
Monro’s connections to Swindon don’t end there. His late step-father was the childrens’ TV entertainer Johnny Morris who had worked as Jimmy Bomford’s Estate Manager. Bomford, of course, is the very man who is credited with planting the seeds of Swindon’s collection in the 1940s.
Local connections aside, Igloos is a great piece in Swindon’s collection. It’s seemingly simple in execution, depicting four igloos through thick black outlines against a rusty orange background. I can’t guess what it was that attracted Monro to igloos, or this specific shade of orange, but there is so much about this work which exudes the spirit of Pop Art.
The simple and precise repetition of shapes, and the bold, smooth finish, reflects Pop’s enthusiasm for the mass production of imagery seen in advertising. The screenprint does this too. It was a method of working favoured by pop artists, because it enabled them to reproduce images of the everyday and mundane over and over again. Swindon’s piece is in fact one of 70 of the same image. This audacious and confident repetition threw into question the divide between fine art and low, popular imagery, in an era exploding with visual communication.
But the thing I find most interesting about this image, is the push and pull between flatness and perspectival space. The single background colour enhances the smooth surface of the work, so much so that it is almost characterised by flatness. Almost. The igloos however, provide a sense of perspective, with the closest pushed right up to the picture plane. Monro seems to be playing with our perception, and our expectation of encountering three dimensional space in a two dimensional image.
This interest in the viewer’s perception reflects a new era dominated by technological advances and mass media. It was of interest to other artists too, including one of the most famous British pop artists Richard Hamilton, whose piece Interior Study (a), features in our latest Art Snap about Pop and Prosperity.
But if the Pop Art-inspired podcast, blog and Art Burst aren’t quite enough to feed your appetite for the exhibition, why not take a look at an online version available through ArtUK’s new curation feature, at https://artuk.org/visit/venues/swindon-museum-and-art-gallery-5267.
Finally, don’t forget to also keep a look out for more blog posts about works on show in our fabulous exhibition at the Civic Offices! There’s much more where this came from…
Blogpost by Katie