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Derived from over a year’s research, artist Paul Coldwell exhibits a new body of work exploring the notion of absence in Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Entering Sir John Soane’s Museum is like stepping into a time capsule, left exactly as Soane intended when he died over 180 years ago. But to explore the Museum is also to experience a feeling of absence: of Soane himself, of his office and students working at the back of the Museum, and of the servants who kept the house running.
Artist Paul Coldwell has been researching this notion of absence over the past year. Paul Coldwell: Picturing the Invisible will display a new body of work created in dialogue with, and now installed in, the Museum’s Old Kitchens. During his research Coldwell became particularly interested in the idea of ‘the house seen from below’: the ways the servants would have seen, understood and perhaps even attempted to replicate aspects of what Soane created upstairs.
Unlike the master they served, the views and perspectives of the servants are largely unrecorded and therefore ultimately unknowable and inaccessible. Coldwell’s project is therefore part speculation, part creative imagination and part ventriloquization – giving voice to those largely absent from, and almost entirely silent within, the historical record yet whose presence was vital to the house’s functioning.