14 February 2015
A new artwork by Mark Anstee can now be seen in the World Cultures gallery.
RAMMYRIORAMA is a play on the concept of Victorian spectacles known as Myrioramas. Pre-dating film, these monumental scrolls unwound to reveal painted panoramas of great historic events, heroic battles or epic journeys through newly discovered foreign lands. The hand-painted poster advertises a grand tour of the world as seen through RAMM’s World Cultures collection.
Mark Anstee has been commissioned to make site-specific drawing projects indoors and in the landscape for over 15 years. In 2014 he was invited by Imperial War Museum North to create a live drawing for the First World War Centenary and has made works for In Flanders Fields Museum, Belgium; Irish Museum of Modern Art; and John Hansard Gallery. Mark has been both Leverhulme artist-in-residence at Stonehenge and artist-on-manoeuvres onboard HMS Bulwark.
Mark Anstee’s reflection on world cultures is the second in a series of four artistic responses to RAMM’s collections. It follows on from Polly Morgan’s response to the natural sciences collection. Artists Reflections is funded from RAMM’s Arts Council England Major Partner Museum funding in 2014/15. The artists were selected by RAMM’s Contemporary Arts Panel in consultation with Arts Council England and the Arts Council Collection at Southbank Centre.
Mark Anstee in his own words
From a conversation with RAMM’s creative programmer Martin Thomas:
What made you think of the RAMMYRIORAMA as an idea for your reflection on the museum collections?
Sometime ago, I read a fascinating account of a moving painted panorama of the Mississippi River that toured 19th century Europe. This vast scrolled canvas, driven by a hand-cranked mechanism, would be presented as a performance piece to excited audiences in Europe and the States. So when I was asked to think of an idea to reflect the World Cultures collection at RAMM, this unusual collision of visual story telling and moving image came back into my head. Whilst researching the RAMM commission, I then discovered that there were many rival companies touring similar events of painted adventures in foreign lands and the word “Myriorama” had been coined to describe and advertise these spectaculars.
To me there seems to be a strong conceptual connection between these devices and the authored museum collection. Both were conceived to enlighten and entertain an innocent and untraveled public, one through stories and one though garnered artefacts carried back to Britain by those who explored, traded and fought in unknown worlds. I wanted to make a poster that would advertise a Myriorama specifically depicting the World as seen only through the eyes of the World Cultures collection at RAMM; where all the artefacts from the many different cultures co-exist in the same space.
Are there any specific objects in RAMM that you were drawn to?
I can only imagine the reaction of visitors to the World Cultures collection when RAMM first opened. It must have been like us seeing the first pictures from Mars. On my first trip, I was completely mesmerized by the glowing sealskin Parka from the Aleutian Islands. To me it looks like a magical chrysalis formed by a completely different species. As I became more familiar with the collection, I was drawn-in by the individual characters that inhabit the display cabinets, and a sense of them all vying for my attention.
You’ve worked in very diverse locations – from Stonehenge to the Royal Navy’s flagship. Can you share any interesting stories about your artist residencies?
Whilst on HMS Bulwark the only art I saw was a picture of HMS Bulwark. I was amused by the idea of being on the inside and having to be reminded of what the ship looked like from the outside. When I was drawing at Stonehenge I was approached by an American TV crew who wanted to interview me about the famous stone circle’s ‘real meaning’. Already having been there for some months I was less than certain about its real purpose or meaning, so, unable to think of any definitive answer I quoted back to the interviewer Donald Rumsfeld’s now famous ‘There are Known Unknowns’ speech. They actually aired the interview, which made a lot of my friends laugh.
You work in different media, but do you have a preference for any in particular?
Although I use many different approaches and the work is manifested at its final stage in many different mediums, drawing is always at the heart of everything I do. I love drawing.
What is the most difficult job you have done?
It’s either being in a climbing harness 10metres up whilst making a 25 day drawing in the chancel arch of a church (Fabrica, Brighton); installing a 14metre wood & paper submarine on its tip (Bluecoat, Liverpool), or drawing 20,000 small soldier figures in biro onto a 4metre square wall (In Flanders Fields Museum, Belgium).
You have worked as an actor and an artist – has one career helped the other?
The larger site-specific works that I’ve made over the past 12 years are basically a high velocity collision of 2 practices, drawing and performance. The live event brings a charged atmosphere that I understand many artists would find incredibly stressful. There is a very good reason why many artists work in isolation and privacy – they don’t want their process to be witnessed. For me also, there is a certain type of work that needs to be made in the safety of the studio, but there is other work that depends upon the presence of an audience. Knowing you’re being watched brings an intensity and focus to a situation that I seem to thrive on. I suppose that must be the actor informing the artist.
Where else can visitors see your work?
All my projects are archived on www.markanstee.com.