There were a number of influences at work in designing Virginia Woolf Art, Life and Vision. When I started the process I thought about Woolf living out her life in a series of intimate rooms. I looked at how these spaces could be overlaid on the gallery itself and I made a complex diagram of how this plan could work. As the design developed I applied the same ideas to the walls as a series of coloured frames and panels as if viewers were looking through one room to another. The framed walls also referred to the interior of Woolf’s flat in Tavistock Square. The colour scheme of the exhibition had as its starting point Vanessa Bell’s beautifully simple cover for one of Woolf’s books On Being Ill. In dividing up the gallery I designed a wall that would give the exhibition a defined route. I used this wall as a way of re-looking at the existing architecture of the gallery and also of reinforcing the impact of the exhibition’s starting point in the image of the bomb damaged interior of the Tavistock Square flat. So the windows that have been made in the wall collide with the gallery architecture while also giving glimpses into adjacent sections of the exhibition.
I had 15 minutes alone in the gallery after the painters had finished their work and before the artworks were brought into the space. This allowed me the unusual pleasure of seeing the design before exhibits were installed. I realised that many of the ideas behind the design of the exhibition would become hidden as the exhibition filled with objects. These ideas drove the development of the design and helped me give the exhibition an identity but visitors will not necessarily see or be aware of them.
My role in exhibition making is often as mediator between different parties (the curators and the viewer) and between things (the gallery space and the exhibition objects). This mediation can be obvious or discreet but should always compliment the visitor’s experience of the exhibition. This can be a difficult balance to maintain.
Images: The gallery space prior to the installation of the exhibits © C. Storrie
Author portrait: © GRAD (The Gallery for Russian Art and Design)