The Ashmolean Museum’s latest exhibition showcases the University’s continued love of commissioning talented British artists.
The University and its colleges have a rich history of commissioning artworks -- but you might not realise that it’s a tradition which continues to thrive. This autumn, the Ashmolean Museum is unveiling two of the most recent commissions made by Oxford colleges.
The first, a three-panel group portrait by Benjamin Sullivan for All Souls, honours 27 members of its non-academic staff. Sullivan’s bold All Souls Triptych, inspired by mediaeval altarpieces and echoing the likes of Stanley Spencer and David Hockney, provides a rare glimpse behind the scenes of College life. In so doing it serves to recognise how much the College depends on the people who work in it, from administrators to catering staff.
In contrast, New College has recently commissioned tapestries by Jeni Ross to hang in its Founders’ Library, one of the oldest public spaces in the College. Entitled Dance To the Music of Time, the piece is made up of six abstract tapestry panels which can stand individually or as a set. Ross uses twelve shades of blue to represent the passing of time, a reference to Bauhaus artist Johannes Itten’s use of tones to signify music. The work’s use of shadows and light can be interpreted as day and night, evoking theories of time, space and humanity’s place in the universe -- a fine foil to All Souls’ more down-to-earth commission.
Both works will be on display at the Ashmolean Museum as part of the College Commissions exhibition from the 13th September until the 28th October.