An art historian friend visited recently and there was a concerted effort to show her the culture that Reading had to offer. Walking around Reading with an art historian you become much more aware of the buildings that you usually ignore. She had made the journey because of an exhibition at Reading Museum John Tweed: The Empire Sculptor, Rodin’s Friend. She had even got a copy of the catalogue in advance. It was great to see that the book was authored and the exhibition co-curated by a former University of Reading student, now art historian, Dr Nicola Capon. I couldn’t take photos in the exhibition but there are some in the link. Tweed is dubbed ‘The Empire Sculptor’ and archival documents provide a fascinating insight into how these kinds of projects were negotiated, and the role that they played in the expansion and expression of empire. His “ideal” statues are also just really gorgeous to look at.
The same weekend I made good on a promise to visit an open studio, after my post on ‘slack spaces’ and artist run initiatives in Reading. After tweeting on that subject, Reading-based photographer Salvo Toscano got in touch to mention his open studio. He has some beautiful photographs from further afield but I was really drawn to the images from around Reading. Salvo lives not far from the Museum of English Rural Life (where I am based) and seeing local streets transformed by a photographer’s eye demonstrated the need to look again at my surroundings. It may be dangerous for somebody as clumsy as me to walk around staring up at buildings but I’m going to make a more concerted effort to stop and (don’t laugh) admire the beauty of Reading.