Edward Lear, Moment to Moment

Building on the success of the AHRC Knowing Edward Lear project, Edward Lear, Moment to Moment will be the first exhibition solely devoted to Lear’s sketches and landscape drawings from across the whole span of his career. It will take place in Autumn 2021 at the IKON Gallery in Birmingham, an educational charity that works to encourage public engagement with art. The initiative will include a substantial exhibition catalogue, symposia, school visits, lectures, and workshops, and will also involve collaborations with HMP Grendon, Birmingham LGBT, and migrant and refugee organisations. IKON offers free entry to all and receives around 200,000 visitors each year. The show will draw on collections in the US, the UK, and beyond, and will include many items that have never before been shown in public.

One of the central aims of Edward Lear, Moment to Moment will be to explore the artist’s fascination with the creative process, including the very process through which his work comes into being (experimental methods of composition, successive drafts, doodlings, and written marginalia in the drawings and paintings). The show will offer a study of the momentary—the thrilling, haunting evanescence of the moment as apprehended by Lear, and his commitment to the sketch itself as an unpredictable medium for essaying thought and feeling. As the exhibition’s title suggests, attention will also be paid to Lear’s interest in capturing sequences of moments through and across time; his desire, for example, to time-stamp several sketches in quick succession (Philae 8.45 am, 9.10am, 9.40 am). And, as he paints, Lear often has a sense of the present being shot through and saturated by other moments. To respond to a view or vista is, for him, to be reminded of another time; landscape becomes dreamscape as his pictorial imagination puts him in touch with strange feelings of nostalgia, déjà vu, and desire. Throughout Moment to Moment, as visitors walk and gaze from one image to the next, they will be invited to experience the artist’s way of being in the world, to take part in a Learical drama played out between the emergent and the ephemeral.

Thanks to Matt Bevis for letting me know.

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