Laura Napier Explores The Past At Berwick Gymnasium Art Gallery

By Chris Catchpole | 16 October 2008
Picture of 1920s saloon car

Photo © Tony Griffiths

It’s not often that one visits an 18th century barracks to find a complete reproduction of a 1920s car showroom.

However, As Old As The Industry, As Modern As The Hour, the latest exhibition at the Gymnasium Art Gallery at Berwick Barracks, combines a series of specially constructed interiors in an exploration of modernity, heritage and regeneration in the historic border town.

Devised by Laura Napier, whose previous installations include works at the Natural History Museum and Zurich International Theatre, the installation aims to create a fictional place situated between the past and the present.

Encapsulating the theme, one of Napier’s pieces Pillbox displays photographs of a nearby World War II pillbox that the artist recently transformed into a retro-styled living room, while Destination faithfully replicates a car showroom, complete with a gleaming period saloon car.

Picture of a local trade union banner and an artist's photograph of a World War Two pillbox within the exhibition space

Photo © Tony Griffiths

As the centrepiece of the installation Destination also lends the exhibition its name, ‘As Old As The Industry, As Modern as The Hour’ once being the slogan for Riley cars, one of the most successful racing-car manufacturers in the 1920s and 1930s.

Utilizing the iconography of the British seaside holiday, Miss Salmon refers to the failed attempt to market the neighbouring village of Spittal as a rival to Blackpool.

Napier was awarded The Berwick Gymnasium Fellowship in 2007, an award offered annually to professional artists with the remit to respond to the unique history and architecture of Berwick.

Martin Allfrey, Head Curator English Heritage, said: “Our history both built, social and personal cannot fail but impact on all of our lives including the artists we’ve engaged with over the years. They have found a rich platform upon which to make their work and English Heritage looks forward to continuing to work with artists whose curiosity and vision presents a reflection of our past in unpredictable ways.”

Metal sculpture reading As Old As The Industry, As Modern As The Hour

Photo © Tony Griffiths

Previous fellowships have been awarded to former Turner Prize nominee Mike Nelson, Perminda Kaur and Marcus Taylor, and the success of the scheme has seen the number of visitors to the gallery space more than double in the last year.

A former 1901 army gymnasium, Berwick Gymnasium Art Gallery was refurbished into a contemporary art gallery with funding from English Heritage in 1993 and is situated within Berwick Barracks.

Designed by legendary architect Nicholas Hawksmoor as one of England’s first purpose-built garrisons, the barracks also include The King’s Own Scottish Borderers Museum and are maintained by English Heritage.

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