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Scholarship creates curious exhibition

Layla Khoo

Layla Khoo artwork

Layla Khoo was able to launch his first solo exhibition at Whitby Museum thanks to the Futures Fund Graduate Development Scholarship.

Layla graduated with an MA in Glass and Ceramics in 2019. Her exhibition, “A Chronicle of Curiosities”, imagines a dinner party, where the guests made up significant figures inspired by the museum collection and the history of Whitby.

She explained: “With the money awarded to me through the Scholarship, I was able to research, design, create and promote a solo exhibition to consolidate my artist in residency position at Whitby Museum.”

Each dinner guest has their own bespoke place setting inspired by themes within the museum, side plates link to these themes with verses inspired by the “Sunderland-ware” ceramics in the collection. The walls are adorned with ink illustrations on antiquated encyclopaedia pages, inspired by the extensive library collection, and the “Hand of Glory” has been liberated from its dark, mythic origins in the form of ceramic candle holders to light the table.

Layla used the money from the funding to make the finished pieces of work and also enabled her to extensively test all new designs without fear of “wasting” materials she could not afford. This resulted in a well finished exhibition of high quality pieces of work.

Layla said: “The residency at the museum was an incredible opportunity to be able to truly engage with a heritage setting, work with the curatorial staff, and find an appropriate creative response to my research there.

“Small museums such as Whitby Museum are keen to work with contemporary artists to bring relevance to their collection, but are sadly severely restricted by funding. The museum were deeply grateful and impressed that the University of Sunderland supports its students in this way.

“As part of the residency I was also able to run public workshops, inviting the local community to come and further explore the collection. The museum felt that this area of the work was a key part of the residency, as they are keen for members of the local community to get involved with this unique collection.”

Layla thanked the Futures Fund for allowing her the opportunity of working on this project.

She concluded: “This experience has been invaluable – I have learnt more about working with heritage collections, curatorial staff and public workshops, and how to create and publicise exhibitions.

“There has been extensive problem solving necessary – from difficult to move artefacts, to resolving differences of opinions between the museum and members of the public.

“As a result of creating this work (and in combination with my recent exhibition with the National Trust) I have been offered (and accepted) fully funded residencies with the Forestry Commission at Dalby Forest, and the Bronte Society and the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Both works will be completed this year, and I am now in discussion with the National Trust with regards to a further project in 2021.”

The “A Chronicle of Curiosities” exhibition can be seen online while the Whitby Museum remains closed: https://whitbymuseum.org.uk/2020/02/21/chronicle-of-curiosities/

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