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Towards Artists' Moving Image? Film Art and Paracinema, Britain 1906-1939

This thesis catalogues and analyses instances when film form, theory, technology, architecture, discourse and ephemera influenced artists working in the first half of the twentieth century in Britain, focusing on activity in London. It makes detailed case-studies of particular works executed in the traditional media of painting, sculpture and print that result from this interest, alongside examples of artists’ work in film. In parallel, it traces the evolution of an idea of film as art in texts written by artists, critics and theorists during the period in question.

The thesis analyses films, artworks and monographic and institutional archive papers held at Tate, the British Film Institute and the Harry Ransom Center, as well as in smaller public and private collections. It attempts to resist the linearity of art history in order to make visible artists’ concern with film, and the resultant focus is on artworks, films, publications and exhibitions as ‘containers’ for cyclically shifting conceptions of film as/and art that could inform the present rubric of ‘artists’ moving image’.

Part one of the thesis explores the period 1906-1928 in relation to a developing concept of the ‘cinematic’. Part two explores the consolidation of ideas of an art of film through the formal structures of and informal relationships within i) the Film Society, ii) educational, and iii) industrial settings during the period 1925-1933. Part three introduces the concept of Paracinema and its manifestation as i) text, ii) lightplay, iii) figurative and iv) abstract painting and sculpture during the period 1933-1939.

The thesis finds that artists and works previously considered extrinsic to histories of both art and artists’ moving image in Britain become central when these histories are considered together. It re-interprets the legacies of figures including Walter Sickert, Walter Booth, Wyndham Lewis, Dora Carrington, Roger Fry, Iris Barry, Edward Carrick, Stella Burford, Oswell Blakeston, László Moholy-Nagy, Paule Vézelay and S. John Woods, foregrounding intermedial, collaborative and experimental practices omitted from existing accounts. In this way, the thesis problematises our understanding of British modernism, and by connecting our notion of artists’ moving image to more extensive historical, material and theoretical precedents, it suggests possibilities for further research into artists’ engagement with film in the period 1945-1960.

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More about Inga

Inga Fraser is a curator and art historian with over ten years' experience working in museums and galleries in London. She has held curatorial positions at Tate and the National Portrait Gallery and is currently an AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral student with Tate and the Royal College of Art researching artists’ engagement with film in Britain in the first half of the twentieth-century.

MA History of Art, Birkbeck College, University of London, 2008

BA History, Goldsmiths College, University of London, 2005

Visiting Lecturer, Royal College of Art (2020); Assistant Curator, Modern British Art, Tate (2013-2017); Assistant Curator, 20th Century and Contemporary, National Portrait Gallery (2011-2013); Associate Curator, Fashion in Film, (2009-2011)

Mobius Fellowship, Ateneum, Helsinki (2015)

Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant, New York (2013)

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

Paule Vézelay, Tate Britain, London, 2017

Co-op Dialogues, Tate Britain, London, 2016

Paul Nash, Tate Britain, London, 2016-2017

Barbara Hepworth, Tate Britain, London, 2015

‘Colour and Kinesis’, Tate Etc., no. 48, Spring 2020

‘Howardena Pindell’, Document, no. 12, Spring 2018

‘From a sheet of paper to the sky’, British Art Studies, no. 7, Autumn 2017

‘Visual Culture’, Year’s Work in Critical Cultural Theory, Vol. 25, 2017

‘Kinomuseum? Film and Video at the Tate Gallery: the Rushes of a Relationship’, lux.org.uk, Nov 2016

‘From the Surreal to the Decorative’, Tate Etc. no. 38, Autumn 2016

‘From a sheet of paper to the sky: Pattern in the work of Paul Nash’ in Emma Chambers (ed.) Paul Nash (Tate Publishing, 2016)

‘Visual Culture’ (with Sophie Oliver), Year’s Work in Critical Cultural Theory, Vol. 24, 2016

‘“New relations, unsuspected harmonies”: Modern British Art in Finland, 1906–1964’, FNG Research, no. 4, 2016

‘Media and Movement: Barbara Hepworth beyond the Lens’ in Penelope Curtis and Chris Stephens (eds.) Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World (Tate Publishing, 2015)

'Hepworth, Film and Photography', Tate Etc, no. 34, Summer 2015

‘A Magical Constancy’, Minerva, vol. 26, 2015

‘Forms of Time and Place’, Resurgence and Ecologist, no. 291, 2015

‘The English Independents: some twentieth-century women carvers’, Sculpture Journal, vol. 23, no. 3, November 2014

Review: The Collection of the late Mrs. T.S. Eliot, sale at Christie’s, London, Time Present, no. 82, Spring 2014

‘Tree, Iris (1897–1968)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2014)*

‘Innovation in Portraiture’, in Tarnya Cooper (ed.), National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain (National Portrait Gallery Publications, 2014)

Born Fully Clothed: The Significance of Costume for the Silent Cinema Vamp’ in Marketa Uhlirova (ed.) Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle (Koenig, 2014)

‘Body, Room, Photograph: Negotiating identity in the self-portraits of Lady Ottoline Morrell’ in Penny Sparke and Anne Massey (eds.) Biography, Identity and the Modern Interior (Ashgate, 2013)

Review: Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer, Seeing Gertrude Stein (2011) for Costume, vol. 47, no. 1, 2013

‘The Model and the World of Fashion’ in Marketa Uhlirova (ed.) Between Stigma & Enigma (FFF, 2006)

Apr 2021 ‘‘The Art of the Screen’: George Pearson, Edward Carrick and the role of the artist in British cinema’, Association for Art History Annual Conference.

Jun 2019 Bauhaus Film’, Troublesome Modernisms: British Association of Modernist Studies Annual Conference, King’s College London.

Jun 2017 Stilled Rhythms or Vitalised Matter: Frank Dobson and Henry Moore in London 1919-1930’, Becoming Henry Moore: symposium at Henry Moore Foundation, Hertfordshire.

Oct 2015 Moving Modernism: Iconophilia, Iconoclasm and Iconophobia’, Artists’ Moving Image Practice in Britain: From 1990 to today: conference at Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Jul 2015 Barbara Hepworth: Archive to Exhibition’, Barbara Hepworth: Life and Selected Archives: symposium at National Archives, Kew, London.

May 2010 Body, Room, Photograph’, Interior Lives: Modern Interiors Research Centre Conference, Kingston University, London.

Sep 2009 The Fashion Object’, The Art of Fashion: symposium organised by Premsela, ArtEZ and the Arnhem Academy of Art, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam.