From David Bomberg to Tala Madani

Reality Questioned was an exhibition drawn from Bristol Museum & Art Gallery's Fine Art Collection, with loans from Swindon Museum & Art Gallery. It ran from 17 January to 31 August 2015, and was co-curated by Saira Kalimuddin (University of the West of England, M.A. Curating) and Julia Carver (Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art). These pages show the works from Bristol's collection.

In the early 20th century, artists in Britain experimented with new ways of seeing and were no longer content with realistic depictions of the world.

Art became abstract There was a powerful trend away from recording the appearance of external reality, and a move towards conveying individual experiences and the hidden relations between things.

Art was expressive Artists found new sources of expression in early Renaissance painting from the 1400s-1490s, children’s art, and in non-Western art such as African and Oceanic carvings.

An interest in materiality and form Shape, line, colour and space were valued in their own right. Artists were not seeking to represent external reality, and instead drew attention to the physical qualities of the painting and its surface.

The artists featured here have close connections with each other. Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson worked together in St Ives, Cornwall. Eric Ravilious and John Nash were great travel companions. Edward Wadsworth and David Bomberg were also closely associated in the early years of their careers.

These artists were looking at the world around them, at Modernist movements in Europe, non-Western cultures, and at their own local landscape. They were also looking back to earlier styles of European art, such as from the Medieval period (1154-1485) and the early Renaissance (1390-1490).

Today, contemporary artist Tala Madani revisits the practice of these artists in the context of current global socio-political challenges.

image: The Hands, by Barbara Hepworth, oil and pencil on panel, 1948 [K1899]