Sue Johnson’s paintings tease the mind and the eye, drawing us towards new ways of seeing. Collecting Patterns presents a modern cabinet of curiosities showcasing how American artist Sue Johnson has engaged with and been inspired by the nineteenth century collector General Pitt-Rivers. For the first time, this exhibition draws together a comprehensive selection of the two series of work that Sue created in response to the illustrations in Pitt -Rivers’ ‘second collection’ manuscript catalogue. It then goes on to show new work that has been inspired by the Pitt-Rivers Wessex Collection at Salisbury Museum, in particular the local archaeology documented in his 4-volume publication Excavations in Cranborne Chase (1887-1896). Her new work illuminates both everyday and unusual objects in the Wessex Collection, drawing intriguing connections between the patterns of Pitt-Rivers’ collecting practices and those found on the surfaces of the objects themselves.
Sue is interested in exploring how the role of the artist has an impact on the way in which knowledge is distributed. Her work, with its origins in the genres of still life and vanitas, reflects on what she has discovered about the General as a collector, and how his collections have been documented.
From 2010-11 Sue was an associate researcher with the major three-year research project Rethinking Pitt-Rivers: Analysing the Activities of a Nineteenth Century Collector (2009-12). The Rethinking Pitt-Rivers Project, led by Jeremy Coote and Alison Petch of the Pitt Rivers Museum, has been funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. Salisbury Museum is a project partner. Sue was supported by the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies for her year as Scholar-in-Residence in 2010-11 that allowed her the time in Oxford to work on the project.