A strong defence of delicate things


'A strong defence of delicate things' exhibition installation video

 A strong defence of delicate things, Auction House, 23 to 27 June 2021

Anna Lucas, Melanie Stidolph, Alice Walton

A strong defence of delicate things was the result of an ongoing conversation between three women working with film, photography and found images. The installation brings together photographs from artist’s practice and archives, social media and fashion, staged within a provisional structure. Over five months meeting online the artists developed their shared interest in collaborative looking, working with images that fell loosely within categories of inside & outside, women in the studio, building materials, water, rocks and bodies.

Coming at the end of a three-week residency, the installation gathers multiple photographs, moving image and audio, presented across the walls and temporary structure. Each image holds a place in the artists’ life and research, which ‘stick’ because looking at them still raises questions about why they remain significant.

Half-way through developing the project an image posted on social media became an anchor for others gathering on an online board. This black and white photograph was taken around 1943, by an unknown photographer, from inside Porthmeor Studios, St Ives, Cornwall. The dark interior of the studio contrasts with the sunlit scene outside and contains a still life arranged on the window sill, curtains pulled to one side. On the beach, level with the window, a woman and a man lie alongside each other. The woman is the artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, the man is likely Robert H Wagner, an American GI who she formed a close relationship with during the war. Both in swimsuits with their legs stretched out, mirroring each other. A shovel leans to one side of the open window, suggesting they have dug their way out through the sand.

Interpretation of the photographs and their relationship suggests multiple correspondences through content and across space. The lure of biography is interrupted through a kind of image making and installation that seeks to remain shifting and fluid, for itself and for all our potential meanings.

With many thanks to Auction House for the invitation to be part of their programme and special thanks to Liam Jolly for his support. Thank you to the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust both for their kind image permission and generous financial support of the exhibition.

Video and photo credits: Oliver Udy



'A strong defence of delicate things' installation shot, credit: Oliver Udy.

'A strong defence of delicate things' installation shot, credit: Oliver Udy

'A strong defence of delicate things' installation shot

'A strong defence of delicate things' installation shot

'A strong defence of delicate things' installation shot, credit: Oliver Udy

'A strong defence of delicate things' installation shot, credit: Oliver Udy

'A strong defence of delicate things' installation shot, credit: Oliver Udy

Exhibition installation shot, credit: Oliver Udy.

Reproduced with kind permission of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

Video (with sound) as part of installation for 'A strong defence of delicate things', Anna Lucas, Melanie Stidolph, Alice Walton


Auction House is an artist led project space in the heart of Redruth, Cornwall. Est. 2018 with the aim of providing creative space for contemporary artists to experiment and test ideas, but also a platform for public exhibitions, performance, screenings and residencies. www.auctionhouseart.co.uk

Anna Lucas is an artist filmmaker whose films are distributed by LUX, UK. Screenings and exhibitions include: ‘Together With Them She Went’, Tintype London (2020), ‘One Second Feature’, The Gallery, Leicester (2019) Anthology Film Archives, New York; Oberhausen Film Festival, Tate Gallery, London; Essex Road Commission, Tintype London; Chisenhale Gallery, London; Fact, Liverpool. She has been Henry Moore Fellow at Spike Island, Bristol and Wellcome Trust Fellow at Oxford University. Her recent exhibition ‘Alongsiding – Anna Lucas with the Arts Council Collection’ runs from Jun–Oct at University of Leicester (2021). www.annalucas.co.uk

Melanie Stidolph lives in Cornwall. Recent projects; ‘Trethvor’ Oliver Udy with Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange (2021), ‘Synesthesia’ (2021), ‘Nu’ journal (2020), ‘Black Box’ UCA, Farnham (2017), ‘Omgyjer Glusek’ South Kiosk Gallery, London (2016). ‘Treyarnon’ (2019) selected for CineSistersSW and Cornish Slates screenings (2020). Solo; ‘Golden’ Porthmeor Studios, St Ives (2018), ‘The Fall’, Campbell Works, London (2012), Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (2005). Curated ‘Except the Mirror’, Format Festival (2015). Studied at University of Leeds and University of British Columbia, Canada – Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship. Commissions; The Photographers’ Gallery (2012) and Learning, Tate Modern (2012). www.melaniestidolph.com

Alice Walton is an artist living and working in London. Selected shows include: Together With Them She Went, Tintype London (2020); Triggers Broom, Kingsgate Project Space, London (2018); TAP, St Marys Works, Norwich (2018); Almost All the Girls Raise Their Hands, Tintype, London (2016); Except the Mirror, Format Festival International Photography, Derby (2015); An Unnatural Theatre, Aid & Abet, Cambridge (2013); Album2, Five Years, London (2013); Black Rabbit, White Hole, Samuel Freeman Gallery, Los Angeles (2013); London Art Fair (Art Projects) (2013). www.tintypegallery.com/artists/alice-walton/

The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust was established by the Scottish artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in 1987. The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust exists to enhance the reputation and understanding of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham as one of Britain’s most significant 20th century artists, and through her legacy supports young people and other individuals to fulfil their potential in the visual arts. www.barns-grahamtrust.org.uk