28/11/2015 — 30/01/2016

Ben Cain


The artists studio

Photography: Jonathan Bean

Contemporary artist Ben Cain was commissioned by Grundy Art Gallery to make a substantial new body of work for a solo exhibition which responds to permanent works housed in our collection.

Selecting sixteen paintings and drawings from the collection, Cain has worked with locally-based artists and craftspeople to have objects from within those artworks fabricated and introduced into the gallery as new sculptures alongside the original images. In this way, a vase in a painting is rendered into three-dimensional porcelain by a potter, or an amber necklace worn by a sitter in the original work is fashioned into being by a professional bead maker.

Companions continues Cain’s long-running investigations into the themes of material, labour, and artistic production. The exhibition is inspired by the Grundy collection itself, which is made up of an eclectic mix of items from paintings to jewelry to ornaments and furniture accumulated over the years, frequently with little known provenance. The commission responds to the character of a museum collection as a group of objects housed in one place over the course of time, offering a way to move between the image’s content, the context within which they were made and the present and future moments of their viewing.

Companions opens a year of programming at the Grundy exploring its collection, and follows recent shows involving contemporary artists responding or exhibiting alongside it, including Leo Fitzmaurice: Horizon Line (2011), and the group exhibition Haunted House (2014) including Olivier Castel, Martin Creed, Susan Philipsz and Susan Hiller amongst others.

Companions was initiated by independent curator Rose Lejeune and co-curated with Grundy Curator Richard Parry. The exhibition forms the second in a series of commissions titled Collecting the Ephemeral commissioned by Lejeune. Collecting the Ephemeral looks at offering new ways of collecting works by artists whose practice sits outside of traditionally ‘collectable’ media and instead allows collecting to extend across the whole spectrum of artistic making, with a focus on ephemeral, performative and context-specific work.

Companions was made possible with the skills and knowledge of several local artists and crafts people who ‘remade’ the objects selected from paintings and drawings in the Grundy collection: Dylan Cross (ceramics and porcelain), John Kingston (wood and metal work), Kieran Leach (plaster), Pascal Nichols (ceramics) Simon Nixon (paintings), Mike Poole (beads) and Charlie from Hot Glass in St Helens for all of the glass work.


Ben Cain is represented by Supplement Gallery, London.



Still Life Workshop
Companions also includes a still life workshop for adults and families to create and make artworks from still lives they set up themselves on the stage in the centre of the room. The results can also be exhibited on the stage, themselves becoming part of the still life scene for the next visitors to create from. The still life workshop is open daily and is self-directed.