On the ground floor, 35,000 Years to Catch a Shadow: A Reflective Exhibition challenges visitors to explore the Phenomenon, Arts, and Technologies of the Shadow.
Upstairs: in the Terence Marsh Gallery and adjoining rooms: Passport to Ealing: The Films and Their Posters, 1938-1958, a major retrospective of a unique moment in cinema history; a colourful review of The Royal Polytechnic Institution and Multi-Media Victorian London, and an exhibition of vintage and historic Vinten cameras and equipment, made possible by the Vinten family.
35,000 Years to Catch a Shadow: A Reflective Exhibition
The Margaret Amaral Gallery
Pagans and Christians, primitives and moderns, scientists and artists: for as long as we have been human, we have been intrigued by the phenomenon of the Shadow. The Shadow marks a passage of time. It confers identity ad self-consciousness. But it is also a warning of our destiny: that we are as fleeting and as insubstantial as Shadows. The Shadow is near the root of all mythology, folktale, and religious belief. It falls across the origin of Art.
Deep in caves, about 35,000 B.C., early men drew a magical world of mimic images: Shadows of horses and bison and deer. Greek tradition finds the origin of painting in the story of Kora or Sicyon: grieving to lose her lover, she traced his Shadow on the wall. For hundreds of years, in Java, Indonesia, India, and Turkey, Shadow Puppets have told and retold heroic and comic tales.
In the modern age of Enlightenment and Reason, Science encountered, reshaped, and fell in love with the Shadow. The Silhouette, the Photograph, the Moving Picture: all are Arts and Technologies of the Shadow.
And those technologies begat styles and genres: the Portrait and the Carte-de-Visite; the Horror Film and Expressionism; Cartoons and Silhouette Films; film noir and its shadowy acts of deception, detection, and death.
This exhibition traces the History of Shadows. In doing should, it asks to engage both with the deep History of Cinema and with the History of Representation itself.
Passport to Ealing: The Films and Their Posters, 1938-1958
The Terence Marsh Gallery
At Ealing Studios, in the Balcon era, 1938-1958, all the forces that might make great British films and great poster art converged —
— Michael Balcon, a producer at the height of his powers, determined "to project Britain and the British character" to the world ...
— the talented directors, writers, cameramen and editors from the free-war documentary and feature film industries who thrashed out ideas at the Studio's famous round table ...
— the Studio itself, intimate and friendly, with a bee hive in its rose garden, and the Red Lion pub handily opposite ...
— a studio publicist of genius and a well-connected art director, who were given the unique mandate to commission from the best artists of the day ...
— the artists themselves, who came to Ealing posters and pamphlets as war artists, illustrators, painters, print-makers, and typographers
— a window of opportunity, when war and its aftermath suspended (temporarily) American domination of British cinema screens, and home-made films that "begged to differ" (temporarily) prospered.
The Royal Polytechnic Institution and Multi-Media Victorian London
The Front Room
19th-century London had doubled in size every decade. The "Monster City" and its restless hordes demanded entertainment. Up sprang the West End—and the extraordinary visual experiences of the Panorama, the Diorama, and the Colosseum.
In 1838, a multimedia palace called the "Polytechnic Institution" joined the list, outdoing its rivals with magnificent "dissolving views"—giant lantern slide images that moved spectators through space and time—in the world's first purpose-built projection theatre, the ancestor of all cinemas. Londoners and visitors flocked to the Poly, by the new train and omnibus—the first generation also to see illustrated newspapers, photographs, 3-D stereoscopes, kaleidoscopes, and the host of Victorian optical toys.
This exhibition use original artefacts to tell this dynamic story. Don't forget to push the Button and see the Ghost!
William Vinten was a pioneer of British cinema. By 1919 he had designed his first studio camera—the Model C. It was used by Claude Friese-Greene (son of the pioneer, William), to film a two-colour process. In 1931 he developed his Model H, a "quiet" camera for the newly-introduced talking pictures, which became a familiar sight on newsreel location trucks.
In the later thirties he made the world's first "Reflex" film camera—which allowed the cameraman to see and visually orchestrate exactly what he was filming, which had never before been possible. Our tribute to a British manufacturer who is still serving the needs of the media industry has been made possibly by an extended loan from the Vinten family.