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Holly Graham, Sweet Swollen, Jerwood Space, London (8 May-25 Aug 2018)

Holly Graham, Sweet Swollen, Jerwood Space (8 May-25 August 2018)

Holly Graham (U4-108) is exhibiting a new commission Sweet Swollen in Jerwood Visual Arts's Project Space, London from 8 May-25 August 2018.

Comprising print and audio, these consider historic links between domestic culinary culture and visual culture within Europe.

The works take as their starting point a pair of Meissen porcelain sweetmeat bowls that are currently on display in a collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. These were made between 1765–75 and would have, at the time of their production, been considered an artisanal, luxury good, symbolizing the wealth and status of their owner. Visually, they each depict turfy mounds which prop up bowls to hold sugar or sweetened dried fruits, which are in turn flanked by caricatured ‘blackamoor’ figures who gesture towards the food products in the bowls in front of them. These are part of a wider tradition of similar figurines that embody, and silently testify to, financial gain through processes of colonial exploitation, as manifest in their decorative design.

Ten etching works on steel depict the hands of a selection of these figurines outstretched and frozen in gestures of servitude. These have been appropriated and cropped from a series of photographic images of the sweetmeat bowls and have been reproduced using a process called ‘sugarlift’. This involves the use of a sugar solution to imprint an image onto an etching plate, a process which was developed in Europe in the late 18th century, which approximately coincides with the production period of the sweetmeat bowls. In this case it has been reconfigured by the artist to allow the transfer of photographic images. By focusing on the hands of these figurines, Graham aims to use their gestures as an entry point into a discussion around the history of these objects.

The audio work comprises a series of edited interviews with eight V&A African Heritage tour guides. Conducted by Graham, these explore the violence of colonial history, what it means to encounter these sweetmeat bowls from today’s perspective, and personal, social and political connotations associated with sugar and sweet treats. - text courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts.

Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, Bankside, London SE1 0LN.

For more information go to

Images: Holly Graham, Sweet Swollen, installation views, 2018. Commissioned for Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Images Anna Arca.