The Library of Obscure Wonders

art nature illustration botanical classes workshops

Month: February, 2014

Dr. BoBo Chaplin’s Cabinet of Curiosities

481px-PhrenologyPixThese photographs are of the notable Cabinet of Curiosities belonging to charismatic phrenologist “Dr. BoBo” Chaplin (1792-1864?) born in Zion House, Twickenham, London.

Phrenology is a process that involved observing and feeling the skull to determine an individual’s psychological attributes. Dr. BoBo believed that the brain was made up of 27 individual organs that determined personality. He would run his fingertips and palms over the skulls of his patients to feel for enlargements or indentations. He would often take measurements with a tape measure of the overall head size and more rarely employ a craniometer, as displayed in the cabinet.
The contents of the cabinet were dispersed in 1968 after disagreements over its rightful ownership (Chaplin vs. Adams, June 1967). It is thought that many of the pieces were lost during this period. The relatively small collection of exhibits which remained in England are currently on display as part of the Library of Obscure Wonders at The Hundred Years Gallery until the 2nd March 2014.

Inside Dr.BoBo's cabinet

Inside Dr.BoBo’s cabinet

A photo of the insides of Dr BoBo's cabinet.

A photo of the insides of Dr BoBo’s cabinet.

At the Hundred Years Gallery

ImageThe Library will be having an exhibition at the end of February. This time at the Hundred Years Gallery in Shoreditch. The exhibition will show the Libraries Cabinets of Curiosity, donated by various artists, scientists and explorers. It will also show the work of Giles Leaman and Jo Fisher Roberts, two artists that make their work from recycled materials, a soundscape by Cos Chapman and three nights of performance. Here are the details:

‘The Library Of Obscure Wonders’: Jo Roberts & Giles Leaman. 19th of February to 2nd of March

Private view involving a Sin Eating Ritual on the 20th of February

Jo Fisher Roberts is an artist and illustrator. Interested in the natural world, she combines traditional illustrative techniques with experimentation and found materials; the carnivalesque and the surreal.

The Woods: “When I was about the age of 10 I was with my family on a walk in woods in west Wales. As usual on such walks I had fallen behind the group. Dawdling along daydreaming I suddenly froze. Just couldn’t move.

Everything became super-real, bright and overwhelming, the noises were intense. Tiny details such as fungus, mud, leaves seemed god-like, immense and all powerful. There was no time. There was no separation between myself and the trees, the plants, the mud, and the water around me. They knew me, were me and I was them. I tried to hang on to normal reality, but that seemed distant, a thin theatre played on top. Even the thought “I” didn’t make sense any more. The experience was beautiful, incredible, ecstatic and horrific all at the same time. Terrifying.

“After what must have been just a few minutes I came round, heard my family calling for me and ran to catch up with them.

“Episodes similar to this were repeated and sometime later I was diagnosed with a type of epilepsy, but this experience, no matter what its causes, has always been important to me and my artwork can’t help but explore that “other” interconnected world. My work uses recycled materials. There is so much manufactured stuff in the world it can feel good to find the beauty in that which is used and thrown out: the constant dying and renewing process reminds me of the woods and the cycle of life.” JFR

The soundtrack is a collaboration between Jo Fisher Roberts and Cos Chapman. Constructed from extended vocal improvisations and processed using electroacoustic techniques to cerate a soundscape out of clearly human utterance.

The exhibition on the 1st March will also host the first phase of Spletza Martin Adventures. Storytelling, ritual performance, film and contemporary cabaret meet to create an exciting new cross-artform collaborative enterprise.

“Painting with paper, drawing with sound. Collages, sound sculptures and other explorations”.

Giles Leaman is a London based artist, musician and arts practitioner whose work traverses sound, installation, performance, sculpture and 2D artforms. His interest in found objects and the challenge set by using them, informs the process in which he works, ”It is as if the material creates a spark to a hitherto unexpected wave of energy, which then in turn consumes everything”. This spark or connection can sometimes be between two materials or a technique and a material or an idea looking for a framework in order to exsist.

The work ranges from collage, using found fragments, printing, drawing and painting, sculpture and assemblages to sound sculptures and experiments with diverse materials.

As a maker, and art enabler for art workshops for 25 years, a vast range of techniques and materials have been tested, manipulated explored and played with, and it is this playful air has lead to a demystifica\tion of “Art” or creativity being out of touch for most people, and more of an energy that can be encouraged and tapped into.

This show is an opportunity to combine new experiments with exsisting works, to break down barriers and put them up again.

Giles Leaman has worked as a printer, Designer of sound environments, a musician with various groups and with Puppeteers, dancers, artists Carnival Arts and as an art enabler for young people.

Events during the exhibition include:
February 23rd – Masks and drums Workshop with performances by The Librarian, KMAT, Cos Chapman, Giles Leaman
March 1st – Chutney Preserves present Mad March Tea Party late afternoon
March 1st -EP launch of Rude Mechanicals in the evening
Closing workshops and performances on the 2nd March


Blithe Nook – Bethnal Green

Litter mosaic

A mosaic of a leaf created from street litter in Bethnal Green park.

Bethnal Green is a district in East London, England.

This was a site specific installation about the origins of Bethnal Green in the Belfry at St Johns in London on 5 September until 3 October 2013

“the earliest form of Bethnal Green is derived from the Anglo-Saxon healh (‘angle, nook, or corner’) and blithe (‘happy, blithe’).
A settlement’s dependence upon water suggests that the ‘happy corner’ was cleared next to the natural spring… Over time, the name became Bethan Hall Green, which, because of local pronunciation as Beth’n ‘all Green, had by the 19th century changed to Bethnal Green.” Wikipedia

Blithe Nook takes its starting point from this description on the origins of Bethnal Green. Imagining the area as a clearing next to a spring, and how special it must have been to the local residents, it tries to capture the ghost of this and connect it to the busy metropolitan area it has now become. The piece includes botanical mosaics made from recycled street litter, cabinets showing aspects of the area that have caught the curiosity of residents and passers by, a soundscape comprising of sounds from the Green and an opportunity for visitors to contribute their own items of curiosity or wonder. There will also be live art performances on the opening night. St John on Bethnal Green 200 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA London, United Kingdom

Lead Artist : Miss Roberts. Participating artists and performers: Cos Chapman, Emma Harvey, Tracey Holloway, Jude Cowan Montague, Jill Rock, Calum F. Kerr, Mick Frangou, Ed Boucher, Lee McFadden, Tracey Holloway, Phillip Raymond Goodman, Punkvert, Gardyloo Spew, Django Bates, Bitten By A Monkey, Matt Scott, Jowe Head and DemiMonde