All of Us to install interactive work on Blake at Tate Britain

Tate Britain has appointed interactive design group All of Us to design an installation for its William Blake room. It is the group’s first collaboration with the London gallery.

The appointment follows the recent growth of Tate Britain’s interpretation department, which, says James Davis, assistant curator of interactive resources, aims to reinforce the reception of art by visitors to the gallery. It also paves the way for further collaborations with external consultancies.

All of Us director Orlando Mathias explains that the consultancy is designing an installation to ‘reinforce the importance of outline’ in the work of the 18th-century artist and poet Blake, and his contemporary John Flaxman. For Blake and Flaxman, purity of line embodied purity of spirituality, whereas colour and tone were corrupting influences, he says.

To allow visitors to try the outline technique first-hand and so appreciate its aesthetic considerations, All of Us is creating an interactive ‘canvas’ on a raised, double-sided screen (pictured). Visitors can trace a Blake illustration via a tablet PC on one side of the plinth, and see their efforts reproduced on the other.

‘Visitors will be asked to draw lines following an animated marker that follows contours on an underlying, but invisible image,’ says Mathias. ‘A highly magnified view of the line will allow them to draw easily and accurately. They will be unaware of the overall composition and unsure what they are drawing, but will be highly focused on the purity of the line and the subtlety of it’s twists, turns, sharp edges and smooth flows.’

Users begin with a highly magnified view, but can opt to zoom out at any time, adding complexity to their work.

‘Zooming out they become more aware of what they are drawing, but it also becomes increasingly harder to stay true to the line. The ease of drawing is wholly dependent on the magnification of the line,’ he says. ‘Visitors can quickly understand the importance of subtle movements within the line, while understanding how difficult this level of subtlety is to achieve and maintain when drawing.’

The installation is being built in conjunction with product designer Ashley Tobin and is due to open next month.

Interactive design at Tate Britain

• Tate Britain has a room devoted to William Blake (1757-1827)

• Themed displays are changed every six months

• All of Us interactive installation to be displayed mid-August

• Project commissioned by Tate Britain’s head of interpretation Sarah Hyde

‘The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is this: that the more distinct, sharp and wirey the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art’ William Blake, The Descriptive Catalogue (1809)

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