In Their Own Words: Artists’ Voices from The Ingram Collection

  • Works by some of the UK’s best-loved and most influential artists of the 20th century will be exhibited alongside audio recordings taken from the British Library’s extensive ‘Artists’ Lives’ archive
  • The exhibition is curated by Michael Bird with works from The Ingram Collection, one of the largest publicly accessible collections of Modern British art in the UK
  • It offers a unique opportunity to hear artists discussing their childhood, memories, experiences and influences, opening up a new form of interpretation of their works
  • The exhibition runs from 20 May to 30 July 2017 at The Lightbox, Chobham Road, Woking GU21 4AA

In Their Own Words: Artists' Voices from The Ingram Collection presents work by 22 British artists paired with archival audio recordings that capture their earliest memories of childhood, friends, family, places and events. The oral recordings are excerpts taken from the British Library’s extensive National Life Stories archival project which were researched by exhibition curator Michael Bird during a year-long Goodison Fellowship investigating aspects of the ‘Artists’ Lives’ project. Established in 1990, the Artists’ Lives archive now contains almost 400 life-story interviews with British artists as well as critics, dealers and gallery directors, providing an unparalleled and rich history of the British art landscape over the course of the 20th century.

The 43 works in the exhibition are on loan from The Ingram Collection, one of the UK’s most comprehensive and significant collections of Modern British Art. The artists selected are some of the best known within the Collection: Eileen Agar, Kenneth Armitage, John Bellany, Ralph Brown, Lynn Chadwick, Geoffrey Clarke, Ken Currie, Mary Fedden, Paul Feiler, Elisabeth Frink, Terry Frost, William Gear, Derrick Greaves, Patrick Heron, Josef Herman, Allen Jones, Bernard Meadows, Brendan Neiland, Eduardo Paolozzi, Leonard Rosoman, Carel Weight and Rosemary Young.

Each artist’s life is represented by their work and is accompanied by excerpts from their audio interviews. This is a unique opportunity to hear these artists in their own words, illuminating their practice and revealing their personal history. In addition, the exhibition forms an overview of a particular period in British history as artists came to terms with the aftermath of two world wars, and the political, social and cultural changes that followed. Ultimately, In Their Own Words aims to open up the works to visitors by drawing connections between art and everyday life.

Exhibited works will be grouped around thematic aspects of the artists’ lives – from childhood, teachers and influences to earning a living and studio practice – offering a natural parallel with the memories of the artists themselves. These reminiscences range from Ralph Brown’s description of seeing the Victorian nude statues in Leeds City Square every day on his way to school and trying, aged 8, to carve a snowman in the shape of a nude woman; to Terry Frost starting to paint portraits in a POW camp after World War II, using colours like Prussian blue and yellow that were left over because no one else wanted to use them or to the origin of Elizabeth Frink’s 1969 sculpture Goggle Head. For the latter, Frink explains how the series of politically motivated pieces that were a direct response to the Algerian War were based on a photograph of General Mohammad Oufkir. The recordings also shed light on some of the most iconic pieces in British art. Speaking about his study for the Tottenham Court Road Underground Station Mosaic, Eduardo Paolozzi brings to life the atmosphere of the area, ‘it’s a big kind of, it’s a rich churning mass of people with lights and sort of a kaleidoscope of events and cinemas, hamburgers, fast food.’

Together the paintings, sculptures and accompanying audio pieces present a rich artistic tapestry of the UK, with a particularly vivid social texture. In Their Own Words offers not only a unique opportunity to uncover masterpieces by some of the most seminal British artists of the 20th century, but to discover them as people – voices – in their own right, each one with an engaging life story.

The exhibition is organised by The Ingram Collection and The Lightbox in collaboration with Michael Bird. 

Michael Bird is a writer and independent art historian. He is author of books on modern British artists Lynn Chadwick, Sandra Blow, Bryan Wynter and George Fullard, The St Ives Artists: A Biography of Place and Time and the bestselling children's history of art Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories. He was 2016 Goodison Fellow at the British Library and is writing a book based on his research into the Artists' Lives archive.

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Notes to Editors and Ticket Information


Opening Times

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 10.30am – 5pm

Thursday: 10.30am – 9.30pm

Sunday: 11am – 4pm

Closed Mondays and Bank Holidays


General Admission Free

Main and Upper Gallery Admission: £7.50 Annual Pass or £4.50 Day Pass

Under 18s Free


About The Ingram Collection

The Ingram Collection is a not-for-profit organisation founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Chris Ingram. It is now one of the largest publicly accessible collections of Modern British art in the UK.

Since its foundation in 2002, the ever-expanding collection now spans over 100 years of British art and includes over 650 artworks, over 400 of which are by some of the most important British artists of the 20th century. A large part of the collection is at present on medium-term loan to The Lightbox gallery in Woking, Surrey, where it is featured in a programme of temporary exhibitions and as a permanent display in the public galleries.

About The Lightbox

The Lightbox gallery and museum in Woking, Surrey, is one of the leading arts venues in the South East. Three stunning galleries host a huge range of exhibitions, changing regularly. These include nationally renowned artists, sourced from loans from major museums and galleries in the UK and overseas. The Lightbox is also home to an interactive museum of the town’s history, a canal-side café where you can enjoy seasonal refreshments, and an arts and crafts shop which stocks beautiful wares from local designer makers. Since it opened in 2007, works from The Ingram Collection have been generously lent to The Lightbox by serial entrepreneur and local resident, Chris Ingram.