Queen Square Exhibition
In 2015, an Embroidered Minds exhibition was specially created for the Queen Square Library and Archive in their museum space.
The exhibition explored the mysterious connections between between 19th-century neurologist William Gowers (who practised at the National Hospital in Queen Square) and the Morrises. The Morris family home, studio and showroom stood adjacent to the hospital for 17 years when it became the first medical establishment specially devoted to the study of neurolgical conditions and epilepsy in particular.
The exhibition, launched for the Gowers’ celebration at the History of Neurology and Psychiatry Symposium, weaved art by Gowers with the artists’ current work and specially written short stories.
Rows of medical clipboards displaying images of archetypal Morris women by Caroline Isgar hang in front of specially created wallpapers by Sue Ridge.
An old map of Queen Square printed onto a battered suitcase representing the two halves of the brain. Suspended above the suitcase is Julia Dwyer’s ‘out of register’ palimpsest of Queen Square.
Interspersed between Caroline’s images are specially written short stories which continue to explore the relationships between the Morris family and the doctors of Queen Square.
Inside the suitcase a series of exhibits by Andrew Thomas and Leslie Forbes illuminate aspects of the collaboration and incorporate real items from the Queen Square archive and original artworks by William Gowers.
Pre-Raphaelite, Post-Seizure Dress by Leslie Forbes, made roughly to represent how she felt after a seizure, with specially printed fabric featuring Sue Ridge’s dead tulip images and quotes from William Gowers.
Etchings by Caroline Isgar, mounted onto medical clipboards, present timeless women overlaid with patterns that suggest embroidery and also the condition of being veiled or silenced.
Silvering The Cerebrum
‘...a virtuoso performance and collaboration.’
Gill Hedley, curator and writer on the contemporary visual arts; chair of ‘Silvering the Cerebrum’ symposium at The National Hospital Queen Square
For Silvering the Cerebrum in 2016, an event where artists, scientists and members of the public discussed the relationship between art and medicine, Leslie Forbes and Sue Ridge presented a short play about Embroidered Minds. The theme was William Morris’s decision to express his creativity instead of entirely suppressing it with drugs: a brave choice, because it is likely that he had learned how intense ‘expression’ could trigger [his] seizures, as it does for many writers and artists who suffer from epilepsy. Leslie was one of them.
Sex, Drugs and Epilepsy
A talk held at Kelmscott House for the William Morris Society
With visuals from the Embroidered Minds exhibition at Queen Square, Leslie Forbes, Jan Marsh and Sue Ridge discussed the project and collaboration together with questions about epilepsy and the Morrises still relevant today.