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Alan Turnbull

The Dresden Archive Project

An exhibition of documentary photographs, collages & prints

23 November 2012 to 12 April 2013

Mo, Tue, Wed, Fri: 10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Closed Weekends and Bank Holidays
Free Admission

Master; The Madgalen. 1860

The Dresden Archive Project, a work by artist Alan Turnbull, is an act of remembrance of the Dresden that was lost in a firestorm at the end of the Second World War. The archive itself is a collection of images which celebrate the city’s history - postcards, photographs and printed ephemera relating to Dresden, beginning around 1870 when Saxony still had its own King, and ending in the 1950’s , with Dresden, a ruined city, passing to Soviet control. Close scrutiny of even routine looking postcards can reveal figures emerging from the shadows, faces peeping out of windows, or a human presence largely hidden and obscured in a retouched photograph. These are the incidental traces of life which bring poignancy to these images; a poignancy which is increased by our knowledge of the changes that were to come.


The work in this exhibition makes use of archive material in two ways. The first is documentary, the second is as a starting point for making new art. The documentary pieces are digital prints showing everyday life and portraits of those who lived in the city; other works here explore the city’s history through the juxtaposition of image and commentary. There are a variety of images here of fairgrounds, funfairs, cafes and hotels to depictions of the Saxon Royal Family, and the presence of the Third Reich and Soviet regimes. Also on display will be art works made specifically for this exhibition, including prints and collages constructed from actual archive material. In presenting this exhibition, Alan Turnbull has combined the roles of archivist and artist.

Alan Turnbull first visited Dresden in 1994 while co-directing a music theatre piece as part of the city’s cultural festival. The city left a strong impression on him, and he began to collect postcards of Dresden as it had been before its destruction in the Second World War. Over the years, the collection developed into something of an obsession and it now numbers over 500 items.

Alan Turnbull lectures in Fine Art at Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures. He is the recipient of numerous Arts Council awards and has worked in various international public collections including Harvard University’s Permanent Collection; The Vladimir Nabokov Museum, St Petersburg; UCL London; and Dresden City Council.

His recent one-man exhibitions include – Schatten Gallery, Atlanta 2010; Tsvetaeva Museum, Moscow 2009: Vladimir Nabokov Museum, St Petersburg, 2008 & 2005; The North House Gallery, Essex, 2007. His work has featured in exhibitions at numerous international venues including Nagoya, Japan; Munich; Hamburg; Florence; Milan; London; and Chicago.

Alan Turnbull gratefully acknowledges the support of a research grant from Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures during the making of work for this exhibition.

Exhibition report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 35 (2013), Vol 1