Helen Maurer is Set For Battle

Story by Jack Foley

Helen Maurer: Set for Battle - An art project at the Beaufoy Institute, 39 Black Prince Road, London SE11 (in collaboration with Walnut Tree Walk School)

Helen Maurer works with overhead projectors and glass to create large images combining the qualities of film, photography and painting.

For her latest project, the third and final Beaufoy Art Project Commission, Helen researched into the history of the Beaufoy Institute and met with an ex-pupil who attended the school from 1933 to 1936. He has written a brief history of the Beaufoy as a school and given a vivid account of his experience there as a day-boy.

Helen was struck by how attached he was to the building and what an important part it had played in his life. The last section of his writing focuses on the Christmas Dinner:

‘Four parallel rows of tables were set out the length of the hall; all set out with cutlery and adornments “the piece looked a picture”. The dinner, as Christmas dinners tend to be, was always more than ample, the result being that by the time the main course was consumed there was ‘not too much room left’ for the pudding and some was always left over - in some cases even deliberately. It was almost by tradition that, at this stage, the masters withdrew to their common room and someone picked up what remained of their Christmas pudding and threw it at someone else. From then on the battle raged and many a boy went home that day with his clothes liberally daubed with jam and custard!’

Taking this recollection as her inspiration, Helen has prepared an installation for the main hall by making miniature three-dimensional models from glass, which are placed on overhead projectors, to project a life size two dimensional image of the scene.

Here the two elements tell different stories, in the projected image we see the table set prior to the meal, while the model shows the mess ‘after the battle’. The table is set for twelve, referring to the twelve boys killed in the First World War (their commemorative plaque was destroyed when the hall was renovated).

As part of this project Helen has been working with children from Walnut Tree Walk Primary School to create their own installations. Year six have been working with the above theme creating some appetising miniature dinners. Year five have been thinking about what the space could be used for in the future; ideas include a sports centre, a museum/cookery school with a nature reserve outside complete with a swimming pool.

Set for Battle is part of the Beaufoy Arts Project, which is being delivered by a unique partnership of Vauxhall St Peter’s Heritage Centre, Lambeth Arts, Gasworks Gallery and Danielle Arnaud contemporary art. The project has been supported by Lambeth Riverside and forms a year-long programme of community involvement in the Riverside area to inform the regeneration process.

RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Danielle Arnaud website....