Meet Persilia Caton

Read a Q&A with the curator of Southbank Centre’s Art by Post exhibition

By Google Arts & Culture

Southbank Centre

Art by Post curator Persilia Caton (2022)

Curating a Nation of Artists

Art by Post began in May 2020 and since then has worked with 17 artists to create 11 creative booklets to guide participants through a series of activities to spark their imagination.

Read on to discover more about Art by Post through the eyes of curator, Persilia Caton.

Poem about Tennis (2021)

Why is Inspiration Important?

Art by Post celebrates the power making has to increase wellbeing, especially during challenging times. The activity booklets, delivered via yellow envelopes, invite engagement with artists and their ideas. When the spark of inspiration ignites, motivation increases alongside self-esteem and optimism.

Detail of Art by Post publication, designed and illustrated by Joey Yu (2021)

Creative inspiration can also create moments of deep absorption, allowing escape from the mundane or ruminating thought patterns. Ideas are inspiring. When you have artists (or their ideas) around you, it spreads inspiration and motivation in a positive way.

Installation view at De Montfort University Gallery, by My Linh Le

How did you approach curating the participant's artwork?

I usually start the curatorial process with the people I am collaborating with, not just the artworks, as I primarily work with artists on commissioning new works and often included socially engaged practices. But for Art by Post, I was invited to join the project after participants submitted the 600+ artworks. 

This approach was in many ways akin to traditional museum curating, where you select objects or artworks and group them together into thematic categories in order to tell a story. The thematic groupings offer greater context for the individual works, uniting them as a whole.

Art by Post Installation

I identified three key themes (Nature, Sound & Movement, and Hope) to sort the paintings, drawings, collages and poems, also keeping in mind the different ways to represent the works in the best possible way—framed, recorded as an audio piece, enlarged and reproduced as  part of a large scale tapestry or experienced intimately in a booklet.

Installation view of The Beany House of Art and Knowledge, by Tim Stubbings (1) (2022)

Why commission new works by artists beyond the project?

The artists who were commissioned to create the booklets were selected to represent the breadth of the artistic programme at Southbank Centre and the project’s delivery partners. Many of the artists co-created their booklets with participants, both drawing on their lived experience of isolation, long-term illness or mental health concerns.

Art by Post booklet covers

I wanted to use this outcome exhibition to not only represent the diverse works made by participants, but also as a platform to commission new works and continue to offer opportunities for artists to develop their practice in addition to the booklets designed by artists.

Art by Post installation view at The Beaney House for Art and Knowledge (2022)

These new works provided additional entry points for interpreting the themes and innovative ways for the existing works to be presented: from the commissioned tapestry made collaboratively by participant artist Luke Squire and Paloma Proudfoot to the publication designed and illustrated by Joey Yu, featuring over 75 poems and works on paper.

An artwork by an Art by Post participant (2021)

What did you learn from this project?

Pre-pandemic I was generally aware of the resources that I use to maintain my own wellbeing, but this was an imprecise awareness. Through the process of sorting the participants' artworks I gained an acute and greater sense of appreciation for the essential elements that most of us rely on: 

Art by Post installation view

nature, music, dance, sport, friendship, support and hope.

Art by Post curator Persilia Caton in the exhibition (2021)

What was your favourite part of the exhibition?

Giving exhibition tours together with the participants was an absolute highlight. My experience of Art by Post is only one narrative and the opportunity to be together physically in the exhibition and bring our many stories together was far more rewarding.

Credits: All media
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