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Alien Resident: San Diego Photographs 1986-1987 and Marie Duval: Laughter in the Age of Leisure can be viewed both from home or, with social distancing, behind glass at Contemporary Art Space Chester (CASC).

Stephen Clarke Sears covered car 1987.jpg

Sears covered car 1987 (copyright Stephen Clarke).
Sears covered car 1987 (copyright Stephen Clarke)

Alien Resident: San Diego Photographs 1986-1987  features 35mm black and white photographs from University of Chester Art and Design Lecturer, Stephen Clarke’s archive of the time he spent as a resident in San Diego during the 1980s. Many of the pictures on show have also been published by Café Royal Books.

The second exhibition: Marie Duval: Laughter in the Age of Leisure is curated by Leading Research Fellow, also in the University’s Department of Art and Design, Dr Simon Grennan and places the pioneering, extraordinary and funny drawings of Victorian London cartoonist and actress Marie Duval in the spotlight. After 130 years of neglect and erasure by her male contemporaries and heirs, current interest in her work is re-writing the history of comics in English.

The exhibitions are on display at CASC in the Forum Shopping Centre, one of a range of CASC pop-up and permanent exhibition spaces in and around the University of Chester and the city of Chester, run with the support of Cheshire West and Chester Council. While the doors are currently closed, the two exhibitions can be seen through the glass frontage. People are just asked to maintain social distancing while taking in the exhibitions.

Alternatively, people can enjoy a taste of the exhibitions from the comfort of their armchairs, by visiting cascgallery.co.uk and www.facebook.com/CASCgallery.

Videos have also been produced to offer more insights. To watch Stephen talking about his exhibition, take a look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaHbgqmo3T4&feature=youtu.be.

To see Simon discuss the Marie Duval exhibition, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky1Ja3xSozY.

Dominated by signage and the automobile, until recently, Stephen’s body of work remained as negatives and contact sheets.

Through casual employment in the photographic industries, Stephen saw San Diego as a stage-set to tourism and cinema. When he worked as a photo retoucher he was based in a studio in Miramar, the location for the film Top Gun (1986). As a minilab assistant, Stephen collected film and delivered prints to the Naval Bases on Coronado where the Hotel del Coronado had been the setting for the film Some Like it Hot (1959).

He said: “My approach to photographing the city and its surrounding areas was through simple exploration: I drove, parked up, and walked.

“As the year progressed, I met with San Diego-based photographers Philipp Scholz Rittermann and Phel Steinmetz. Both offered me support and guidance to enable my continued work and practice in the region.

“In the autumn of 1987, I returned to England bringing with me more than one hundred rolls of film.”

Alien Resident: San Diego Photographs 1986-1987 has drawn interest from beyond Chester with features on the websites of Open Eye Gallery, Photomonitor and Redeye.

The exhibition forms part of Stephen’s bigger project to revisit and review his archive of unexplored pictures. More about his recent publications can be found at:  https://www1.chester.ac.uk/news/multiple-publications-celebrated-university-academic.

Marie Duval “Untitled” Judy, or the London serio-comic journal, Volume 18, Frontispiece 20 October 1875.jpg

Marie Duval “Untitled” Judy, or the London serio-comic journal, Volume 18, Frontispiece 20 October 1875.
Marie Duval “Untitled” Judy, or the London serio-comic journal, Volume 18, Frontispiece 20 October 1875

Simon, who has also co-written the book Marie Duval: Maverick Victorian Cartoonist, explained why he was bringing Duval’s work to people’s attention: “Marie Duval is one of the most unusual, pioneering and visionary cartoonists of the later nineteenth century.

“Her drawing style was theatrical, untutored and introduced many techniques that only became common in much later cartooning.”

Duval drew under a number of male and female pseudonyms and her work appeared in a variety of cheap British penny papers, albums and books of the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. An actress as well as a cartoonist, she lived and worked in a London environment of music halls and unlicensed theatres, sensational plays, serials, novels and comic journals.

Between March 1869 and July 1885, Duval drew hundreds of comic strip pages and vignettes for the magazine Judy or the London Serio-Comic Journal and spin-off compilations, focusing on the humour, attitudes, urbanity and poverty of the types of people she knew. Her masterstroke was the development of the character Ally Sloper, a ne’er do well London ‘everyman’. In her hands, Sloper was to become the comedy icon of his age.

The exhibition and The Marie Duval Archive have been produced by the University of Chester and Central Saint Martins, in partnership with Guildhall Library and with the support of the British Library and the London Library, made possible by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK.

Both exhibitions are due to run until early 2021.

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