Secret Staircase


A collaboration between artist Caroline Isgar and writer Michèle Roberts, inspired by objects in the Foundling Museum collection, exploring mother/child separation.


Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 1

The exhibition/book text, initially inspired by the tokens at the Foundling Museum (identifying tags, rings, plaques, coins, etc, left with the foundlings by their mothers) explores the abandonment, loss and grief felt by an adult daughter as her mother goes through the process of dying. Taking the form of an inventory of items connected with the mother, such as a hairbrush or a button box, which provoke childhood memories, the text counterposes, alongside the mother and daughter’s direct I-you speech, a sequence of rewritten nursery rhymes, which in their poetic language utter all that the daughter dares not openly say.

Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 2 Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 3 Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 4 Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 5

These images have been printed as an unusually large-scale woodcut (1 x 3 metres). The form of the woodcut block itself is a table, inspired by the large elm table at the Foundling Museum originally used as a refectory table. The text has been printed on a paper sheet identical in size to that used to print the woodcut. Text and print have also been bound into a limited edition artist’s book. The table, the woodcut print, the print of the text, and the artist’s book together form an installation piece, exhibited alongside documentation of the making of the work in terms of ideas and process. Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 6

Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 6

Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 6

Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 6

The research involved in cutting this large scale woodblock has been made in collaboration with Roger Clarke, in the sculpture department at Bath Spa University and Tom Lomax, in the sculpture department, at the Slade School of Fine Art UCL. The woodcut has been printed at the Royal Academy Schools in the printmaking department with the assistance of Jason Oliver and Barton Hargreaves. With special thanks to Professor Maurice Cockrill RA, Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools and to all the staff and students.

Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 6

Screen Print - Book -  'A Seven-Day' (2005) - 6