Home Is Where: Sean Lynch

Home Is Where is a festive archive project exploring home and belonging. This post is by Jimi, Modern Art Oxford’s Retail Assistant and volunteer, who is also studying for an MA in Publishing.

Sometimes, Home Is Where our history is carved in stone.

Some things have changed in the years since Oxford became my home over a decade ago, but one constant has been the stone faces and creatures peering out from the walls and door frames of much of the city centre. Sean Lynch’s 2014 exhibition at the gallery, A Blow-by-Blow Account of Stonecarving in Oxford, brought this aspect of the city into the gallery itself. 

Lynch’s exhibition was partly based on his research into James and John O’Shea, Irish brothers who came to Oxford in the mid-19th Century to produce a series of unique and elaborate carvings in the city. Their carvings of monkeys into the facade of the university’s Natural History Museum drew anger at the time for their implied reference to Darwin’s then-contentious theory of evolution, and their carvings of parrots and owls were taken by the university administration as mockery. 

Lynch juxtaposed the historical artefacts and objects from Oxford’s museums with ephemera from Favorite Chicken, a fast food restaurant which now stands on the grounds of a historical early museum in London. The contrast, for me, between the sense of timelessness of the stonecarving and the ultra-contemporaneity of the chicken shop raises an Ozymandian spectre.

But Oxford, our ancient home, is not yet sinking into the sand. Rather, it is constantly being shaped and reshaped simultaneously by faster processes that change the city day by day and slower processes beyond the timescale of our lives. 

Home Is Where is our second festive archive project created by volunteers and front of house staff. Designed to inspire hope and positive change for the times ahead, this year’s theme focuses on home and belonging.