British School at Athensveryday objects akin to the dice, coins and shells found in the Ancient Athenian Agora Museum.

Personal Narratives - Annabel Dover - Artist in Focus - March 2019

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Pericles (circa 495-429 BCE)


During her residency at the British School at Athens, the artist Annabel Dover viewed the city through the prism of personal narratives. When she was thirteen, her father already gone, her mother left home to live in Athens, and never returned. Her research at the British School at Athens focused on the Finlay Museum whilst retracing her mother's steps in Athens, from her letters; making drawings, paintings and three-dimensional objects that responded to the discarded human traces she found in the city.

The designer Phillipe Stark remarked that to understand a city you must first look in its rubbish bins. In a series of three-dimensional works, Dover utilised the crumbs of gold leaf she found outside the Hotel des Anglais, Syntagma Square, leftover by the hotel’s recent ironwork gilding. She made everyday objects akin to the dice, coins and shells found in the Ancient Athenian Agora Museum, out of jesmonite and then gilded them with the found gold leaf and scattered these in the Ancient Agora to photograph them in situ.
Dover made watercolours that were taking their glittering translucent appearance from a small rock she found in the Ancient Agora. A jeweller in the Plaka, skilled in the art of Lapis Lazuli carving, ground it down for her. She added the pigment to gum Arabic, from the Acacia Senegal tree, from the Sudan. The Ancient Agora seemed so alive with tortoises, hoopoes, swallows and plants that she wanted some of this organic life to become part of her manuscript of Athens. These scraps of the recent past were then woven together to form a new account.
Her main research whilst at the British School at Athens, engaged with the school's research theme of ‘building the archive’. Dover’s PhD examination focused on presenting an alternative taxonomy. Her study of the early photographer Anna Atkins looked at the specimens she presented less as conclusive evidence, more reflecting on them as a starting point, exploring her biography. Whilst in Athens, she recorded accidental artefacts left behind by the people who catalogued the Finlay Museum; items such as an airmail envelope with notes on, or discarded pieces of paper with the inventory numbers of pottery sherds in the collection. Dover created paintings and drawings of these artefacts alongside the displayed objects of the Finlay Museum and presented these works in a loose-leaf album.
In addition, Dover volunteered at City Plaza Hotel, a hotel that went bankrupt in the crash of 2007, now a refugee hostel. She photographed the belongings of these new residents: bags of earth kept as physical reminders of home, fruits picked from trees in the streets that sustained them, cigar ends that belonged to the rich, that the men dreamt of one day being again.  From their new lives in Greece, there were good luck charms given to them by local people who they passed on their journey, and Dover too added to their belongings with sweet smelling petals with which to perfume the clothes of the women. 
The time at the British School of Athens provided Annabel Dover with an overwhelming amount of material that will continue to influence her work in the future. She would particularly like to focus on the wildlife of the Ancient Agora site. She has used humane moth traps in the past and is interested in documenting the moths of the Ancient Athenian Agora, as a metaphor for the life of the city returning after dark. Other areas of research she encountered at the British School of Athens and is interested exploring are: archeological squeezes and the indexical parallels they have with the cyanotype, the works of Piet de Jong and Alice Lidsell’s botanical notebook who was resident at the British School of Athens, 1930 - 1931 and whose watercolours are now housed by Newnham College, Cambridge.

Video: Courtesy and ©Annabel Dover, Renée Pfister, Ben Sound, New Dawn (music),,  with the assistance of Galina Matveeva, 2019. All rights reserved.

Newsletter: Courtesy and ©Annabel Dover and Renée Pfister 2019. All rights reserved.


 For further information about Annabel Dover's work contact  [email protected]



Annabel Dover, City Plaza III,  2017,  C-type print, H594 mm x W841 mm.

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