Hang of a selection of paintings and drawing by three artists on a wall

Kathleen Walne – Obscure Secure at Towner Eastbourne

This project develops our exploration of twentieth century women artists in collections as artist researchers from a radical position of care.

The project looks at the work of artist Kathleen Walne (1915-2011). Her work is included in the Towner Collection and was part of their exhibitions ‘A Life in Art: Lucy Wertheim’ and ‘Reuniting the Twenties Group’, 11 June to 25 September 2022.

We fell in love with Walne’s work at Christchurch Mansion (Ipswich) back in 2014. Since 2017 we have been researching Kathleen’s work, we have met with her family and catalogued her work and archive material.

Charcoal drawing from the 1930s of a woman sitting on the floor drawing

Kathleen Walne, Woman drawing, charcoal on paper, 1936, 36x27cm

The project included a residency at Towner Eastbourne during the Wertheim exhibitions to share our research processes and invite visitors to become active researchers. We were open to the public throughout our residency week.

In the residency studio we displayed Kathleen’s archive material, and curated a hang of her work alongside our own. We also included a reference library and a series of questions inviting visitors’ contributions. The residency gave us a platform to raise the issues of visibility of women artists in collections, with our focus on Kathleen.

Residency studio installation, questions wall

Residency studio installation

Following the residency we held a discussion event with Towner focussing on issues around gender imbalance and the underrepresentation of women artists in collections. At the event we launched our new publication.

The publication Listening to Kathleen Walne, is a culmination of our work to date on Kathleen Walne.

Funded by Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants

Artists / Collaborators

Rebecca Birrell

Rebecca Birrell is Curator of 19th and 20th Century Paintings and Drawings at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. Her first book, This Dark Country: Women Artists, Still Life and Intimacy in the Early Twentieth Century, is a blend of collective biography and art criticism, published by Bloomsbury in August 2021.

Rebecca Birrell instagram

Natalie Bradbury

Natalie Bradbury is a writer and researcher based in Greater Manchester. She completed a PhD at the University of Central Lancashire in 2018, entitled ‘Pictures for Schools: Art, Education and Reconstruction in Post-war Britain’. This focused on a series of exhibitions organised by the painter and educationalist Nan Youngman.

Natalie Bradbury

Lauren Craig

Lauren Craig is a London-based cultural futurist, artist, curator, full- spectrum doula, and celebrant. She is a former member of collectives Rita Keegan Archive Project (RKAP) and ‘X Marks the Spot’. She has founded and directed six creative organisations with a background in ethical, social and environmental entrepreneurship and reproductive justice.

Lauren Craig - British Art Network

Martha Fleming

Martha Fleming is a researcher and museum professional with a special interest in the intersections between history of collections, history of science and global histories. She has held research, teaching and leadership roles in both collecting institutions and university contexts in the UK, Germany and Denmark.

Martha Fleming

Rebecca Fortnum

Rebecca Fortnum is Professor of Fine Art and Head of School of Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art. She is currently Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute and Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Painting.

Rebecca Fortnum

Jennifer Higgie

Jennifer Higgie is an Australian writer who lives in London. Author of The Mirror and the Palette: 500 Years of Women’s Self-Portraits. She is currently working on various scripts; her new book, The Other Side: A Journey into Women, Art and the Spirit World will be published 2023. She is the presenter of Bow Down, a podcast about women in art history.

Jennifer Higgie

Harriet Loffler

Harriet Loffler is the Curator of The Women’s Art Collection at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. Prior to joining the College, Harriet was the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery from 2009-2018. In her role she led on all the contemporary exhibitions and public programming, partnership projects as well as the development of the modern and contemporary collection.

The Women's Art Collection

Gina Nembhard

Gina Nembhard is a practitioner and assistant to artists. She initially trained in mixed media textiles. As a member of a collective of women practitioners called ‘X Marks the Spot’ which initially formed in residency at Studio Voltaire, Gina was exposed to working with artist’s archives. This link continues today with the Rita Keegan Archive Project (RKAP), a social history curatorial collective.

Gina Nembhard instagram

Emma Roodhouse

Emma Roodhouse is Art Collections & Learning Curator at Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service and freelance researcher. Emma has curated exhibitions on John Constable, Rodin’s The Kiss, Hairstyles in Art, Ed Sheeran, 500 years of surgery, Explosives, East Anglian printmaking and Children’s Book Illustrators.

Emma Roodhouse - British Art Network

Renee Vaughan Sutherland

Renee Vaughan Sutherland is an artist, creative director and lecturer living and working in Essex. Her creative practice explores the body and landscape and the potential of inhabiting bodies being carriers of narratives. She has exhibited and screened film work in the UK and Europe.

Renee Vaughan Sutherland

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor is the Collections and Exhibitions Curator at Towner Eastbourne, where she curates exhibitions with a focus on the artists in the Towner Collection. She researched and curated Towner's 2022 summer exhibition A Life in Art: Lucy Wertheim, Patron, Collector, Gallerist and Reuniting the Twenties Group.

Karen Taylor - Art UK


We have worked with Kathleen Walne’s friends and family and public collections to understand and build a picture of Kathleen’s creative life both for our research and to share.

Find out more information about Kathleen Walne research

Obscure Secure Residency at Towner Eastbourne

A residency during the Wertheim exhibitions, A Life in Art: Lucy Wertheim and Reuniting the Twenties Group (11 June to 25 September 2022), encouraging visitors to become active researchers. The artists’ cataloguing and archiving processes focus on Kathleen Walne (1915-2011) as fellow painters from a position of care. Kathleen, who was represented by Lucy Wertheim as a young artist, also cared for her in old age.

table covered in reference books around the themes of women artists

Obscure Secure reference library

Free drop-in TOWNER EASTBOURNE website

Studio One: Tuesday 12 - Sunday 17 July, 2022
TOWNER EASTBOURNE, Devonshire Park, College Rd, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ

Lucy's Women: Artists' Research Workshop

Open to all artists, an invitation to work with Obscure Secure to research women artists in the Wertheim exhibitions. Following an introduction to a selection of works in the exhibition with curator Karen Taylor, Hayley Field and Jacqueline Utley share their working process as practice-based artist researchers. Asking key questions around the visibility of women artists and collectively exploring themes that arise from researching the lives of some of the women artists featured in the exhibitions. Including the opportunity to look at a selection of archive material and reflection on practice.

people sitting around a table covered

Exploring archive material together


Studio One: Wednesday 13 July, 2022, 10am to 4pm

Adventure in Art Book Group

Re-printed for the first time since it was originally published in 1947, an opportunity to explore Lucy Wertheim’s memoir Adventure in Art, with Obscure Secure artists Hayley Field and Jacqueline Utley and curator Karen Taylor. Connecting with Obscure Secure research interests.

glass cabinet display with a book

Wertheim exhibition display, including an original copy of Adventure in Art published in 1947


Studio One: Thursday 14 July 2022, 11am to 1pm
Online: Thursday 1 September, 2022, 6pm to 8pm

Addressing the Absences: Discussion Day

A discussion event addressing the gender imbalance in collections and archives, contributing to wider conversation and action.

Women and non-binary artists are represented in public collections, but in small proportion and their stories often remain hidden. Much work is being done to redress underrepresentation in collections. Bringing together artists, curators, art historians, and interested groups and individuals for a day of presentations and open discussion. A welcoming space to explore gender imbalance from a range of perspectives, focusing on the visibility of women artists in public collections and archives.

Contributors include: Rebecca Birrell, Curator and author of This Dark Country; Natalie Bradbury, writer and researcher; Lauren Craig and Gina Nembhard, X Marks the Spot and Rita Keegan Archive Project artists; Harriet Loffler, Curator of The Women’s Art Collection; Obscure Secure artists Hayley Field and Jacqueline Utley; Karen Taylor, Curator of the Wertheim exhibitions; Renee Vaughan Sutherland, artist.

seated row of women in front of a large screen

Panel discussion

Including the launch of Obscure Secure’s publication Listening to Kathleen Walne, including contributions from Jennifer Higgie, Rebecca Fortnum, Emma Roodhouse and Karen Taylor.

£14, concession £10
(including entry to exhibitions and Obscure Secure publication)
Towner Eastbourne website

Auditorium: Wednesday 21 September, 2022, 10am to 4pm


Addressing the Absences: Discussion Day Programme

Wednesday 21 September 2022 Download PDF

Listening to Kathleen Walne

Obscure Secure Download PDF