The Art of Empty Spaces – live art online dialogue

Coventry Artspace’s ‘The Art of Empty Spaces’ live art online conversation kicked off last night. Artist, lecturer and Artspace trustee John Hammersley is leading a discussion on the topic of space and it’s preoccupation for artists, every evening 8-9pm until Thursday 18th October. This is part of the innovative The Art of Coventry Programme – a professional development programme of trainings and events.

See how you can join the conversation here.

John welcomed Alan Denyer, property developer and the man behind the CET Building (the old Coventry Telegraph Building) as the special guest. Last night’s conversation reflected on the legacy of the CET, and how it’s closure has highlighted the issue of space as a concern for both artists and arts organisations in the city.

Lots of interesting points were made including how certain artworks exhibited in unconventional settings enable viewers to understand art in a completely different context than the gallery settings they were initially created for. Sam Belinfante’s “Accordian” installation is a perfect example.

Image by Tara Rutledge.

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The CET has encouraged artists to consider what alternative spaces lie within the city that could receive artworks. You can join in and follow the conversation here, and see what else was discussed.

Here’s a cracking video created by Coventry-based artists Alan Van Wijgerden and Mary Courtney as a wonderful tribute to the CET – this also was featured in the Spon Spun Festival Arts Trail back in September:

We were sad to see it close it’s doors back in June, but intrigued and excited about the legacy it has left. We’re looking forward to continuing with the The Art of Empty Spaces discussion, each evening until the 18th Oct, and hearing from forthcoming guests including Executive Director of Axisweb Mark Smith, Marsha Bradfield of University of the Arts London, artist Simon Pope, and Dr Andy Webster of Coventry University.

#ArtofEmptySpaces

#TheArtofCoventry

 

 

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Coventry Biennial 2019 Update

Craig Ashley Advisory Board Introduction

On the evening of the 6th September, the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum was jam-packed with art enthusiasts from across the country, for the big reveal of the 2019 Coventry Biennial. An air of excitement preceded the evening, which saw the launch Coventry Biennial’s fresh new branding, followed by updates on what’s in store for next year’s event, including the dates that the festival will run for: 4th October – 24th November 2019.

The team reflected on the inaugural Biennial themed around – ‘The Future’ – which presented an opportunity for artists and audiences alike to think about the possible shapes, sizes and perspectives of Coventry’s future.

Director, Ryan Hughes shared some interesting stats reflecting the successes of last year’s event:

  • Nearly a third of the attendees had never visited Coventry before
  • Nearly half of the attendees were under the age of 24
  • All of the participating artists felt that the Biennial had a positive impact on their creative practice.

Paul Newman in The Future

Ryan then revealed the overarching theme for next year’s event – ‘The Twin’ – an exploration of ideas around duality and place.

We’ve since spoken to Ryan, and he’s delved into this concept a little more for us: “Whilst evaluating the inaugural Coventry Biennial, which of course focused around ideas of – ‘The Future’ – we concluded that there is no possible singular solution, some artists approached that theme positively, others negatively. However we tried to consider the exhibitions we’d made, there was always some kind of duality at play. It became so prominent that we began to explore what dualities might mean in Coventry and within contemporary practices, this very quickly led us to look at Coventry’s twin cities and with the 75th Volgograd and 60th Dresden anniversaries in 2019 The Twin began to feel really substantial and engaging.”

For artists interested in opportunities to be involved in next year’s event, the team have stated they will not be running open calls for participation in their exhibitions. They feel it is far more useful for all concerned if their team and local artists can build meaningful, personal relationships which will give them a good idea of artist’s abilities and interests and where artists have a clear understanding of how the Biennial can support them.

Ryan has encouraged artists from across the city to invite him and the rest of the Biennial team to their studios or exhibitions and to attend as many of their events as possible. It’s also worth keeping an eye on all of their social media channels and website  as there will likely be workshops and other participatory moments which can be applied for there.

During the event on the 6th, Ryan and his team also launched their most recent Kickstarter Campaign to help raise fund for next year’s Biennial. They are encouraging everyone to get involved and show their support if they are in a position to do so. Ryan has updated us on what the raised funds will go towards:

“If we are successful in securing these funds through our current Kickstarter Campaign we will commission a series of new artworks by artists who live or work in Coventry and Warwickshire, ensuring that local artists are included in the biennial. When we look at other Art Biennials around the UK and internationally, it’s fairly rare to see artists from those locales being included so we feel passionately that we can counter that trend.”

People can contribute anything from £1 to £500 for a range of rewards, all of which have been generously supplied by artists and art organisations. Several rewards have already sold out, for example, a one of a kind embroidery by Stewart Easton was snapped up within hours of launching the campaign but there are loads of other really exciting rewards including knitted scarfs for the politically active by Freee Art Collective and sculptures by Juneau Projects.

Ryan says his personal favourite reward has been made by Coventry based artist Adele Mary Reed, she has offered a trio of disposable camera’s, ready to be developed, which are filled with totally unique black and white photos of the city! The campaign can be found at: http://kck.st/2NPRm4Q .

Image by Mariya Mileva.

Adele Mary Reed Shooting Disposable Cameras

The Biennial have until the 6th of October to raise £1,500, and anyone who donates £5 or more will automatically be listed as a supporter for next year’s event on their website. Not only would you be supporting the Coventry Biennial – you’d be supporting Coventry’s artists.

Exhibition Review – Rentrayage by Michelle Englefield

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Thursday evening saw the opening of Coventry artist Michelle Englefield’s solo show “Rentrayage” at Artspace Arcadia Gallery, following her year-long residency at Coventry Artspace. Michelle spent her studio time working towards this final exhibition, which comprised of a series of installations providing an autobiographical reflection of her own personal experiences of trauma.

In her artist statement, Michelle bravely shared her shocking story, of a string of harrowing events, which she has encountered throughout her life, which brought her to where she is today.

Michelle discovered refuge through creativity. Her art has allowed her to find a voice, which had been silenced for so long. She wants her work to give strength to others in the same way in which it has empowered her.

Rentrayage features a series of installations which filled the space in a manner which gave the viewer no option but to engage with each piece – each work becoming an obstacle in their path. The symbolism behind Michelle’s use of material and medium sensitively reflect the vulnerability of one who has experienced trauma, followed by steady growth and repair.

Layers of semi-transparent materials were overlapped – materials such as greaseproof paper, and dust sheets – typically used as forms of protection. Each object interlaced with twine, thread and wool; materials traditionally used to bind, repair and mend.

Each installation was suspended from the ceiling and featured strings of red wool flowing down each piece, a metaphor for veins supplying oxygen – vital for survival. Circular shapes were repeated throughout each installation, a symbol of family, marriage and the womb, whilst other areas had been torn and then stitched back together.

Each delicate installation gave a feel of fragility, so as a viewer you experience a sense of anxiety when passing through the space – fearful of causing damage to the work.

The ambient lighting in the room added atmosphere to the installations, as light created differing effects when shining through the overlapping opaque structures, casting both striking and delicate shadows around the room.

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Michelle has been incredibly strong to open up and share her story of trauma followed by personal growth and repair. This show reveals how Michelle’s artistic practice has ignited an admirable strength and resilience within her. This is incredibly moving to experience when viewing Rentrayage.

The exhibition will run until the 6th September 10am – 1:30pm (closed Sundays and Mondays). On Thursday 30th  5:30-7:30pm at Artspace Artcadia Gallery, she will be hosting a panel discussion surrounding the topics of art, therapy and value.

Exciting news! The Festival of the Imagineers will be back this September

Collectif Coin - Child Hood. Photo by Tara Rutledge

What an incredible event they have in store!

2018 will see the fifth edition of this award-winning festival which will return 17th-22nd September. The Festival of Imagineers celebrates work created at the intersection of art, design and engineering and this year focuses on themes of play and connectivity.
We’ll get to experience a large-scale balloon and sound installation, wonder at 1000 hoops suspended in the Cathedral, contribute our ideas to Imagineer’s next large-scale project, board a custom-converted double decker bus which turns the whole city into a stage and play the streets in a Festival Finale that will invite everyone to come and play.
The week will start with talks, conferences and exhibitions which will go behind the scenes into the creative process in venues from Daimler, Imagineer’s creative space, to spaces including The Herbert and Coventry Cathedral covering everything from art and education to Coventry’s plans as a cycle city.
We can’t wait!
Stay tuned to www.festivalofimagineers.co.uk for all the latest news and updates.

Goodbye CET – thank you for the memories

So the time has come for us to say our sad goodbye to the CET Building. With over 20,000 visitors in the past year, this pop-up cultural hub will leave a lasting legacy in the city. We’re gutted to see it go, but want to share some of our fondest memories of exhibitions we’ve visited there.

The inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art – the biggest art festival the city has ever scene – the CET Building made the perfect venue for the Biennial’s central exhibition.

This was our first visit to the CET, since it re-opened it’s doors. It was wonderful exploring the building in it’s stripped-back state, each artwork responding to it’s setting and reacting to the exhibition theme of “The Future”.

Here’s our round-up of the inaugural Biennial last year.

Coventry-based artist, researcher and photographer Jonny Bark’s “Inhabiting Edgelands” became a dominant installation in the press hall, which was a result of the artists journey of exploration of these derelict, transitional areas of land in urban landscapes.

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The CET Building held the 2018 Coventry University Annual Drawing Prize, which is open to all students and staff both past and present, across all faculties and disciplines. Since the first competition in 2010 the Drawing Prize has received wider recognition and prestige over the years with entrants from locally based artists to ex-students as far as London.

 

This year’s show certainly did not disappoint and viewers got to vote on who you felt deserved to win. The 2018 winner was Michala Gyetvai with this oil pastel drawing titled “Threads”.

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The Exposure Photography Festival of work by 2nd year BA Photography students at Coventry University was another huge and impressive event. The festival encompassed six exhibitions exploring themes of space and place, community participation, observation of society, the use of colour, an exploration of senses and personal relationships. What a great showcase of the level of talent that is coming from the university.

We loved viewing the highlights of the 2017 Spon Spun festival, and reminiscing the work we explored when we visited the art trail last year. Some took on a whole new dimension in the setting of the building, particularly this beautiful instillation by Min-Kyung Kim “Rain of Memory”, lit up to create overlapping shadows against the back wall.

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The CET hosted the preview of the Urban Culture Street Art Festival, which took place across the city on 9th – 10th June. We were gutted to miss the event, but loved getting along to see all the impressive urban art, which then decorated the walls of the derelict basement room following the preview event.

Award winning artist Sam Belinfante was a visiting artist for “The Art of Coventry” Programme, ran by Coventry Artspace. His famous audio/visual installation “Accordian” was installed in the atmospheric press hall, which lent itself perfectly to this work of art. Echoing sounds came out of the darkness, while the two films of the accordion player rolled simultaneously in their two locations, viewable through either side of the screens.

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We especially loved viewing John Yeadon’s solo show “What’s the meaning of this?” a retrospective view of paintings he produced in the 1980s alongside his more recent work. We interviewed him prior to it’s opening.

We were intrigued at how his paintings deemed shocking and controversial in the 1980s would be received again in the city 34 years later. Yeadon encouraged the viewer to reflect on political, ideological, social and economic changes over the past three decades. People travelled from across the UK to visit this outstanding show of grotesque-realist paintings from earlier years in stark contrast to landscape paintings from his more recent Englandia series, displayed alongside images of nuclear power stations.

 

We have so many happy memories from the past year, and are sad to see it go, but the emergence of this pop-up space created such a buzz for the city’s visual arts scene. It has supported and nurtured Coventry’s grass roots talent and encouraged artists to explore and engage with spaces outside traditional gallery venues. May it’s legacy live on as the artists of Coventry continue to push boundaries in discovering unusual exhibition spaces.

Farewell CET and thank you for the memories!

 

Behind-the-scenes action from the Coventry Arts Trail

Curating Coventry are delighted to welcome our first guest bloggers; Photographer John Whitmore (images) and Glass Maker Amanda Glanville (words) who are both opening their studios as part of the Coventry Arts Trail 16 June – 1 JulyThey’ve given us a wonderful account of what’s been happening behind-the-scenes on the run up to the event:

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If you’ve ever wondered what an artist’s studio or workspace looks like, whether a painter works in an ordered calm, or a textile maker in a colourful chaos now is your chance to find out.

From 16 June – 1 July, the artists from Coventry Arts Trail invite you in to meet them in their homes and workspaces to see how and where they make art. This is part of Warwickshire Open Studios, the county’s biggest free annual visual arts event.

JohnWhitmore_05John Whitmore, a photographer using traditional film techniques, and based in Binley Woods has documented some of the artists you’ll meet as part of the trail (including himself!) to give you a taste of the very different ways they work and their working environments.

From contemporary workspaces to quirky sheds, a homely room in a traditional Victorian villa to a bright corner in an Edwardian terrace attic, The Coventry Arts Trail artists have one thing in common with all artists – they like to surround themselves with intriguing tools and equipment.

 

TheoWright_02You’ll see lots of these when you visit the Arts Trail, along with art big and small (most of it for sale), work in progress, sketchbooks, and some of the artists will be giving demonstrations too – don’t miss the working loom in Earlsdon and the lamp work glass demonstrations in Chapelfields. At all the addresses there is the warm welcome you would expect with Open Studios – often with cake and tea too.

It’s a friendly and approachable way of seeing art and a must for anyone who has been put off visiting a art gallery in the past.

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Full details of all the Coventry Arts Trail artists are on the Warwickshire Open Studios website where you can search who is open when by area and times they are open. Coventry Arts Trail has its own Facebook page where you can find out more. Please note, not all artists are open all of the time.

Or you can use the Warwickshire Open Studios Brochure or Coventry Arts Trail leaflet which are widely available.

Come and see what we’ve all been working on!

Andy Farr

A painter exhibiting from his city centre studio an affecting and thoughtful body of work which interprets true stories of post traumatic stress
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/andy-farr

Emma O’Brien

Textile Artist and illustrator. Well known as the creator of ‘Naughty Monsters’ and co-author of children’s picture books. Emma’s delicious vegan cakes will be on offer during Open Studios.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/emma-obrien

Amanda Glanville

Maker of tiny glass stuff. Quirky, colourful and fun miniature objects for house and garden. Ongoing demonstrations in The Red Shed.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/amanda-glanville

Adam Tucker

Intricate detail of England’s natural landscapes captured in paint
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/adam-tucker

Katie O

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Pencil and watercolour artist capturing in great detail the essence of wildlife. Showing as part of a group exhibition with four other artists at University Hospital Walsgrave. Please note this is an unmanned exhibition.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/katie-o

Sarah Howarth

New to Coventry Arts Trail, a mixed media artist who specialises in decorative mirrors.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/sarah-howarth

Theo Wright

Fine detail of intricately loom woven textiles. Demonstrations on full sized loom.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/theo-wright

Aleks Dille/Katharine Hopley

Designer / Makers of fine jewellery in all precious metals with a particular specialism in gemstones.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/aleks-dille 

Adam Hussain

Distinctive contemporary kiln fused glass as large installation pieces and smaller domestic bowls and plates. Adam offers workshops in beginners fused glass techniques.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/adam-hussain

John Whitmore 

Landscape, townscape and portrait photography using traditional camera techniques (non digital) and hand printing. Weds during Open Studios – pre bookable in depth demonstrations at his Binley Woods studio.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/john-whitmore

There are more artists to discover on the Coventry Arts Trail – not all of them were available for photographs. Discover the full list of places to visit here.

 

You can follow this blog post authors on the following:
John Whitmore
Facebook: @thedarkshed
Twitter: @thedarkshed
Instagram: @thedarkshed
https://johnwhitmore.gallery

Amanda Glanville
Facebook: @TheEarringCafe
Instagram: @theearringcafe
www.earringcafe.co.uk

Follow “The Van Trip” Live Art Journey – From East to West with Love

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Thursday the 7th June, we will witness an open top truck loaded with a tonne of bread and salt, depart from Whitley Depot, Coventry on a 1072 mile journey to Łódź, Poland, as part of a live art, transient performance by Coventry-based contemporary artists Rob Hamp and Emilia Moniszko.

The Van Trip is Phase 2 of From East to West With Love – a project which aims to establish unity, dialogue and connections between Eastern and Western Europeans.

You can follow this outreaching trip live via their social media channels, where Coventry-based film-maker Ivan Petkov will provide real-time documentation of the journey.

To put the concept of the Van Trip in better context, here’s an insight into the history of From East to West with Love:

Phase One – The Visitor was a programme of events, an exhibition, public discussions and an artist residency, that took place in September-November 2016 in Coventry, and Łódź, Poland.  The events encouraged arts professionals, academics and the local cultural community to connect and engage with each other whilst identifying and questioning cultural changes. One of Poland’s most radical artists Pawel Hajncel was their artist in residence. He created a performance titled “‘Patriotism for Sale’ in which he addressed the attitudes of migrants who fled their home countries in pursuit of sustainable future.

The objectives of From East to West with Love are to:

  • Place Coventry as a centre for experimental contemporary arts in Britain, free from discrimination resulting from today’s political climate
  • Establish communications between European artists, cultural agents and the general public in order to contribute to a positive image of Europe
  • Attract a diverse range of audiences from different backgrounds in order to release the segregation of the migrant community
  • Create personal development opportunities in curation, communication and event coordination positions
  • Document all elements of the project, to provide material to contribute towards Coventry’s future vision
  • Establish strong relationships between cultural agents and arts facilitators in Coventry and Łódź, in order to create culturally twinned cities.

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SO back to Phase 2 – The Van Trip

Why transport a tonne of bread and salt?

In Poland bread and salt are a symbol of hospitality – a way of welcoming people. Bread symbolises the wish that the recipient will live in abundance, while salt is a reminder of the difficulties that we learn to overcome in life.

Łódź is geographically situated in the centre of Poland, as Coventry is to England. Like Coventry, it is a city with a long-standing industrial history – a connection that is significant to the project, and perfect grounds for twinning the two cities.

Check out this video by the artists to give you more of an insight:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgCqYFEgE2g

Who knows what experiences, interactions and events they will encounter as we follow this outbound journey, crossing borders, boundaries and undoing the framework of state lines.

Stay tuned to their Social Media Channels to find out, and experience The Van Trip with them:

Facebook: @fetwwl

Twitter: @fetwwl

Instagram: @fromeasttowestwithlove

And follow the hashtag #FETWWL

Join their live departure from Coventry on Thursday 7th June via their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/382034575626228/

Watch the arrival approximately two days later at the Punkt Odbioru Sztuki, a Łódź based art gallery where it will then be unloaded:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1637173016403029/

Find out more on the website http://fetwwl.com/

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Artist Spotlight: John Yeadon

John Y in Studio 2018

Image by Marta Kochanek Photography

Renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon will be opening his latest solo show at the CET Building on 18th May. This will feature a retrospective view of paintings produced in the 1980s, which were deemed shocking and controversial at the time, alongside a collection of his more recent work.

We’ve interviewed John to find out more about what we can expect from this forthcoming show:

For those unfamiliar with your work, sum up how you would describe yourself as an artist.

I don’t bother or need to describe myself as an artist, I think that’s for others to do, but I’m happy to talk about the work, which is eclectic. I do, and have done different things at different times in my life and I have reinvented myself a number of times. Essentially I am a painter/printmaker but have explored a number of different territories, as a student at Hornsey and the RCA I was interested in archetypes significantly the Mandala, then in the 70s I was involved in making large silk screen anti-fascist banners, what I regarded as street art, portable paintings, later, photography and I spent a decade working digitally before I retired after 30 years teaching Fine Art at Coventry University (Lanchester Poly, as was) and returned to painting.

I have never had any commercial success, never involved myself in the gallery system or art market. I think the market and the ‘silly money’ has harmed art dramatically. When I left the Royal College of Art the art market hardly existed, there was Bond Street and Cork Street and that was about it, there weren’t any collectors of contemporary art in Britain. Unlike the YBAs (Thatcher’s children) I come from a generation who were critical of the capitalist gallery system. Since the 70s this market has grown immeasurably. But today’s vast art market is not anymore democratic than the elitist small art market of the 60s and 70s, and like pluralism, the market aspires to mediocrity. I have taught all my life, I used to regard teaching in Higher Education as state patronage of the artist, I don’t think like this now, it is not the case today. Teaching has given me the freedom to do whatever I wished to do no matter how unpopular the work might be and not having to pander to a gallery as to what sells. Artists can end on a treadmill, repeating themselves and if successful, they become play things of the rich. Why would you wish to sell a painting to someone who would not even invite you to dinner! I prefer my freedom. Freedom to please yourself is also one of the advantages of being ignored. Even though I have not been involved in the commercial art world I have had over 30 one person exhibitions throughout Britain and abroad, mostly curated and organised by myself. It’s important to get the work ‘out there’.

Others have described my work as: pornographic, transgressive, humorous, political, oppositional, resistance, disquieting, difficult, obsessive, unfashionable and mostly going against the grain. It’s not artists who make up definitions and descriptions of themselves or their work, but critics, journalists and curators. All definitions are limiting. It’s also like asking an Impressionist to explain Impressionism, well, the artist never invented the term or the category!

“What do you mean by Impressionism?” Might be the artists reply.

The 1980s work was categorised as Grotesque Realism or Theatrical Realism.

Obviously there are some descriptions I like and others I don’t. Grotesque Realism was good for me as I developed a great interest in Rabelais, Bakhtin, the Medieval Carnival and the satire of Jonathan Swift. I like the over the top, the larger than life, of the grotesque, where ‘more is more’. For me, Carnival is the history of the ‘popular culture’, a peoples culture. An extra political aspect of the world of human relations which Bakhtin described as a ‘second world…a second life outside officialdom’.

I like to exploit contradictions, paradox and ambivalence and challenge preconceptions. I once said that “paradox was the dialectic of life”, in a slightly more profound moment. My paintings are also somewhere in between autobiography and fiction, but that’s probably true about most art.

At Coventry University I ran an Art History/Liberal Studies Course on Art and Sexuality, (I was going to call it Querys, but was never sure how to spell that, maybe ‘Queeries’). Erotic art was something I was personally interested in, I hoped it wasn’t too limited a topic and that there was enough substance there to make a seminar series. A novel subject but not mainstream nor everybody’s cup of tea. At the time I was using sexual references in my work as a metaphor, as part of an allegory.

During my preparation I realised that in every age whether that be Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, seventeenth century to the twentieth century, or from the art and creation myths of Egypt and Greece, and from the role of women in art, or sexual identity, whether it be from Leonardo to Picasso, Michelangelo to Duchamp, Artemisia Gentilischi to Jo Spence, Fragonard to Hockney, from Caravaggio to Francis Bacon, sexuality is the central theme. I realised that sexuality was fundamental to the history of art as it is to the narrative of our lives. Any art history that ignores sexuality is an incomplete art history and they do ignore it.

Identity is a important theme of art, but ‘branding’ seems important for artists these days. A simple ‘bite size’ description, a signature work. Make it simple. It’s all about the market. Why would you wish to pin yourself down. Actors would run a mile rather than being typecast. Keep them guessing, that’s what I say. There are many different Picassos. Why limit yourself. Like Rabelais, I am interested in lists and in the 2000s I produced a ‘Miscellany of words and phrases associated with food and eating’. Tellingly, ‘branding’ was next to dehorning and castration!

(See johnyeadon.com ART, Full English: Text).

Tell us what featured in your risqué “Dirty Tricks” exhibition at The Herbert in 1984, that we’ll get to see again in “What’s the Meaning of This?”

I don’t regard my work as risqué in any moral sense, I think the painting are highly moral. Essentially I am asking questions. Though I suppose one always risks something when painting. Shouldn’t all artists be taking risks, isn’t that what it’s all about, it’s the viewer who might see the work as risqué in a moral or ethical sense. This is not the artist’s job, self censorship has to be avoided. Some of my work took a kind of courage, non of it comes easy, one might even say it took bravery, even if only overcoming self doubt, but once painted it’s the gallery that has to show courage and the viewer to be up to being challenged. However I do accept that some of the work is provocative and transgressive but its important to expose contradictions and challenge taboos.

Artists need to be extremists, it’s no good upholding the status quo, that’s not a creative strategy. You’ll never do anything new doing that! 

There are a number of works from the Dirty Tricks exhibition in this show, probably many of the paintings that the Coventry Evening Telegraph regarded as ‘smut’ or pornographic. But I cannot speak for what others find offensive. I think racism is offensive, homophobia, nuclear weapons, war, famine, violence, unemployment these are the real obscenities and not images of peoples bodies. My recent work is on the nuclear industry and 50s technology, maybe some will find this offensive, they probably should, but they won’t. Their moral focus and outrage is on bodies and bits of bodies. Kinda makes you to want to offend them!

It’s there in the title for this show. ‘What’s the Meaning of This?’ As I anticipate angry disapproval at what I have done.

How dare I

Control Rooms, Sellafield 2018

What impact did your “Dirty Tricks” exhibition have on your career as an artist?

What impact? Very little. Maybe that’s a bit disingenuous, but nothing noticeable, it did not directly lead anywhere. Most exhibitions don’t, most exhibitions are cul de sacs. Though Dirty Trick was shown at the Pentonville Gallery in London later in the year but that was not a result of the Herbert exhibition, as I had organised this earlier. Sandy Moffat of Glasgow School of Art did say that it was the Dirty Tricks exhibition and the Transmission Gallery in Glasgow which formed my reputation. However my inclusion in the British Art Show of 1985 was not a result of the Herbert show, but at that time the British Art Show was a genuine attempt to represent what was going on in the country and the curators visited studios throughout Britain. In Coventry John Thompson visited the Canal Basin Warehouse where I had a studio.

Having said that, it was a real privilege to show at the Herbert Art Gallery, I had two galleries (one of them now has been turned into storage), you could never get such a space in London unless you were a high profile international artist. I think provincial galleries have an important role in supporting emerging and mid career artists. Sadly the Herbert seems unwilling to curate exhibitions for Coventry or Midland based artists these days, preferring to buy in national touring shows from London museums which I think is curatorially lazy.

How do your recent paintings compare to the ones that you created over 30 years ago?

The 1980s paintings are bigger. Don’t know much more at the moment. The exercise of the exhibition is to compare the works, so I don’t want to predict. I want to look when the show is up. I’d like to be surprised. But who knows.

By comparing disparate work one might find a common denominator, I suppose I would like to find that. A unifying theme, or some underlying idea, that would tell me what to do next, but if I did discover such a thing, a little too late me thinks.

Thinking about this question and looking back at the work there seems to be an interest in ‘monsters’, often as a reference to nuclear weapons as in The Monster from the Nevada Desert, or my transcriptions of Goya’s Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters to my recent paintings of the WITCH computer and Sellafields Nuclear Power Station. Monsters refer back to Grotesque Realism, so maybe I’m still a Grotesque Realist. And that thought is unexpected.

I am curious to see the response of the audience to these 80s paintings in this new context 30 years on. To see how they have survived and what they mean today, how the meanings have transformed. In the 1980s in the face of AIDS paranoia and ‘gay blame’ I painted some homosexual propaganda paintings though not specifically referencing AIDS. Too many other artist were doing work on AIDS. Things were changing in the art world, figurative painting was in the ascendancy and abstract minimalism was out, conceptual formalists and video artists were looking for content and AIDS provided them with a ready made socio-political cause. I did not wish to join the bandwagon. Attitudes to homosexuality have changed, who would have thought that a Tory Government would introduce ‘same sex marriage’. How we see ourselves has changed and how others regard same sex relationships has also by and large transformed. The gay community has changed, the LGBTQ community is more inclusive. But institutional homophobia in the 80s was visceral, ‘gay plague’ paranoia was tangible. For instance, I applied to take out a mortgage with the Woolwich in the late 80s and had to have an AIDS test as I answered ‘yes’ to a question on homosexuality on a questionnaire produced by the company. I got my mortgage after waiting three weeks for the test results, the doctor did not inform me I was HIV negative, they told the Woolwich. I presumed I was okay when they approved the mortgage. Even so, the Woolwich insisted I take out insurance on my house in case I drop down dead owing them money.

Much is different today but we are still a divided and polarised nation as we were in the 1980s. It will be interesting to see how the paintings on sexuality are received in a less hostile and homophobic climate.

What is the reasoning behind placing the more recent works against the paintings you created in the 1980s?

That’s what happens when you do a retrospective. Work gets place next to each other from different periods.

I thought 70 was a good excuse to do a retrospective, though I could not do a full retrospective; too much work, too diverse and not enough space unless they gave me the run of a museum large space and that’s never going to happen.

So I had to be selective on what I show. As I am back painting, to show early paintings made sense. This exhibition is the second of three retrospective shows I am having in these twelve months. I showed my 1982 painting of the Harwell Dekatron WITCH computer the ‘Portrait of a Dead WITCH’ alongside my 2017 second version of the computer – ‘It’s Alive’. Bringing these two paintings together at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, the home of the original WITCH. Consequently the exhibition was called The Three Witches and has run for over three months at the museum. I am also having an exhibition at the Lanchester Research Gallery in February 2019. Bringing together the Travails of Blind Biff Jelly series and my paintings of my grandmother’s and mother’s ventriloquist dummies. In fact Biff’s first outing was the exhibition ‘Unbelievable Stories’ at the University’s Lanchester Gallery in 1988.

Some of the 80s work was badly damaged in my custom built shed which I use for storage when the roof leaked over ten years ago. A lot of work went into a skip. This exhibition has forced me to dig out and repair six paintings that were damaged yet saved from the skip! So I feel it’s well worth showing them again.

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How do you expect the work that you created in the 80s will be received again in the same city 34 years later?

Who knows how it will be received, as I have said it will be interesting to see the reactions in this new context 30 years on. People do not do large figurative paintings these days so it will be interesting for me to see the response of younger artists to these works. 

For me the viewer is not a passive consumer of the art. Looking is an intentional act and requires imagination. Looking requires thinking. As Duchamp pointed out, the viewer finishes off the work.

They provide the meaning. The viewer brings their imagination, understanding and personal experience to the work. They also can bring baggage, ignorance and prejudice to the work.

As Grayson Perry said, “you cannot like everything”, but it was a noisy reactionary minority who reacted badly to the work in 1984. It will be interesting to see if the Coventry Telegraph review the show or even do another editorial. I sent them a press release. But they probably won’t unless they think there’s a scandal.

We shall see.

What’s next for you as an artist?

I the short term I’m showing some of my digital work at the Coventry Pride Art Show also at the CET Building on June 1st. I very please about this and a great way to support Pride. I have the Lanchester Research Gallery exhibition in February 2019 and also in February a Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange exhibition at the Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross) in Dresden to commemorate the bombing of Dresden and the 60th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities. I hope to bring this exhibition to Coventry Cathedral, later in 2019. I need to do some grant applications for the Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange as I would like to continue the artists residencies in the cities and give more Coventry based artists the opportunity to visit and work in Dresden. It’s also great to welcome Dresden artist to Coventry. 

I have my third painting of the WITCH computer in my studio to finish which will keep me occupied for some time. I’ll get a new shed. (Horse and bolted springs to mind). I think I should travel more and need more time to play my ’cello in local orchestras. The Burnley Orchestra is 100 years old this year and I will be going back to my home town in Lancashire to play with them later in the year, I have not played with them for over 50 years.

As for the long term, at 70 there really isn’t any. Bucket list?

Just paint and continue to annoy people.

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Calling all Coventry artists!

Coventry2021InstagramTakeover

For the week of the 7th – 13th May, Curating Coventry will be taking over Coventry 2021 UK City of Culture’s Instagram account, showcasing the work of Coventry’s talented artists. You can submit your work for the chance to be featured – selected work will be displayed on the Curating Coventry and Coventry 2021 Instagram pages.

This will be a great opportunity to increase exposure for you as an artist, and enjoy the work of fellow creatives from across the city.

How to enter?

  • Simply use the hashtag #CuratingCoventry2021 to images of your artwork on Instagram (you can tag old posts too). There is no limit to the number of posts that you can enter.
  • This is open to artists currently based in Coventry and Warwickshire (including students).
  • This is open to visual artists across all disciplines – painting, sculpture, installation, digital media etc.

We can’t wait to celebrate talent of Coventry’s visual artists – get tagging!

Coventry City of Culture identity WIN - PRIMARY FINAL

Our recent visit to the CET Building

In case for any reason, you haven’t yet visited it, we’d recommend checking out the CET Building. Not only is the old Coventry Telegraph building fascinating to explore on the self-guided tour, but it has also become somewhat of a cultural hub for the city, with a constant stream of art exhibitions, concerts, performances and gigs. We’ll be sad to see it go.

We spent a couple of hours on Saturday exploring the latest art exhibitions on display, so here’s an update on what’s currently on:

Theo Wright’s “Permutations” exhibition was the first we visited, and it explores the effect of mathematics on the patterns and colour sequences created in this contemporary weaved textile pieces. It was really interesting to learn about the knock-on effect that the tiniest change in sequence has in the whole pattern created, and he shared the mathematical formula and processes he followed to create each piece of work.

(Open until Sat 21st April).

 

Saturday also saw the opening of #Paintmysong exhibition by Florence Cliffe. A collection of vibrant abstract paintings influenced by music. Painting has become a therapeutic tool for Florence as she explores the subconscious mind through paint. (Check out what’s happening with the hashtag on Twitter).

The “Exposure” photography festival is still open, and is a wonderful showcase of talent from Coventry University photography students. It combines six exhibitions exploring themes of space and place, community participation, observation of society, the use of colour, an exploration of senses and personal relationships.

We got a sneak preview of the Spon Spun exhibition being installed (opening W.C 16th April) and displays a collection of highlights from last year’s Spon Spun Festival including the award winners and commissioned pieces. We really loved this installation by Min-Kyung Kim “Rain of Memory”, the winner of the visitors choice awards. We remembered it from the art trail at last year’s festival, but this installation took on a completely new appearance in this setting. The dramatic lighting in this dark area of the building really emphasised the shadows, adding a totally new dimension to this work.

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We then came across a collection of work by Coventry painter Christopher Sidwell “All Creatures Great and Small”. This exhibition depicts the artist’s sense of humour and is a celebration of life in it’s many forms. A series of acrylic paintings are accompanied by a screen projection and sound installation of his favourite classical piece, intending to portray different animals in musical form.

Coventry Artist Len Cattell has a collection of Aboriginal-style painting and crafts on display on the second floor. Whilst living in Australia he explored the painting techniques of the Aborigines, which inspired his own practice.

Jonny Bark’s immersive installation “Inhibiting Edgelands” fills the old Press Hall, and is the result of the artist’s journey of exploration of these derelict, transitional areas of land in urban landscapes.

 

This sums up a selection of the exhibitions we visited, but there are some more exciting events coming up:

This coming Saturday (21st April) will see a preview for the forthcoming Coventry Street Art Festival, and will feature live graffiti artists and plus live DJs (12-4pm).

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On the 28th April (12-4pm) – Synthcurious 2 – the sequel to the impressive live sound installation that took place earlier this year.

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Then on 17th May, renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon will be opening his solo show “What is the meaning of this” – a collection of his paintings created in the 1980s along with some recent pieces.

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Keep up-to date with all the latest events by following them on Facebook.

Artist Spotlight: Jack Foster

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Coventry artist Jack Foster has recently returned from a month-long residency in Dresden, Germany as part of the Coventry-Dresden Arts Exchange. This artist-led grassroots initiative was set up by Coventry-based artist John Yeadon back in 2012 to develop dialogue and establish collaborative partnerships between artists from both cities.

We visited Jack’s current solo show “Dresden Paintings” at Classroom Gallery, and have interviewed him to find out more about his stay in Dresden, and this wonderful collection of paintings produced during his residency.

How did you enjoy your stay in Dresden?

I went to Dresden without knowing how I’d respond to seclusion of various kinds- spatial and societal, for the most part. I spoke some German but not enough to hold a conversation worth having. A month is a long time to run an experiment like that on yourself but I learned a lot.

My hosts, Anne and Christian Manss, could not have been more welcoming. They kept me alive for a month whilst I got the painting done.

Dresden was beautiful but extremely cold at the time (February) so I lived between my guest room at and my studio, which I shared with Christian and Anne. I met some great people in Dresden and the experience was invaluable.

Before travelling to Dresden, did you set any objectives, that you wished to achieve through your residency?

I hadn’t had too much time or space to paint in the months leading up to the residency but I had a few sketchbooks filled with ideas. My main objective was to see where I was as a painter. My work tends to tread a line between figurative representation and painterly abstraction and I go back and forth between the two.

Previous to Dresden, I addressed painting in a slightly more playful way, I wasn’t painting with any serious technicality or concern for colour theory. The work that I made was largely based on background figures and drapery in old masters paintings so I wanted to re-learn how to paint, to a degree.

My palette was stripped back to four or five colours (as opposed to my bags of hundreds of tubes that I usually work with), this forced be to get the most out of those colours and figure out new ways to use them. The decision to limit myself in this way also negated most of the decision paralysis when it came to mixing up colours due to the fact that I was mostly working in tone.

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What projects did you work on during your stay?

The sketches that I compiled previous to the residency were of draped fabrics, background figures and areas of light and shade- all lifted from old masters paintings, drawn and re-drawn out of context until they became their own image.

These were my starting point and I wrestled with them for a month.

‘Economy of mark’ is a phrase that my friend Mircea Taleaga used when he came to give a guest lecture about his work at Coventry university where I teach. The phrase, as far as I can see, originated with him but I’ve adopted it as a really useful way of talking about the amount of brush marks used to suggest form.

In a lot of classical portraiture, the faces could be said to have a low economy of mark (lots of marks to create the forms) whereas the drapery, background figures and even the sitter’s hands often had quite a high economy of mark (fewer marks to create the form, often tonal sketches).

I am interested in using the spectrum of this economy in different ways. Looking at a painting in this way works like a visual map of time spent in various places, it’s a sort of document of attention.

How do you feel that your time in Dresden benefited your creative practice?

It’s rare to get so much time to think about painting.

I’m able to do things with paint that I simply couldn’t do before, the time spent with just a few colours has been almost as important as the years spent with my collection of hundreds of colours.

What themes do your paintings explore?

Previous work has been about pattern seeking and superstition, In life, literature and In painting. I’ve painted a lot of Skinner Boxes- animal boxes from BF skinner’s famous experiments. I show these boxes alongside some paintings of drapery with suggested figuration.

I like to take things out of images when they should be there and put things In when they shouldn’t be.

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Draped fabric appears in many of the paintings in your solo show. Tell us a little more about this.

The draped fabrics started to come into my work as a bit of a joke, I painted a few which looked like a kid’s terrible ghost costume or something but the paintings looked more serious. There was no foot coming from underneath the sheet and the proportions weren’t human so they were just these draped forms, moving without an author.

They were also sort of about the way people approach semi-abstraction when looking at paintings, there’s almost a frustration for the image to be fully explicable.

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What’s next for you now as an artist?

I’m making more sketches and I’ll figure out what they are later when I try to paint them. After that I’ll try to show them somewhere.

Where can people go to find out more about your work?

For now my Instagram is the best place @jack_foster_artist

 

Jack’s solo show “Dresden Paintings” is currently on display at Classroom Gallery, open Tuesdays and Thursdays 11 – 4pm, or viewing by appointment, until the end of April 2018.

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The Collective//Pod welcome their new artist in residence

Flying the Skies, Breathing the Earth.

The Collective//Pod (The Pod’s arts collective) advocate the importance of creativity to mental health and wellbeing. They explore the way in which creativity challenges and infiltrates what we do and how we feel, on a conscious and subconscious level. The Collective//Pod work with artists who explore issues surrounding mental health, and their latest artist in residence is contemporary textile artist, Anthony Stevens.

His solo show “SAID THE BIRD”, will be on display at the Coventry Centre of Contemporary Art (CCCA), Fargo Village from 13th April 2018. We’ve interviewed Anthony to find out more about his work, and what we can expect from his exhibition.

Here’s what he has to say:

You describe yourself as a self-taught “Textile Artist” – how did you get into exploring textiles as a medium for your work?

Well, gravitating to textiles, sewing and embroidery was really quite a natural process. My mom used to be a very good dressmaker and would make a lot of clothes for my sister. Due to this there were a lot of fabrics around the house. I was quite fascinated by what my mom was doing and even more fascinated by the contents of her sewing box, so to keep me occupied she would make little cloth bags and draw designs on to them, she would then get me to embroider in the design with bits of wool etc. I had forgotten about these memories until in more recent years, I was going through a very difficult time emotionally and I ended up buying a large bag of cheap colourful fabric scraps with the idea of making t-shirt designs to keep me occupied, however, I found that the process of sifting and sorting, looking closely at each scrap for it’s value in the bigger picture was very similar to the process I was going through in my inner life. So from this initial bag of scraps I made a number of collages, most of which I gave away as presents.

So in a nutshell, textiles are embedded in my life.

What process do you go through when creating your artwork?

My creative process is directly connected to all the other areas of my life, particularly my Buddhist practice and my dreams. I find both of these things filter perhaps more subconscious areas of my life and provide a rich source of material. Generally, an idea, image or phrase will pop up during my chanting or through a dream accompanied by bit of a charged feeling that this is something worth working with. Depending on circumstance, I will either make a quick sketch or a little painting and pop it away for a later time, or get right into the textile stage, it depends on how urgent it feels. I will then go through my fabric scraps, selecting the pieces that appeal and start arranging them into a collage that I like the look of. I then back this onto calico with glue and pins and stitch it together. I then draw the design on top and start embroidering the image.

As this is quite a slow process, I often get the deeper personal meanings that the image represents to me and will also add the associations that come up to the image during the work. In some ways, working like this combined with my Buddhist practice becomes a sort of self-analysis, I get to understand myself a bit more. I also find that the texture of the fabric changes with all the handling it gets, it becomes softer but paradoxically stronger due to the layering and stitching. I like to think that this is what happens to people when given care and consideration, maybe also my inner life too?

It’s a good way to record passing moods which become very present during the making process. Anxiety, impatience and anger tend to show up as busyness, puckers and snags and easier emotions show up as relatively smooth surfaces and spaciousness. The background is just as important as the image. I will more often than not use stripes in my work, apart from being something that I find pleasing to look at, they represent to me the ongoing process of life and death, dreaming and waking, consciousness and unconsciousness. I also like small details, as this encourages people to look closer and perhaps for longer. Again, I like the idea that this skill could be transferred to our daily lives.

What themes does your work explore?

I guess personal reactions and feelings regarding social issues, past and present experiences. I am interested in the inner dynamics of life and how these things manifest in the outer world. Why are we the way we are and why do we do what we do? I am also interested in how the processes that happen to us in our lives as human beings are often reflected in the wider processes of the world and even the universe. The constant change, decline, and eventual dispersal and recycling of matter. It’s quite mind blowing and it all happens in our own bodies as well as ‘out there’ in the world.

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Who and what do you draw inspiration from?

Ooh, all manner of things. I love punk, it’s DIY mentality, the music, the taking ownership of your life, actually, it’s these things that I also really like about Buddhism. I am also inspired by all manner of people, especially people who are able to develop their ideals and live in a way that is true to themselves and their innate humanity. It gives me courage to come across people like this. I feel that encounters with people like this hit a visceral place in my gut.

From an art perspective, I am really inspired by one of my favourite artists, the painter, Rose Wiley, I love the fact that she has painted for years with little acknowledgment and not given up on what she loves. Her work to me is full of effort, skill and years of devotion and now it is bearing fruit. When I see her work, I feel glad to be alive. That is no small thing!

Tell us a little about what we can expect to see at your solo show at the CCCA

The title of the show is ‘SAID THE BIRD’. The embroideries on show will be a mixture of older pieces, newer pieces that I haven’t shown yet, and a few pieces I am making specifically for the exhibition. The bird motif shows up in my work a lot. It came from a series of three events several years ago. The first was a dream of a bird struggling to escape from a water fountain and fly away (it did). The day after this, one of my cats brought in a bird, which appeared dead, so I popped it outside in a plant pot. However, it was very cold and something in my gut told me to bring the bird back in. I did this and placed it’s, what I thought was lifeless body in a shoebox by the shrine in my studio. The next morning the bird was flying around my studio and I was able to open the window and let it fly away. The third event happened later that same week when a friend of mine who is a ceramicist, came over to have dinner and brought as a gift, a beautiful clay bird she had made. So, after so many cosmic prods, I thought it wise to start including the bird in my work. Since that time, the bird has come to represent objective wisdom, the ability to be able to take in the bigger picture, to get the birds eye view of whatever I am trying to put across in my work.

During the span of the exhibition, I will also be making a rag book from donated fabrics from the residents of Coventry. The book will have the same title as the show. This will take place during my residency at The Pod. There will also be music and dance at the private view on 13th April, so it will be a wonderful, beautiful collaborative event! I feel very excited and appreciative…cheers Coventry!

“SAID THE BIRD” at the CCCA, Fargo Village opening times will run as follows:

Private view: 13th April, 4:30-6:30pm

14th April – 20th May 2018:
Fridays/Saturdays 11am – 4pm
Sundays 11am – 2pm.
Viewing also by appointment: Telephone 024 7678 6680.
Contact:
POD.Enquiries@coventry.gov.uk

 We can’t wait to get along to see it!

The Birth of Dionysus

 

Artist Spotlight: Laura Nyahuye

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Laura Nyahuye is a talented Coventry artist and founder of Maokwo, a social enterprise exploring ways in which creativity can bring communities together.

Laura recently put on an incredibly successful and moving event at The Belgrade “I MIGRATED” on International Women’s Day. This included an exhibition of her stunning wearable art, striking photography, plus a remarkable series of performances including singing, spoken word, poetry and dance, plus some powerful talks addressing social issues.

We were lucky enough to meet Laura at the event and have since interviewed her to find out more about her own creative practice, and the impressive work she is doing in the community. Here’s what she has to say:

Tell us a little about the concept behind Maokwo

At Maokwo we use art and observational counselling as a vehicle for positive change. We work with women, migrant communities; our work reaches out to communities and individuals from all backgrounds. Our aim is to tackle isolation and mental health challenges. We promote integration and wellbeing in communities. Our services are very adaptable and broaden to families, children and local institutions where there is need. To top it all we support front line staff who work with migrant communities.

What I love about the Maokwo concept is that we work from experience. We have faced the hardships of life, we know what it is like to lack, to face domestic abuse, discrimination, tokenism, loss, isolation, mental abuse, we are that neighbour next door. Some call it working from the bottom up. We identify with our participants and the participants identify with us.

What inspired you to start this remarkable work in the community?

 Personal challenges and conversations in community settings.

My personal journey since migrating from Zimbabwe has been full of challenges and positives – it’s a standalone book waiting to be written! The challenges l faced seemed to fan a fire within me.

During that challenging time, a woman (whom l now call Mom, she was truly God sent) encouraged me to get involved in community work offering art and craft activities. The more activities we offered more conversations came up! (I love talking and a good laugh!).

Most of the conversations struck a chord within me and before l knew it, the fire within became a blazing flame! There was a repetition of concerns everywhere I went. Lack of integration, isolation, domestic abuse, family issues, discrimination, mental health challenges, tick box issues to name a few. I felt so much at home in community groups from all backgrounds and vice versa, participants felt comfortable. We had many things in common.

Despite all the challenges two things helped me cope. It was my time Faith and my creative practice. As much as I identified with my participants, there was an inner strength that kept me going and it was those two points. (There is a creative writing at the current ‘I Migrate’ exhibition entitled ‘my faith my Sanity’ it touches on that)

As I was healing little by little I realised how this process can actually work for others.

In a nutshell, as I was going through the real life pains and struggles of life, and I sat down and cried with the fellow women in our community groups, Maokwo was being born – I just didn’t know it.

Yes, in life, challenges continue to come and go, however life has taught me, and continues to teach me, that there is beauty in the ashes of life. Keep going, somebody somewhere is waiting for you to take that step of faith and its well worth it.

What workshops are you currently running?

We are currently running ‘Breathe’ workshops at the Belgrade theatre every Friday from 11 to 2pm until the end the of March.

Breath encourages us to “press pause” and do something outside the normal day to day activities of life. Come and creatively express yourself . We are delivering workshops for CRMC – great partnerships coming up!

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Where can people go to find out more about these?

People can visit our twitter page – @maokwo

Instagram pages – @maokwo or @laura_nyahuye

Website address https://www.maokwo.com/

Now about your own creative practice – what type of artist would you describe yourself as?

 I see myself as an artist activist.

What inspires your own creativity?

My creativity is inspired by injustice and a desire to see hope and freedom in human lives. Women’s issues and community issues.

Tell us a little about the symbolism behind the striking body adornments that you had on display at The Belgrade

 The body adornments are to raise awareness of what’s going on right now in the day to day life of a migrant woman. They are helping to showcase the innermost thoughts of a migrant woman. These are stories and intimate details you don’t get to hear over a cup of tea. They are stories that need to be told with some creativity. We are living in a society were migration should be a norm, unfortunately it’s the opposite.

I often wonder, what about the younger generation? Do I want them to face the same obstacles I faced as a migrant woman? NO!

So, as a mother and an artist what can I do to challenge perceptions and to educate the next generation. To highlight that we are ALL human with red blood flowing through our veins.

Body adornments, for centuries have been used to define cultural, social, or religious status in various communities. During my studies, adornments struck me as a symbol that have the potential to communicate various subjects or strike up conversations (I’ve had a lot of conversations as a result of wearing some of the adornments).

Body adornments are such are powerful means of communication. Look at the Masai tribe and the Kayan tribe. Interesting depiction of status and identity.

It fascinates me how body adornments are used by different cultures to communicate different messages. In my case I intend to use the handcrafted body adornments to tell various stories.

The body adornments are also on sale and can be made to order.

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 Have you any plans for future creative projects?

For the ‘I MIGRATED’ exhibition the plan is to migrate around the UK and eventually outside the UK.

For Maokwo workshops our partnerships are expanding and we are building more collaborative projects and that is exciting!

We have activist activities in the pipeline!

The “I MIGRATED exhibition will be on display at The Belgrade until 31st March 2018 .28795864_1630410190368635_9142424792298793102_n

See more details of Laura’s forthcoming workshops below:

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create and talk for young workshops

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Exciting exposition of art and engineering coming to Coventry

Festival of Imagineers 2017

Coventry based creative productions organisation Imagineer have been awarded £600,000 by the Arts Council of England to launch an intriguing and ambitious project.

“Bridge” is a three-year programme of extraordinary outdoor arts across the Midlands, and will be launched this September at Coventry Cathedral. The “Bridge” project celebrates the intersection of art, engineering & social change.

The project will explore themes of bridge building, ‘fierce kindness’ and human progress.

Imagineer will collaborate with artists and civil engineers, to produce three major events in Coventry, Worcester & Grantham over the next three years. An iconic bridge structure will inhabit public spaces for two weeks at a time, inspiring and framing spectacular, immersive live performances, creative community responses and interactive lighting / digital animations.

We can’t wait to see this when it hits Coventry.

Find out more about this exciting project here.

 

Artist Spotlight: Martin Green

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Coventry based artist Martin Green is renowned for his use of found objects, which he has collected and categorised for decades. These form the medium for his art and his recent project “How do I know if I’m addicted” comprised of a site specific installation and live curation event at the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art last year. We interviewed Martin following the event to find out more about this project, and what influences his creative practice.

What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

On my instagram page I use the strap line Artist, Writer, Live Curation Events, Sculp-poetics, this description starts to broadly outline my interests and approach.

How has your practice developed over the years?

My current practice is about making/finding a series/sequence/collection of small sculptural components/elements. Sometimes a mass of components are assembled together in response to an exhibition environment. Hundreds of small pieces are arranged to command, transform and challenge a large architectural space. The components are arranged differently each time depending upon the idiosyncrasies of the exhibition space. The individual elements are placed in reaction to the floor they are directly placed on. The placement of the components is influenced by my response to the history and proportions of the floor.

As an art student I made abstract paintings with un-stretched canvas while at the same time collecting street and bin ephemera, but I kept them as two very separate disciplines, stretching me thin in opposite directions. The three most recently completed pieces explore the qualities of double sided paintings and collages displayed alongside found, transformed or acquired objects.

You are renown for use of collected, found objects – how do these relate to the themes you explore in your work?

I have been drawn to found objects since 1976 when I compulsively started to collect passport photographs, which were discarded in the vicinity of photo booths mainly in Central and South London. Over 13 years I amassed thousands of found photographs, a street archive, a document of a specific time. After a period of not street collecting I exhibited 19 found photo booth photographs in a 2008 group show, Beauty and the Disregarded, curated by Lorsen Camps. The exhibition prompted me to ask myself the question, ‘if I started collecting again what would I collect’. This question resulted in a archive of baseball cap peaks, cigarette lighters, wheel weights, hub cap retention wires, sea potatoes, inhalers, mascara, make up brushes, umbrella canopies, piano peel, baggies, zip pulls, suitcase wheels, brick sapping. This collection is the antecedence of my current practice.

I often have no obvious relationship or connection with the found object and I force myself to find a response, a back-story and a new myth; through this process I make work that can change direction and produce outcomes that I would not envisage or predict. I see the completed sculptures made up of two parts, one that originates from inside the studio and one that is from outside the studio, the outside world so to speak. These two parts define both my creativity and the environment where I live and work.

Who and what do you draw inspiration from?

Visiting galleries, the momentum of studio practice, using my past as a source material, making the unknown and an addiction to being distracted, is what feeds me.

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Tell us about your project for the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art – “How do I know if I’m addicted?”:

‘How do I know if I am addicted’ is a generic theme for all of the work that I have made since March 2017, the specific title for the piece placed in the office well at the CBCA is – ‘Tell me what is the term for drawing the face of an idealised deity over a self portrait?’ ‘Tell me’, for short, comprises of 90 double-sided paintings that are made in batches of 5; the first and last sets of five are based on an absurd theory that wild birds are adopting national identities and their plumage is changing through the influence of flags and aeroplane insignia.

Which found objects were used in this piece, and what was the significance of them?

‘Tell me’ includes 270 found nitrous oxide canisters wrapped in snippets of colour photographs from daily newspapers, wire that is left over from the process of dismantling a lot of note books that contained confidential data, found yellow V bristles from road sweepers, small pieces of BT wire found around the vicinity of the green street boxes, small mounds of dirt that came from the process of cleaning the Coventry Cathedral tapestry, Sutherland Grime.

Please explain the distinct shapes of each of the paintings exhibited in the installation, and why they were double sided.

The double-sided paintings have a front/intended side and a reverse/accidental side, qualities that I see in every day objects as distinct from the qualities of art objects.

I describe the shapes as architectonic, relating to architecture; in this case the shapes have the Coventry Ring Road T columns and the New Cathedral as their starting points.

In the version of ‘Tell Me’ at CBCA each of the double sided paintings balance on three coated nitrous oxide canisters, each positioned next to a hole/scar in 1950’s industrial lino.

The terms “acquiesce” and “dissent’ were repeatedly used in your drafted plans for the installation and live curation – forming the way in which the work appeared to organised. Please explain the importance of these terms to “How do I know if I’m addicted?”

There were three pieces on show at CBCA, 1.Tell Me. 2.Acquiesce and Dissent. 3.Mirror. ‘Acquiesce and Dissent’ comprises of 16 double-sided diptyches that were placed in an office cupboard alongside colour-coded tables that are based on an administrative aesthetic that I use in my full time employment.

‘Acquiesce’ means that you do something reluctantly but without protest and ‘Dissent’ is the opposite of Acquiesce. This piece references the dilemma of being an artist and at the same time having to work full time at another occupation to pay the bills. Acquiesce is how I describe my response to this dilemma / reality.

How did you create the backing soundtrack for the live curation?

‘Tell me’ was placed in an abandoned newspaper / editorial office. Part of the vast false blue tiled floor had been removed to create a well that revealed a floor that originates from the period when the building was first opened. 1950’s industrial brown lino peppered with a matrix of scars from where the stunted pillars that held up a false floor had been ripped out to leave holes in the lino that exposed the warp and weft of the hessian backing. I noticed that if you carefully stroked the remains of the hessian it played and sounded like a toy guitar, of the 100 scars 60 played and were recorded and was used as background to the live curation event Acquiesce and Dissent.

Have you any plans to continue to develop the project further?

I have removed a long section of the lino from the CET building and I will incorporate it in the next showing of ‘Tell Me’.

What’s next for you as an artist?

In 2017 I took part in eight projects, so after an intense period of exhibiting I now need an intense period of making new work. I am planning and in dialogue about a project that coincides with the 70th anniversary of the death of Kurt Schwitters.

Where can people go to find out more about your work?

I am happy for people to visit me at the studio by appointment, email martingreen618@btinternet.com and follow me on Instagram

New residency announced for Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange!

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Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange have announced a new month-long residency (February 2018) in Dresden for Coventry based artist Jack Foster, hosted by Dresden artist Christian Manss.

Born in Coventry, Jack is a 26 year old painter and a graduate of Coventry University. He currently lectures on the Foundation Art and Design Course at Coventry University. Jack has had solo exhibitions and group shows in London and the Midlands. He was the 2013 winner of Coventry University Drawing Prize from which he was an artist in residence at Rugby School, teaching and creating a new body of work.

This pilot residency programme is been supported by Coventry City Council a Small Arts Grant. Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange hope to make these Exchange residencies a regular feature of their activities.

Dresden artist Alexandra Müller was artist in residence in Coventry in July-August 2017, hosted by John Yeadon. The residency was a great success and Alexandra was a perfect ambassador for Dresden and Dresden artists. She had an open studio and a final exhibition in City Arcadia Gallery, which were well attended with over 60 visitors, amongst these visitors was The Lord Mayor of Coventry and the Dean of Coventry Cathedral. Alexandra visited museums and historic sites in Coventry including the Cathedral, also visiting artists studios in Coventry and Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire plus art galleries in London and Birmingham accompanied by Coventry artists.

Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is a personal initiative of Coventry based artist John Yeadon and has been active since 01/06/2012. It was formed into an Unincorporated Artist Association in 01/04/2015. The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is an artists-led grassroots initiative, which seeks to develop dialogue between artists from the cities of Coventry and Dresden and to establish collaborative partnerships of exchanges, exhibitions, educational projects and forums.

Since 2012 they have had 6 collaborative exhibitions with Dresden artists in both cities. With over 1,000 visitors at the Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange exhibition at Pillnitz Castle during the Elbhangfest in 2016.

We are looking forward to seeing how Jack gets on during his stay in Dresden.

Emerging Art, Emerging Place

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The cold, damp January weather certainly didn’t deter the crowds from turning out for this motivating event at the CET Building. Set in the old press room, attendees were immersed in Jonny Bark’s (the event organiser), atmospheric “Inhabiting Edgelands” installation, which occupied the space in which the event took place.

Emerging Art, Emerging Place was devised to focus on how artists in Coventry can capitalise on the City of Culture 2021 win. The event consisted of three powerful talks from Jonny Bark, photographer, researcher and lecturer, Ryan Hughes, Director of Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art and Birmingham based photographer Nilupa Yasmin. Following these talks, artists mingled with industry professionals from across the midlands for an inspiring and uplifting networking session.

It was exciting to hear from Ryan Hughes about the successes of the inaugural Coventry Biennial, and the incredibly positive impact that the festival had on the city:

  • The event saw over 24,000 attendees
  • 60% of the attendees were from outside Coventry
  • 35% of the attendees had never been to Coventry before
  • ¼ of the Biennial attendees were under the age of 20.

Some impressive stats here, and pleasing to see that such a young audience are really engaging with Coventry’s Visual Arts.

Ryan has experienced a huge amount of national interest in the Visual Arts scene in Coventry, from many high-profile arts organisations from across the country, so there is no denying that Coventry is making its mark in the art world.

Nilupa Yamsin then gave us a little more insight into the themes that she explores in her own creative practice, and talked about the opportunities that the City of Culture Bid brought to her as an artist. Her project “Grow me a Waterlily” became a huge focus in the promotion of the City of Culture Bid, and this in turn really spring-boarded her career. She is now exhibiting at the Argentea Gallery, Birmingham and is working with Coventry-based organisation, The Photo Miners on a commission based around Foleshill. Nilupa’s tips for success included, taking up voluntary opportunities with leading art organisations to get your foot in the door. Nilupa has also utilised the power of social media to promote herself as an artist, and has been approached for work through this.

Jonny Bark closed the talks highlighting the importance of networking with industry professionals to help to push your career forward. Its all very well having the talent, but taking the time to get yourself out there is just as important. Jonny couldn’t stress enough the importance of seizing opportunities when you have the chance, and the Coventry win of the City of Culture 2021 couldn’t be a better prospect facing creative individuals in the city right now.

Following these powerful and insightful talks, everyone had the chance to mingle and discuss their work with leading Visual Arts organisations from across the Midlands, and revel in the opportunities that artists in the city are now faced with. This is an unbelievably exciting time for Coventry artists, and this event really brought together the creative community in the city. Emerging Art, Emerging Place proved that there is a powerful support system in place within this community. This is something that all Coventry artists should be tapping into. Never underestimate the importance of networking if you are looking to advance your career in the industry.

We want to say a massive well done to Jonny Bark, and all who were involved in making this event happen. It really did leave attendees bursting with excitement for what the future of the city may hold.

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This week’s exhibition round-up

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So it’s been another busy week for art lovers in Coventry! We managed to get along to three private viewings:

Thursday evening saw the opening of “Visual Stream” by Jeff Dellow at the Lanchester Gallery, and was wonderfully curated by Matthew Macaulay, Director of Class Room, Coventry. A vibrant collection of abstract paintings, layering geometric shapes with brash criss-crossing patterns. Dellow’s paintings feature contrasting colours and forms, interwoven and broken up through more subtle and delicately placed shapes and layers – lightly exposing the harsher patterns underneath. We managed to get hold of a copy of the exhibition brochure, which features a great write-up of Dellow’s work and Matthew’s enlightening interview with the artist.

The exhibition will continue to run Monday – Friday, 11am – 4:30pm until the 2nd of Feb. Be sure to check this out!

 

Friday evening we got along to the opening of Warwickshire based artist Tammy Woodrow’s exhibition of her latest sculptural work; “Concatenation: interconnected things at City Arcadia Gallery. A collection of miniature sculptures, which appear reflective of the constructivist movement. On the other hand, there is an exploration into the idea of the way in which everything in the universe in interconnected in some way. Found fishing floats used in her sculptures could be symbolic of rippling water – a comparison of the “butterfly effect” and “string theory”. The way in which they are presented in the gallery space is as if each sculpture is floating in a white universe.

Throughout the duration of the exhibition, Tammy will be creating a series of drawings inspired by the sculptures and handing them out for free to the public.

The exhibition will run every day 10am-4pm until Thursday 18th Jan, when she will be holding an exclusive experimental sculpture workshop – see her website for more details:

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After visiting the opening of Tammy’s exhibition we then headed over to the CET Building for the opening of “Prelude” a mid-year showcase of the 3rd year Fine Art Students at Coventry University. The room was packed and saw over 150 people attending the Private View – a great turn out for the students. An impressive collection of artwork spanning from both figurative and abstract painting, photography, digital imagery, plus some thought-provoking installation pieces. Again, the level of talent this year is really high. This will be open until Tuesday 16th January. We’re looking forward to seeing the final degree show now this summer!

Artist Spotlight: Alan Van Wijgerden

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Renowned local photographer Alan Van Wijgerden has been capturing images of the Coventry for decades. His vast collection of hundreds of thousands of images, tell stories of the history of the city from over 40 years.

He is currently exhibiting a collection of work titled “Fun Factory” at Class Room Gallery (open until 14th Jan 2018). This captivating selection of images are a documentation of the lives of Fine Art students in Coventry in the 80s. He captured protests, gritty student accommodation, music gigs plus a record of work at the degree show.

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We’ve chatted to Alan to find out a little bit more about his photography. Here is what he had to say:

When did you first get into photography?

I first got into photography when I was about 12 with a brownie type camera cutting people heads off which I still hate now.

What type of photographer would you describe yourself as?

Primarily a documentary photographer, although I have done a lot of architectural photography.

We were fascinated by your “Fun Factory” exhibition at Class Room GalleryWhat was it about the lives of the Fine Art students in the 80s that drew your interest in?

I first became interested in Fine Art when I met students in the art-fac canteen then the best cafe in the poly. It was interesting and exciting, very active politically.

What other subjects and themes has your photography explored over the years?

Mainly architectural and demonstrations.

What and who do you draw inspiration from?

I draw most inspiration I would say from the Magnum photographers and Walker Evans.

Have you got any future projects in the pipeline?

Yes there’s several photo projects in the offing and also several videos.

Where can people follow you to find out more?

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/wijgerden

Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/134520525@N07/

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Curating Coventry’s Highlights of 2017

 

We are still buzzing from the announcement of Coventry’s win of the City of Culture 2021, and as the year is drawing to a close, we’ve been looking back at what an incredible mix of visual arts that the city has enjoyed in 2017. Coventry is a hive of creativity, and this is such an exciting time to be in this innovative city.

Here are a few of our highlights from 2017:

The Inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art

The biggest visual arts festival the city has ever seen.  The vast programme consisted of 13 exhibitions and over 60 events, featuring a diverse selection of local, national and international artists. The Biennial launch night alone saw over 1,000 attendees at the CET building! One thing is for certain – the event sure drew in the crowds.

Click here for our write up on this event.

 

 

Spon Spun Festival

An impressive selection of creative workshops were held throughout August, open for anyone to attend. The festival weekend on 9th and 10th September had a super exciting programme, for all the family to enjoy, including creative activities, music, theatre, delicious food and the remarkable Spon Spun Art Trail. The community really got involved in exploring their creativity and enjoying the talent of others. We especially enjoyed exploring the Art Trail on the festival Sunday – see our journey here.

 

 

Scratch the Surface – Dialogue Festival

The aim of the festival was to celebrate the provocative and vanguard, and bought together a vast programme of cultural activists and arts organisations both local, national and international. The 11-day festival surrounding mental health, was sensitively executed and addressed many taboo subject matters in an incredibly liberating way. A remarkable, inspiring and thought-provoking event.

See more from our round-up here.

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Festival of the Imagineers

Linking art, design and engineering, the Festival of Imagineers delivered a riveting week-long programme incorporating local, national and international creative talent. This unique festival included outdoor and site specific performance, art installations and interactive experiences for everyone to get involved in. We especially loved Luke Jerram’s “Museum of the Moon”.

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Feel Good Festival of Creativity at Fargo Village

Prior to the event, we were lucky enough to interview the Founder of the Feel Good Community Melissa Smith, so had a clear picture of the outstanding work she does in the community, and the valuable message that she is spreading. The event focussed on bringing the community together to creatively explore different ways we can increase wellbeing. This was an amazing uplifting day – so many positive vibes as attendees celebrated and explored creative crafts, live doodle art, animation workshops, spoken word performance, great tunes, drumming workshops, plus many more feel good activities taking place. Fargo Village was absolutely buzzing that afternoon. We can’t wait to see what the Feel Good Community have in store for 2018!

 

George Wagstaffe “The Artist’s Wife” at St Mary Magdalene’s Church

This beautiful collection of work by notable Coventry artist George Wagstaffe, paid homage to his late wife, and their sixty years together – in times of both joy and sadness. The selection of work gave you an insight into the passage of their time together, and the way in which his creative practice developed over these years. This was a very moving and emotional exhibition to view, plus a wonderful showcase of the diversity of his skills as an artist.

 

Coventry University’s MA Showcase

An outstanding showcase of raw talent from the MA Painting and Contemporary Practice at Coventry University. This exhibition really blew us away. The paining exhibition included explorations into levels of human consciousness, modern depictions of World War I scenes, to unique fictitious landscape scenes, and incredible portraiture. The Contemporary Practice pushed through convention with audio-video installations, a digital fabrication of wearable sculptures, eerie dolls house of figurines made up from Barbie dolls, fairies, combined with military action-figures

See our write up of this show here.

 

Kaleidoscope at The Mead

An amazing collection of British Art from the 1960s featuring a vast selection of the big names dominating the art world during that period of time. Op Art, Pop Art Constructivism and bold, abstract sequence and symmetry. A wonderful selection of paintings and sculpture from this eclectic era. Artists included Bridget Riley, Anthony Caro, William Turnbull Robyn Denny – to name but a few.

 

Picasso: Linocuts From The British Museum at The Herbert

A wonderful collection of Linocut prints, loaned from the British Museum, which Picasso created in the late 50s and early 60s when he was over eighty years old. The exhibition presented some of Picasso’s most notorious works in linocut, alongside a selection of ceramics on loan from Leicester Arts and Museums Service.

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Alan Van Wijgerden’s “Fun Factory” at Class Room

Alan had become a renowned urban docu-photographer in the city, and “Fun Factory” was a fascinating documentation of the lives of Fine Art students in Coventry in the 80s. This impressive collection of images captured protests, gritty student accommodation (including students squatting in tents in back gardens along the Binley Road), music gigs plus a record of artwork from the degree show.

 

This is just a small selection of the vibrant offerings that Coventry’s visual arts scene delivered in 2017. We will continue to keep you up-to-date with events and exhibitions happening in Coventry through 2018, so be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay in the loop, and see more of the impressive selection of visual arts that we explored this year.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed 2017 as much as we have.

How you can help Coventry win City of Culture 2021

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This Friday (1 December) the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will be showcasing Coventry on social media.

This means that the judges and the DCMS will be watching Coventry online for the entire day. This is one of the biggest opportunities in the competition yet. Every city will have their own day and we need to make sure Coventry shouts the loudest!

So how can you help?

  • If you’re not already following the City of Culture bid team, then use these links to follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram
  • Spread the word of this to everyone you know!
  • Starting at 9.30am, post as much content as you can about Coventry – making sure to always use #ThisisCoventry with @Coventry2021 and where appropriate @DCMS and #UKCityofCulture2021
  • This is going to last all day so please help us keep the momentum up. A couple of our competitors have trended nationally and we would love to do the same
  • Video content and pictures are brilliant – record messages of support and tag us in them and encourage everyone else to do the same
  • Are you in work that day? Get all your colleagues involved. Shout about how much you love the city, record it and upload it
  • Is there an article you have read about City of Culture or Coventry you have enjoyed, share it again! Here is a great source – http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/all-about/uk-city-of-culture
  • This is not just on twitter, feel free to post on any channels you use. @Coventry2021 is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  • The bid team want to have an hour where we completely take over social media and have a concentrated effort to be all that anyone is talking about. This will be between 1pm and 2pm on Friday, so if you can only spend a little bit of time on Friday, then 1pm to 2pm is the time to do it.

Having a think about these statements to help with your posts is a great place to start –

I am backing Coventry’s bid to be #UKCityofCulture2021 because …. @Coventry2021 #ThisisCoventry

Coventry needs to be #UKCityofCulture2021 because… @Coventry2021 #ThisisCoventry

My favourite place in Coventry is … @Coventry2021 #ThisisCoventry

To me, culture in Coventry means … @Coventry2021 #ThisisCoventry

My most unforgettable moment in Coventry was … @Coventry2021 #ThisisCoventry

In 2021 I would like Coventry to be … @Coventry2021 #ThisisCoventry

 

Come on guys, let’s show our support, and show the DCMS how much Coventry kicks butt over all the other finalists.

Let’s win City of Culture 2021!

#ArtChatCov – our monthly networking Tweet Chat

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#ArtChatCov is a monthly networking Tweet Chat for artists and art lovers on Twitter, in and around Coventry. It is the perfect opportunity to chat with like-minded individuals, and discuss visual arts happening in the city, and it’s surrounding areas.

If you are an artist or part of an art organisation, this is a great platform for you to promote what you do, and give others the chance to engage with your work. We want to build a supportive community, where people can offer each other advice and utilise the power of social media to help increase exposure for the city’s creative community.

So whether you are an artist, art organisation or simply someone who enjoys exploring the diverse visual arts scene that the city has to offer – everyone is welcome!

How do I get involved?

  • Search #ArtChatCov on Twitter between 8-9pm on the last Wednesday of every month (make sure that the menu at the top of your screen is set on “Latest”)
  • To join the conversation always use #ArtChatCov in your tweets – so either tweet as you normally would using this hashtag, or “reply” to a tweet in the conversation using #ArtChatCov in the reply

We will “retweet” any posts where people are promoting themselves, and events to help increase their exposure.

We also like to encourage fellow tweeters to engage with others in the conversation, and support each other by “liking” and “retweeting” each other’s content when they can.

So on the last Wednesday of every month, set yourself a reminder, put your feet up, grab a cuppa and come and join us for #ArtChatCov!

Artist Spotlight: Melissa Smith

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Melissa Smith is a talented local Doodle artist, the founder of the Coventry based “Feel Good Community”, and an inspirational social activist who endorses the importance of creativity to health and wellbeing. We have had the pleasure of interviewing her to find out more about her creative practice, and the wonderful, positive work that she does in the community to help her promote her cause.

How did you first get into Doodle Art?

My school days were when I first discovered my love for doodling. However, as I matured doodling became less frequent. I re-discovered my passion when I had a teaching role and was asked to deliver art to my students, many of whom believed they were not creative. I used doodle art as a way to help them explore their creativity and started to realise once again just how powerful it can be. When I became poorly in 2014 I was able to focus more on my doodles as I had more time on my hands. When I was recovering in hospital I picked up my pen to pass the time. I was amazed at how good it made me feel, how it helped me to refocus my mind away from my pain. I started creating quotes and pictures that I gave to those who were helping me. As I wasn’t working and money was tight Christmas and birthday presents had a creative twist. Most of my family and friends have been doodled in some way.

You can view my Stellar Story here with broader coverage of my work and tells my journey.

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Was the skill all self-taught?

Very much so, YouTube and social media have helped me to develop and look into different styles. There is a wealth of information out there. I doodle most days and have become a firm believer that practise makes perfect and mistakes are all part of the learning process. My doodles have also been developed through a journey of self-discovery. Because of my illness I find it hard to attend meetings and events as often the pain becomes too much. I picked up my pen as a way to refocus my mind away from the pain and on what was being said. This helped me to regain my confidence as I could then use the information from my doodles to start conversations.

What inspires you to create your work?

Feeling good is the main catalyst for my work. Initially, it is self-centred as I use it as a tool to refocus my mind away from my pain and as a way to increase my wellbeing. More importantly I like to use my art as a way to inspire others to get creative in some way.

Are there any other Doodle Artists who you draw inspiration from?

Yes plenty! But I think local talent should get a shout out…

Spudragon who calls himself the accidental artist found the benefits of doodling when he became poorly. He doodles as a way to help him relieve his stress and anxiety. https://www.instagram.com/spudragon/

Sabina from Meraki Workshops inspires me as she uses doodling as an interactive experience for community workshops https://www.instagram.com/merakiworkshops/

Lucy Kenny came along to one of our ideas factories, I had admired her robots on the wall of Fargo Village for some time so was nice to meet the artist who doodled them https://www.instagram.com/lilustrations/

What tools do you use to create your work?

Pens, paper, watercolour and collage are what I use the most. However, I have just started to explore the digital side, I purchased a Wacom pen and Adobe Creative Cloud. I am very much a work in progress!

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Do you create commissioned work?

For a long time I didn’t have the confidence to call myself an artist. I believed that as I didn’t have an art degree I was not able to call myself an artist. However people’s response to my creations has been extremely positive and I have started to receive requests for commissions. Instagram and word of mouth have been brilliant for this.

What motivated you to create the Feel Good Community?

The Feel Good community started life as a solution to get me focusing on the things I can do rather than the things I can’t since becoming poorly. We started by having Feel Good Walks in the park. These quickly developed into walks and creative activities over a brew and cake! Each event starts life at an Ideas Factory: an informal meet-up where people can come together and share their ideas, skills and resources as a solution to issues we face.

What types of activities do you do?

We have had a variety of events and workshops that all look at ways we can use creativity and community as a focus to increase wellbeing. We often make Feel Good random acts of kindness, mainly out of things we have lying at home and Feel Good gifts that are designed to give to the people who help us to remind them they are valued. We have run a couple of workshops where we make Feel Good rocks and Feel Good Monsters. These are perfect as we can create characters and discuss feelings and hopes. We recently ran a Makers Meet Up where folk came together to get creative making feel good messages for our festival

What have you got planned for the Feel Good Festival of Creativity at Fargo Village on Sat 11th November 2017?

At our Ideas Factory we had over 60 ideas generated and approximately 30 people pledge their support to help us develop The Feel Good Festival of Creativity. This is an opportunity for the community to come together to creatively explore different ways we can increase wellbeing. On the day we have several workshops and drop in sessions planned ranging from mosaic making, sewing, animation, doodling, drama, music, spoken word, random acts of kindness and making doodle books. The event is completely powered by the community with zero funding so the more people we can get involved the better the event will be! We are hoping it will be a catalyst for more events like this in the future.

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Have you got any more events in the pipeline?

Our first Makers Meet-up was a success and we have received requests to hold more meet-ups. We will be organising more Feel Good in the Park events. More importantly we need to see what the community want so we will be organising more Ideas Factories

What are the future plans for the Feel Good Community?

It is my aim to turn Feel Good into a social enterprise. I recently received funding from Unltd to help develop a range of Feel Good products. The sale of these products will hopefully fund future events and create jobs for people who would like to get involved with the feel Good Movement.

How can people get involved?

We are always on the lookout for people to get involved either with our events, collaborations or help with organising. If anyone is interested please get in touch with me mel@feelgoodcom.org

Like our page on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/feelgoodcreatives/

Share and come to our event: http://bit.ly/FGCFestivalofCreativity

Follow along on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/feelgoodinsta/

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Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art #TheFuture

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As the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art draws to a close, we have reflected on the excitement that such an ambitious, large-scale visual arts event brought to the city. The festival’s vast programme consisted of 13 exhibitions and over 60 events, featuring a diverse selection of local, national and international artists. The Biennial launch night alone saw over 1,000 attendees! One thing is for certain – the event sure drew in the crowds.

“The Future” was the key theme running through the festival, and made title for the Biennial’s central exhibition at the former Coventry Evening Telegraph building. What an incredible and fitting venue this made. This vast maze holds abandoned offices, eerie-dimly-lit corridors, and huge industrial print spaces, still hosting machinery from the now out-dated print industry. It provided such an interesting juxtaposition of the old vs. the new, where the now redundant, media-production was replaced by so many contemporary pieces of artwork, reacting to “The Future” theme, and created in response to the building itself.

You were free to roam the whole building, and experience each piece of work in it’s setting, a vast majority of which were site-specific pieces. In experiencing the sheer scale of such an immense showcase, we soon began to understand the hard work and vision that the Director Ryan Hughes, and his team, had put into curating such a vast and diverse exhibition.

Mira Calix’s installation dominated the former press hall, an incredible audio/visual immersive experience “By being in two places at once”. Contrasting sounds echoed through the hall, while a twisting network of wires leading to different screens represented the idea of the way in which we occupy both our physical and non-physical environments.

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Martin Green’s installation “How do I know if I’m addicted”, and live-curation the following week, presented a fascinating project created from years of collecting categorised found objects. He displayed a huge array of double-sided paintings, each positioned like miniature sculptures, balanced upon found laughing gas canisters. They formed a series organised around the words “acquiesce” and “dissent” – reflecting the many “distractions” in which he says he is defined by.

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Artist collaboration Georgiou/Tolley’s “Magician Walks into the Laboratory” delves back into the cold war era, a time of global anxiety. This haunting, engaging audio/visual installation was created using CIA transcripts from ‘remote viewing’ sessions, and was voiced by the famous actor, Jack Klaff, acting as the fictional CIA agent. The project reflected issues surrounding mass surveillance, data gathering, biased media and even pseudo time-travel. From speaking to the artists prior to the event, we also felt gained an insight into concerns for the future, as technology continues developing at it’s alarming rate. Some really mind-blowing issues were raised.

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There was a degree of sardonic humour in some of the work, including Daniel Salisbury’s “Zen Garden Litter Tray”, incorporating a Chinese “Lucky Cat” statue amongst a sand-tray of discarded human litter – fag-butts, empty cans and food packaging.

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Joe Fletchor Orr’s neon light “Turnt Down”…

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and Kurt Hickson’s “Shit Neon”.

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Local photographer Natalie Seymour (who we have interviewed) exhibited a series of photographic collages aiming to capture the essence of the Coventry Telegraph building prior to its change of use and modernisation.

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Birmingham artist Paul Newman displayed a series of paintings in which he incorporated imagined, and sometime futuristic landscapes exploring a contradictory push-pull of pictorial space and abstraction.

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Local artist John Yeadon paid homage to the oldest working digital computer in the world, with his 2017 version of his painting “WITCH” – he initially created a painting of this computer back in 1983, as a satire on modernism, a parody on “computer art”. The re-invention of this painting became a homage to the history of this mechanical national treasure, and fitted perfectly in it’s setting in the exhibition space, alongside the building’s original modular electronics.

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Other exciting site-specific installation works, which pleasingly occupied their exhibition space included:

This untitled mixed media installation by James Lomax,

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Katie Holden’s installation created with concrete and found metal supports,

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and Matt Gale’s “Fatball” piece which trickled out to it surrounding outside the building and could be viewed looking through the windows.

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Thirty-five different artists exhibited in total, so we’ve barely scratched the surface here, but the team behind the Biennial have put together a great Instagram Tour looking at each piece of art on display.

Other impressive exhibitions that we visited during the Biennial included “Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape” by Andy Holden at The Box, FarGo Village: An hour long lecture delivered by the artist’s avatar guided through an animated landscape populated by iconic cartoon characters. Laws of physics were studied and questioned while he investigated how retro cartoons gave us a “prophetic glimpse’ into the world in which we now live.

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In contrast to this, London-based artist, Fiona Grady had a wonderfully unique site-specific display at the Tin Music and Arts, “Light Shifts”. The work consisted of hand-cut vinyl window stickers made up from geometric shapes, replicating the grid-like window shutters found in this lovely exhibition space. Throughout the day they brighten and glow, when viewed from both the building’s interior and exterior, altering with the daylight and weather changes. The interior walls of the exhibition space map how this light is projected on the walls throughout the day.

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Re-Tale by artist collaboration Ha, was another project that took place throughout the Biennial, occupying The Glass Box gallery as it’s exhibition space. To view, it appeared stark and barren, the sorrowful sight of a showroom ready to close, with simple carrier bags lined up along the walls. The project is in fact part of a data-gathering exercise, which the people of Coventry were encouraged to take part in. We interviewed the artists prior to the Biennial to gain further insight. Read more here.

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The Class Room gallery at Holyhead Studios hosted another remarkable exhibition by the artist James Faure Walker – a renowned international artist now based in London. Since the 1980’s his work integrated computer graphics with oil paint and watercolour. Using exuberant colours, and graphically influenced abstract imagery, this provided a unique and interesting collection in this wonderful gallery space.

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The Coventry Biennial intertwined with parts of the Scratch the Surface festival, so some exhibitions were covered by both programmes, such as Wen Wu’s Literary Paintings at CCCA Fargo Village, the END//BEGIN – Dialogue at City Arcadia, and the screening of the first ever FilmZine – you can read more about these exhibitions here.

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This is just a small section of the festival’s sixty events that we thoroughly enjoyed attending. There were parties, performances, tours, workshops, lectures, artist supermarkets, yoga, plus a host of family workshops inspired by the artwork of some the Biennial’s artists.

Before we wind up we’d like to say a massive well done to Director Ryan Hughes and his team. Thank you to all involved in executing an event of such magnitude – you drew in crowds, not just locally, but from across the country. This is just what was needed for a city bidding to be the City of Culture 2021, and will keep us talking for weeks to come.

Artist Spotlight: Talking Birds

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Talking Birds is a collaboration of local artists based in Coventry, whose most recent project took place at the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. We interviewed Janet Vaughan, Co-Artistic Director to find out more about them and what they do.

Who are Talking Birds?

Talking Birds is a company of artists based in Coventry, with a 25 year practice exploring the complex relationships between people and place. The company is well known for its site-specific Theatre of Place; its interactive works for festivals (which includes a giant aluminium whale-shaped theatre on wheels); its pioneering mobile captioning tool the Difference Engine; and its smaller sociable events which bring people together for unexpected conversations in unusual places – most recently with pop up social space. The Cart, which has been touring the city inviting people to sit down with a cuppa and have a conversation about what culture is or c/should be.

What type of performance art do you do?

There isn’t really a typical Talking Birds project – and although we are a theatre company, our work doesn’t always involve performance. We tend to work with people and place to find the right form for the ideas and spaces we are exploring. We want to find a way to bring people together to look afresh at a familiar place – to give them a reason to talk to each other, and we want it to be enjoyable but also gently provocative. Because the company is led by a designer and a composer, the way things look and sound is really important.

So far this year we have made performance guided tours during residencies at the Warwick Market Hall Museum and the Albany Theatre in Coventry; taken The Cart up into the Ikea restaurant to sketch the city skyline and compose haikus with diners; made an outdoor telling of the story of Hannah Snell who dressed as a man to join the army in the 1740s and fought fiercely, undetected, for 5 years; and toured a piece about prisons and mental health in the 1850s, which we made in partnership with researchers and historians from the Centres for the History of Medicine in England and Ireland.

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Previous work includes:

– The Virtual Fringe, an imaginary festival for Coventry designed to make people think about how art and cultural events could animate the city;

– site-specific pieces or tours in unused or about-to-be-knocked-down buildings such as Whitefriars Monastery, the Bishop Street sorting office and the Coventry & Warwickshire hospital;

– the FarGo Space Programme – a series of curated residencies for Coventry artists in an empty space at FarGo prior to the redevelopment;

– participatory web artworks exploring online spaces and behaviours, such as Helloland and Web Demographic;

– We Love You City at the Belgrade Theatre, telling many city stories of the day Coventry City won the FA Cup.

– Market Forces residency on a stall at Coventry Market collecting radios and stories to make a city symphony for the Radio Orchestra.

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What was your project at the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art?

UnFound was one of our smaller sociable events bringing people together for unexpected conversations in unusual places. Billed as a secret event for artists and creative thinkers and created especially for the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, it happened in a secret location in central Coventry, and involved intrigue, food, conversation and some consideration of the future.

What future projects have Talking Birds got lined up?

There’s an instalment of our Festival of Ideas series of panel discussions coming up in November – this one exploring art, culture and climate change; then next year we’re making a handful of guided tours of the city which allow people to see Coventry through the eyes of someone else and walk in their footsteps. We’ll also be re-making Capsule, which is an immersive experience for an audience of six at a time – with a twist; and continuing to test our mobile captioning invention The Difference Engine.

Where can people follow you for more info?

w: http://www.talkingbirds.co.uk

Twitter: @birdmail

Instagram: @birdmail

Facebook: TalkingBirds

Godiva Festival 2016

 

Scratch the Surface – Dialogue Festival Review

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Scratch the Surface – Dialogue was a mental health arts festival that ran from 30th Sept – 10th Oct, organised by The Pod and it’s arts collective; Collective//Pod

(A part of Coventry Council that supports people in their mental health recovery journey).

The aim of the festival was to celebrate the provocative and vanguard, and bought together a vast programme of cultural activists and arts organisations both local, national and international. The expertly delivered festival was sensitively executed and addressed many subject matters that can be seen as taboo, in an incredibly liberating way.

Prior to the event, we were lucky enough to get to know founder of the festival Christine Eade, an exceptionally inspirational woman, who has a host of awards under her belt, including; winner of ‘Woman of Achievement Award’ 2017, and Winner of UK Mental Health Best Practice Awards 2013, to name just a few.

We gained a sneak preview into what was in store and were blown away by the sheer scale of this impressive festival.

Curating Coventry were delighted to be invited by the Collective//Pod to participate in hosting the exhibition opening “An Audience with Wen Wu” at the CCCA, Fargo Village. Wen Wu presented a series of ‘Literary’ paintings – a series of five stunning realist-style paintings, which were on loan from the RifleMaker, London. We had the pleasure of interviewing her to delve into the themes she explores through her creative practice, and the extensive process she goes through as an artist before she arrives at her final paintings. Wen feels passionate about female spirituality and the empowerment that can be gained through tapping into creativity. In this series of paintings, the books were a metaphor for shelter, security and protection, yet also a regal symbol of the Chinese crown. It was an absolute delight to meet such an inspirational female artist.

The next event we attended was an evening at The Herbert Gallery with Sarah Chaney, research associate at the University College London Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines, and Visual Artist Liz Atkin. Liz is a renown artist who campaigns to raise awareness of dermatillomania surprising common skin-picking disorder, thought to affect up to 1 in 25 of us. As part of her recovery, she creates “Compulsive Charcoal” drawings when travelling to work and back, to keep her hands busy. She gives these out to fellow passengers, explaining why she does it, breaking down the stigma attached to this condition. So far she has given away well over 15,000 free drawings. She now travels across the globe, speaking about what she does, and how the act of creating her art has become detrimental to her recovery.

On her bus-route to Coventry, Liz gave away dozens of her “Compulsive Charcoal” drawings, then when she arrived at The Herbert, she performed a live “Pouring Mountains” artwork – a drawing, painting installation which she now produces as a daily cathartic ritual, to ease her of her compulsion to pick at her skin. And what a beautiful piece of art this was – created in just 10 minutes, yet for Liz, she was so engrossed in the activity of creating this piece of art that it felt like she had been there for hours working on it.

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Following this performance, Sarah Chaney then delivered a really interesting talk on the history of self-harm in psychiatry. It was a real eye-opener to see how not even that long ago, so many mental health problems were simply brushed off as ‘hysteria”.

Liz was up next, discussing her creative practice, and went into more detail about how her art helped draw her out of a really difficult place, and has become the most vital role in her recovery. This was an incredibly powerful and moving talk. We had so much respect for Liz for openly expressing how it feels to be a sufferer of dermatillomania, and the journey that she has been on, and her road to recovery.

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After this we got to attend a private viewing on an exclusive collection of miniature flint sculptures, created by the artist Gwyneth Rowlands, on loan from the Bethlem Gallery. This fascinating collection was created during Gwyneth’s 50-year stay at the Netheren Hospital (a long-stay psychiatric hospital in Surrey). where she began to paint onto flint collected from local fields. The multifaceted nature of the stone became her canvas, in which she created intriguing faces and scenes of figures. The longer you look at each piece, the more you see – so interesting to view. This was an incredibly profound and thought-provoking evening.

The next event we attended was the opening night of the End//Begin – Dialogue exhibition, which presented the work of British contemporary artists Bobby Baker, Terence Wilde and Claire Margaret. This wonderfully curated exhibition took place at the City Arcadia Gallery, and exhibited a selection of the artists’ work, which again formed part of their recovery of mental illness. The exhibition also explored psychiatry as a discipline in itself.

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Bobby Baker’s work was a diary of her journey as a patient at a day centre, and portrayed her experiences of day hospitals, psychiatric wards, a number of drugs and treatment, and ‘crisis’ teams. Although harrowing, she delivers this with a certain tongue-in cheek humour documenting the highs and lows of her journey.

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Claire Margaret’s practice revolves around her own diagnosis of schizophrenia and how upon exploring the illness itself, through her artwork, she began to find a focus, which enabled her to help overcome it. She fearlessly accepted the condition for what it was, extensively researching it, and began to create drawings, which she used to help her communicate.

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Terrance Wilde again uses his art as a therapeutic practice “I draw as part of an on-going cathartic journey. Creativity sets me free from anxiety, trauma and obsession.” His work is a response to his current situation, and a beautiful collection of surreal black and white drawings gave you a snapshot into this liberating process he goes through as an artist. He currently works within the Occupational therapy department of The Royal Bethlem Hospital.

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The final event we attended was the private viewing of the UK’s first ever FilmZine – something to go down in history! “30seconds3minutes30filmDIAOLOGUE’. It featured submissions from across the world, as well as local talent, speaking of the art of ‘Dialogue’ and celebrating the vanguard. What an impressive showcase this was! A huge range of cutting-edge, innovative and often unconventional themes creatively explored, and cleverly directed by Baileyface Productions. We’re hoping an online version of this will become available to view, and would thoroughly recommend checking it out.

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There were so many other festival events which sadly we didn’t get the chance to attend, including; A collaboration with Room Art – “Incidental” – comprising of a live curation of music, art installation, video, theatre and dance resulting in an immersive experience across the arts. We were also gutted to miss artist Wolfgang Buttress’ ensemble BE which took place at Coventry Cathedral. This performance was a unique soundscape that featured the live-streamed sound of 50,000 bees from a hive within the Cathedral grounds, alongside a choir developed specifically for the evening. Those who I spoke to who did attend described it as “hypnotic”, “mesmerising” and “out of this world”. A real meditative performance that tapped into another level of consciousness. Also nationally renowned performance poet, John Hegley performed live at Fargo Village on 10th Oct for World Mental Health Day.

It was a delight to have something such as well-rounded, thought-provoking event happening in the city, so sensitively executed yet with such a celebratory nature. A quarter of the UK population are believed to experience mental health problems, so for many of us, the issues explored in this festival were very close to home. Yet this festival broke down the stigma of so many issues facing people today, and beautifully demonstrated the power of creativity on a journey of self-discovery, wellbeing and recovery. Well done to all who were involved in putting on such a vast, refreshing event, which will leave us talking for weeks to come. You’ve set the bar now! We can’t wait to see what the 2018 Scratch the Surface Festival will have in store.

Artist Spotlight: Natalie Seymour

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Up and coming local photographer, Natalie Seymour, is currently displaying work at #TheFuture exhibition for the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. Natalie has a distinct style in which she creates composite images as documentation of derelict buildings. We’ve interviewed Natalie to find out more about her photography practice, and the work she created as a response to the CET Building – Coventry Biennial’s central exhibition space.

What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

I would describe myself as a Fine Art Photographer as my layered images have a painterly aesthetic.

What mediums do you use?

I explore derelict buildings and document my findings then layer my photography to create Digital Photo Collages.

What themes do you explore in your work?

My work captures buildings in a state of dereliction and shows the confusing nature of exploring abandoned places where one decaying element often blurs into the next.

What will you be displaying at the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art?

I am displaying 3 Digital Photo Collages at the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. The images aim to capture the essence of The Coventry Telegraph building prior to its change of use and modernisation.

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What other artists have you drawn inspiration from?

Aesthetically I am inspired by painters such as John Monks, I love the mood conveyed in his paintings and the texture. I also look at a lot of documentary photography of Derelict buildings for example Romain Veillon who photographs abandoned buildings across the world.

What is the next project you are planning?

I am currently an AA2A artist at Coventry University so I will be developing new works at the University for an exhibition. Following a similar theme I will be creating works based on my explorations of abandoned places but using different techniques and materials to develop my work.

 What are your future plans as a Visual Artist?

In the future I would like to do a Masters degree and continue exhibiting works.

Where can people find out more about you?

People can see more of my work and find out more at the following:

Instagram: @natalie_seymour_artist

www.facebook.com/NatalieSeymourArtist/

www.natalieseymour93.wixsite.com/artist

Twitter: @natalieseymour_

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Introducing Ha – and their latest project “Re-tale”

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Ha is an artist led organisation based in Coventry, Warwickshire and the West Midlands and is led by artists Rob Hamp and Andrea Hannon. Ha will be exhibiting their latest project “Re-tale” at the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. We’ve interviewed them to find out more about their work, and what they’ve got lined up for the Biennial.

How did you first meet and form as an artist collaboration?

We met in 2012 at Coventry University whilst both working in the area of Fine Art in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. We formed Ha in 2015.

 What type of artwork do you create together?

Our work is responsive as a result of specific interactions/occupations/ inhabitations with existing people/spaces/places. We undertake and develop projects that focus on social/public engagement, with a particular interest in the relationship between the self, space and place in relation to how we occupy, use and negotiate the places in which we reside.

The artwork is of a documentary style, data gathering through the use of visual and textual documentation; video, photography and audio recording. Which is then developed further through installation based works.

Tell us about the project Re-tale which you will be exhibiting at the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art

Retail in cities is evolving due to regeneration and the ever-changing needs of society. In an age where technology means you can have what you need at the click of a button, closing down sale signs are becoming a common sight changing the landscape of the cities in which we live.

Re-tale focuses particularly on the city of Coventry asking the viewer/audience/customer to tell us their tales about Coventry as their city. Three questions; (What is your favourite thing about Coventry? What is your favourite building in Coventry? What is your fondest memory about Coventry?) will appear on a postcard in the carrier bag the viewer is able to take away. The answers will be shared via twitter and the cards collated for data gathering.

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The bags will be on display in the Glass box on Earl Street, which is set up as a ‘pop-up’ re-tale premises. They can also be collected from other venues Fargo and the CET building during the Coventry Biennial.

“Those who throw stones should not live in Glass Boxes”. The Glass Box originally purpose built, non-organically considered, as an architectural showroom for all people of Coventry to visit and air their views on the sample designs being considered for the cities redevelopment, for that reason is a fitting venue for such an undertaking. Now through Re-tale it is a mechanism for very similar gain and hopes to draw out once more on the fact that historically Coventry has been one of the most democratic cities in the world. This true, potentially hard-hitting anonymous data gathering exercise can be recorded and registered. All that is of importance is the answers the audience provides. Straightforward, transparent and leaving no opportunity for confusion. A basic and outreaching mode of data gathering occurs through an audience that once leaving the Glass Box (H.Q), Fargo or the CET Building, carrying their bag becomes a transient, active and integral part of the Re-tale exhibition.

Our Re-tale premises in the Glass Box can be viewed as stark and baron, almost ready to close its doors for the very last time, let to us on a short-term lease because nobody loves it anymore. However there is nothing better to draw the crowds than a deal, a deal that ask only of the viewer/customer to parade our artwork through the city, answer our questions and in return we promise to supply your thoughts to the city.

Where and what dates will the exhibition run?

Throughout the duration of the Biennial (6th – 22nd October).

Do you have plans for any future projects together?

Yes, we have other projects in the pipeline. Re-tale in particular is a small part of a larger intended project. Watch this space.

Where can people follow you for more info? 

https://retaleha.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/titled_ha

You can find out more about all the events in store for the Coventry Biennial here.

Coventry University MA Exposé – Postgrad Showcase

This week Curating Coventry was invited along to the Private Viewing of the MA Exposé Postgrad Exhibition. And boy, did they deliver! This incredible showcase of raw talent blew us away.

First stop was MA Painting display on the top floor of the Graham Sutherland building. We turned straight into a beautiful, vibrant collection of surrealist style paintings, which formed Tabi Lampe’s display. We got to chat to the artist and it was upon discovering what inspires her creativity that her work became even more exciting to view.

Tabi explores the different levels of human consciousness, and how the activity of regularly creating art pushes you through limitations and inhibitions. This results in a higher level of consciousness, self-awareness, acute intuition and inner freedom. It is escapism from the fear-driven mind-sets, and limited state of ‘being’ in which we have become conditioned to in today’s world. As you view her paintings, you really feel the sense of the release and freedom that the artist was experiencing, as she delved into the higher state of consciousness.

This amazing installation accompanied the paintings, featuring pinecones delicately emitting from the central figure – each pine cone symbolic of the pineal gland – that gland that was once know as the “third eye”.

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Round the corner was a charming collection by Jennifer Shufflebotham’s “Sri Lanka Series” – a result that has grown from the organic relationship of combining photography and painting.

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The process in which the artist took to create the final pieces is an interesting journey in itself. The photographs were captured during experiences travelling Sri Lanka. She creates composite images from photo combinations, in which working drawings are created. These are then adapted to paintings. The result is this wonderful series of fictitious scenes, and the combination of mediums results in an original and distinct style of painting.

Andy Farr, is another artist exhibiting a seriously impressive display, featuring a combination of different projects that he’s worked on.

“Lost Generation” was the first we explored – a project he ran with the Arts Council of England across a number of schools, designed to make WW1 centenary relevant to today’s youth. Dark scenes of the bloody aftermath WW1 battlegrounds, combined with scenes of a modern festival – mud-bathed fields with bodies strewn over the land. In the modern scenes, are the teenagers dead? Sleeping? Or is this just the morning after a heavy night partying at the festival?

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In contrast to this, his “Black Dogs” collection of paintings were created in response to reflections and experience of mental health issues. We particularly loved “Swing”, and “Carousel’ which combine a more abstract style with eerie dream-like scenes of an abandoned funfair.

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Andy has secured a Studio Space at the Meter Rooms in Coventry, so we’re looking forward to seeing more great work from him.

Other great work included a great collection of landscape scenes by Yue Haung, incorporating this wonderful painting installation of dark, foreboding mountainous rock scenes, painted into the gallery space.

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Samridhi Khandelwalgreat “Shadows” installation piece and an striking sequence of stunning modern figurative paintings.

Yiwen Chen’s display combines drapes of fabric with her paintings, and creates collections of delicate miniature paintings, combined together to form a single artwork.

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We then moved along to the Glassbox Gallery, which was exhibiting the Contemporary Practice MA. We loved the diversity and assortment of different mediums truly expressing the individuality of the artists on display. Artwork included audio-video installations, a digital fabrication of wearable sculptures, eerie dolls house of figurines made up from Barbie dolls, fairies, combined with military action-figures, plus more sculptural, installation art.

The combination such a variety of contemporary mediums resulted in wonderfully eclectic showcase of creative expression, which pushed through convention.

All in all this was such an outstanding showcase of the quality of work coming from the post-grads of Coventry University. We were really blown away by the pure talent and integrity of this impressive show, and looking forward to seeing more from these gifted individuals in the future.

Highlights from Spon Spun

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Last weekend we set out to explore the Art Trail of the second ever Spon Spun festival. What a super adventure that was. We met a wonderful and diverse collection of artists with a really impressive selection of work on display. From sculptural installations to digital creations, the beautiful handcraft created at local workshops to cutting-edge docu-photography. There really was something for everyone. Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit every location, however we got to see what we missed at the follow-up exhibition at City Arcadia Gallery (showing until 30th Sept). Would really recommend stopping by when you are next in town.

See their Facebook event page here.

So here’s how the day went…

First stop – The Ruined Chapel – Michelle Englefield’s enchanting sculptural installation “Dwelling”. As you step inside and engaged with it, it took on a whole different perspective. The nature-like quality of the dome sat perfectly in this beautiful setting, so you really got a feel of how she adapted the piece of art to it’s environment.

Our next find was find was this wonderful digital piece “Loop the Loop” by Carol Breen, placed in the window of Spon End Chip Shop.

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Third stop was with local artist and poet, Mary Courtney. We got to leave our mark on “The Big Draw” – dozens of people had got involved and added their sketches – all of which were stories and memories they had to share from experiences in Spon End.

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Next stop was the Albany Theatre where we got to view some wonderful images by local docu-photographer Thomas Tierney, as part of his project “Spon End Stories”. He captures both the hidden beauty and reality of everyday life in Spon End.  Sadly we arrived too late for the tour to see the performance at the theatre, so had to swiftly move onto the next location…

Coventry Men’s Shed – the organisation was set up to help with the health and wellbeing of men aged 30 and over. They work to regain a greater level of confidence and self-worth through engaging in creative activities. What an impressive collection of arts and crafts they had on display! We have so much respect for what they do.

We then walked up through the park and stumbled upon these lovely textile pieces which were created at workshops at Weaver’s House. A charming addition to the playground.

We then wandered up to St John’s Church to view this wonderful painting by Chiara Grant, “Trust and Friendship for a Game”. Another really talented local artist – a recent graduate of Fine Art & Contemporary Practice MA. Hope to see more great work from her again soon.

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Before running out of time we managed a visit of Holyhead Studios. The first exhibition we visited there was – “Neighbourhood”, by local urban docu-photographer Alan Van Wijgerden. This work was curated by Coventry artist Kate Hawkins who has a keen interest in human geography. “Neighbourhood” looks at the history and evolution of the post-war built environment in Spon End. Really interesting, and informative display.

Then our final stop was the top floor at Holyhead studios where we got to chat to renown local artist Martin Green about the project he is currently working on for the forthcoming Coventry Biennial. This will be on display at the old Coventry Evening Telegraphy building. His studio is fascinating to view, with vast collections of categorised found objects. These form the medium in which he works, combined with painting and sculptural pieces, which can be engaged and interacted with. Really looking forward to seeing what’s to come at the Biennial.

To sum it, this was a wonderful showcase of local talent, and a perfect example of the depth and range of the city’s visual arts.

Artist Spotlight: Rob Hamp

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Rob is currently exhibiting his work in Drapers’, Coventry and will be exhibiting in the forthcoming Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art (as part of a collaboration with artist Andrea Hannon).

We have interviewed Rob to find out more about his own practice. Here’s what he has to say…

What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

I am an author – artist – constructor, my practice resonates visually with constructivist works, however due to my written work that underpins it, it is in fact far closer to the Suprematist movement.

What mediums do you use?

My work is purged down into materials, both new and used depending on the written work. “Truth to Material” is paramount in selecting object and material, natural for a truthful statement and man-made for the untruthful.

What themes do you explore in your work?

The truth and untruth played out with humour and tragedy.

Could you describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

It depends what dimension I am playing out? What is real-life and what is merely make believe? “On the face of it”

What other artists have you drawn inspiration from?

Tatlin, El Liszitsky, Rodchenko, Malevich, Shakespeare, Beckett and Pinter.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently exhibiting at Stryx. Title: Un-scene (phase one) with Halina Dominska, (phase two) is on the 17th of September.

“Van Trip” has just been funded as phase two of “From East to West with Love” and more news will be available very soon.

Where can we see you exhibiting next?

Stryx, Birmingham now.

Drapers’ now.

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art as “Ha” – A long-term collaboration with artist Andrea Hannon.

Find out more here … https://coventrybiennial.com/re-tale/

You can view more of Rob’s work on http://robhamp.co.uk/

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Martin Green. 2017

This autumn Coventry will see it’s first ever Biennial of Contemporary Art. This exciting festival will be a vast celebration of local, UK and international artists. With a jam-packed programme spanning over two weeks, it is going to be huge – we can’t wait!

Curating Coventry has been lucky enough to interview founder Ryan Hughes to see what is in store for the event. Here’s the lowdown…


Why will the Biennial be running in Coventry, and what are the objectives behind this?

Coventry has so much potential at the moment!

There’s a lot of investment in the city and that’s not just limited to property development, student accommodation and car manufacture, as many would have you believe. Thanks to the City Council’s cultural strategy and the bid to be City of Culture 2021 businesses and institutions in the city, as well as regionally and nationally are really starting to pay attention to Coventry and the work going on in the city.

Example’s of this national attention include two organisations in the city being listed in the recent Artist-Led Hot 100, academics from Coventry University joining the British Council to conduct research at the Venice Biennale and the increase in the number of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations in the city. This is all super exciting and has led to a situation where something as ambitious as a biennial feels both possible and useful.

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art intends to celebrate what’s best about the city whilst also aiming to bring something which maybe isn’t already being provided. There are rich histories of artistic production and critical thinking in the city, the biennial will make these histories visible and accessible whilst creating new legacies.

James Lomax. 2017

What dates will the festival be running?

The festival will be running the 6th – 22nd October 2017, and our exhibitions will be open daily. We have an exciting range of events scheduled to take place over the 17 days. Prior to the biennial opening we have several events taking place including a pair of activities on the 15th of September in both Coventry and Leamington Spa. At 1pm our director will deliver a 30 minute talk on our programmes at Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum.

After this, from 7:30pm we will be ‘warming-up’ the biennial at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum as a part of their Herbert Lates: Art Fiesta event. For this event Juneau Projects and friends will host their ‘I am the Live Warrior’ participatory performance.

What events will be taking place as part of the Coventry Biennial?

We’ve got an exciting range of events for a variety of audiences, these are in addition to our exhibitions programme, which is equally expansive. Our exhibitions are all free to attend and the majority of our events are free, too.

We have educational workshops for family’s and young people alongside guided tours of our exhibitions and artists talks.

We’ve got an exciting series of performances and parties including participatory work in secret locations, wonky dance music, mead tasting rituals and an artist-led yoga session.

As well as these opportunities to get involved or be entertained we also have a series of academic-style talks and symposiums including a day long event called ‘The Biennial Effect’ exploring the impact of these festivals on place making, produced in partnership with New Art West Midlands, as well as a symposium exploring the practice of painting within contemporary art.

We’re also delighted to have a very special talk being delivered by Jack Klaff, an actor with roles in both Star Wars and James Bond who is also a leading lecturer in understanding science.

The first event for the biennial is our private view, taking place at The CET Building on the evening of the 6th of October, despite the name, this is open to everybody!

Granby Workshop _ Marie Jacotey. 2015

What venues will be hosting these events?

Our main exhibition will be housed in the previously empty and fairly dilapidated CET Building. We have undertaken extensive conversion work to get this space exhibition ready and are sure audiences will love exploring the space.

We’re also curating shows and hosting events at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, The Box at Fargo Village, The Tin Community Space, Meter Room Studios and Project Space and The Old Grammar School.

Our partners are presenting projects in many other amazing locations across the city centre including The Glass Box, Coventry Cathedral, CLASS ROOM, City Arcadia Gallery and many other locations.

What artists will be on display?

We’re very excited about the artists which we’re showing throughout the biennial. There’s a real mixture of really well established, ‘big name’ artists alongside some of the most interesting artists working in the UK today as well as exciting early carer artists and recent graduates showing new works.

The full artist list is as follows:

Terry Atkinson, Ashish Avikunthak, Bobby Baker, Rory Beard, Talking Birds, John Bridgeman, Wolfgang Buttress, Mira Calix, Annie Carpenter, Edward Clayton, Bermuda Collective, Sir Jacob Epstein, Imogen Frost, Matthew Gale, Darryl Georgiou & Rebekah Tolley, Jochen Gerz, Fiona Grady, Glatze, Martin Green, Olga Grotova, HA, Emma Hart, John Hegley, Gregory Herbert, Holly Rowan Hesson, Kurt Hickson, Hipkiss & Graney, Katie Hodson, Katie Hodson & Alex Wojtulewicz, Andy Holden, Li Hui, Nimzo-Indian, Tom James, Daniel Sean Kelly, Dolly Kershaw, Michael Lightborne, James Lomax, Claire Margaret, The Grubby Mitts, Nicole Mortiboys, Paul Newman, Joe Fletcher Orr, Charley Peters, Pablo Picasso, Marion Piper, Yelena Popova, Grantchester Pottery, Juneau Projects, Alma Ramsey, Repeator, Antonio Roberts, Ludic Rooms, Daniel Salisbury, Oliver Scott, Natalie Seymour, sirenscrossing, Emily Speed, Denise Startin, Artist Supermarket, Swoomptheeng, Trevor Tennant, Jo Thomas, James Faure Walker, Stuart Whipps, Duncan Whitley, Terence Wilde, Ryan Williams, Tammy Woodrow, Granby Workshop / Assemble, Granby Workshop / Marie Jacotey, Wen Wu, John Yeadon.

Where can people go to find out more about what’s to come?

You can find our full programme here… https://coventrybiennial.com/programme/

Our printed programmes will be appearing around the city and wider West Midlands region, so keep a look out for these.

In the meantime there are clues around our plans being leaked on our social media platforms.

Where can people follow you on Social Media?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CovBiennial/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cov_Biennial

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cov_biennial/

Web: www.coventrybiennial.com

Stay tuned to the hashtags: #CovBiennial #CoventryBiennial #TheFuture #ThisIsCoventry

Andy Holden. 2016 (1)

 

#CreativeCoventry – Let’s show the world what we’ve got!

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As part of Curating Coventry’s celebration of visual arts in the city, we are running a campaign until 31st October 2017, to show off the city’s creative talent. So this is a call out to all artistic people in Coventry – why not show the world what you’ve got?

Whether you are a full-time working artist, an art student or simply someone taking on a new artistic hobby – the next time you upload a piece of your artwork to either Twitter or Instagram, include the hashtag #CreativeCoventry to make your work easy to find.

Then lets share the creative love, and explore and appreciate each other’s work.

In doing this, we aim to help increase exposure for you as an artist and help to showcase your talent to a wider audience.

Curating Coventry is also on Facebook – we’d love you to post your work on our wall for us all to enjoy and share in our ‘Creative Coventry’ album https://www.facebook.com/CuratingCoventry/

We’re not here to judge people’s work – we’re just on a mission to celebrate creativity. So if you are new and just starting out, don’t be shy. We’d love to see your art.

You could be a painter, photographer, digital artist or textile artist. A sculptor, a ceramicist, a filmmaker or an illustrator – no matter what your artistic medium is – get involved and show off your talent. We really want to see the fresh talent from students in Cov/Warks as well!

With Coventry making the shortlist for the 2021 City of Culture, what better time is there to be championing the city’s creativity?

Let’s show the world what the artistic talent Coventry has!

#CreativeCoventry

P.S – you can also find us on:

Twitter: @CuratingCov

Instagram: @CuratingCoventry

 

Artist Spotlight: Fine Art Photographer Nilupa Yasmin

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Freshly graduated from her Photography degree at Coventry uni, Nilupa has talked to Curating Coventry to give us the lowdown on her practice. She beautifully combines fine art photography with traditional weaving techniques, passed down through her South Asian cultural roots, creating visually outstanding pieces.

Here’s what Nilupa has to say…

What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

I would describe myself as a fine art photographer. My work is primarily lens based combined with a variety of mediums. Currently my projects involve topics surrounding culture and identity whilst using myself as the subject. I’m drawn to the notion of working with ideas that I find conflicting/intriguing to me personally so I always feel involved in what I’m working on.

When did you first become interested in Art?

I developed my passion for art when I started my Art GCSE in school. Before then, the art we were taught was very linear and it never felt involving or exciting. For me, my art has always excited me and that’s why I’m still here doing it. At GCSE I was always the anomaly in my class with my abstract paintings and gigantic work. I loved the idea of working with so many different mediums and I was never told my ideas couldn’t work. I went onto A-levels where I studied both Art and Design and Photography, which is where my interest in photography began thus pursuing it further as a degree.

What message do you like to communicate through your work?

My work is a lot about this idea of belonging. It’s an exploration of ideas surrounding culture, traditions and heritage etc, concepts that allow us to define who we are. As a British Bengali Muslim woman, my art is very much about others and myself. Using myself in my work, I’m able to open up this discussion for where I stand in the world of art and how my practise informs others about these conversations.

What mediums do you use?

I work widely with different forms of textile as I have an interest in the connotations surrounding fabric and the notions behind the way people perceive it. This comes from the fact that I choose to wear a hijab and it has always intrigued me in the way others observe it. I work closely with different forms of handcraft such as weaving, origami and embroidery. Aided by my understanding of topics surrounding the relationship of craft vs art and embroidery being defined women’s work. My works with different mediums are informed by my own research and knowledge around them.

All my works are always related back to my photography, as it’s always the foundation of where my work comes from. I work primarily with digital imagery but often find myself experimenting with the image after.

Which artists have you drawn inspiration from?

For my latest project, ‘Grow me a Waterlily’, the works by Lala Abaddon, El Anatsui and Yayoi Kusama have been of a great influence in terms of technique, size and conceptual ideas. The work of Shirin Neshat has been both a favourite and inspiration for a lot of the work I have made. I take a wide interest in minority artists of colour as I find that they explore many ideas that are close to home and relatable to me. I’ve drawn inspiration from so many artists such as Raisa Kabir, Victoria Udondian, Nafise Motlaq, Hassan Hajaj, Nasreen Shaikh Jamal Al Lail and so many more! Artist research has always been a very big key in the work I made because it’s so important to see how others have worked around similar topics in the way you have and the way they have done it.

How has your practice developed over time?

There has been a big jump. I found my practise in terms of ideas in second year through a project I did about Foleshill in Coventry. The project took me on a trail of exploring a place that informed me about myself in many ways. In regards to the way I work, I feel I’ve always had this style of work from when I was 15 at school to 21 and graduating soon. I’ve been glad to have been pushed in every point of my art based education and developed further in the work I want to keep on making.

Do you have a favourite piece of work that you have done?

That one is really hard! I feel each of my work means something to me for its many reasons. However, if I had to choose one it would be my project Baiyn বায়ন (https://www.nilupayasmin.com/baiyn). Baiyn means weaving in Bengali and it was the project that introduced me to my own lost family history forming the foundations of the work I made on from there.

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How has your experience been studying Photography at Coventry uni?

I have immensely enjoyed it. I’ve left now so I can tell you I’m not being paid or bribed for a good grade to say this but I have not regretted joining Coventry one bit in the past 3 years. From the way the course is run to the tutors, it has been a great experience! I can’t say enough about my teachers but having them around has really been what’s made the whole experience more enjoyable. I thrive off learning and they continue to feed us all this great knowledge whilst pushing us to become better in every work we make. Till this day I don’t know how all those artist names and bodies of work stay in their brain; they are all so remarkable for it and I believe it’s a privilege to have been taught by them all. What helped the most was the fact that we were a small year group and we had constant contact with our tutors. As cheesy as it may sound the photography department are like a little cosy family. I’ve always believed that you give what you get and here at Coventry’s it’s exactly been that.

What’s next for you now?

I’ m currently looking around for a more stable job so I can keep making work along side it. I currently work at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and I’m hoping to stay involved in the museum/gallery scene for a little longer. I’ve also been in contact regarding some commission based work so its fingers crossed to that and I’m really going with the flow right now and just exploring and hoping to be making some more work. I do want to still be in the art scene and it’s now just seeing where it goes.

 

Curating Coventry wishes you all the best for the future Nilupa! looking forward to seeing more of this wonerful work.

See more of Nilupa’s artwork here

And here are a few more of her stunning pieces…

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Wow – so much public art to see

Since starting this blog, we have set ourselves a little challenge: to document as much public art that we discover around Coventry as possible. Each time we travel through the city, we’re on mission to experience everything around us as if it’s my first ever time visiting Coventry.

As a personal fan of street art, Fargo Village is the best place to go to see such a huge urban collection in one place:

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But even as you walk through the city centre, it’s astonishing how much amazing artwork is out there for anyone to view. So much awesome artistry and craftmanship.

Coventry Cathedral, has a host of sculptures to explore. We loved this one:

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“Choir of survivors” by Helmut Heinze – in memory of civilians killed in the Second World War.

Then this wonderful stone carving on display outside The Herbert:

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‘The Enfolding’ by Jean Parker – mother and child embracing as a symbol of love and peace.

Then head out of the city centre to the Memorial Park, for more wonderful outdoor sculptures:

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Beech Leaves by Steve Tomlinson – a reflection of the First World War.

There is so much more great work to explore and enjoy. All our findings will be documented on our Instagram Page (along with lots of other cool creative stuff happening in the city). Follow us on here if you want to join our journey, and discover some of this for yourself.

🙂

What’s Curating Coventry all about then?

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Curating Coventry is a blog celebrating visual arts in city. So much awesome art is currently happening, and it’s all accessible to anyone, so why not join us on our adventure in exploring the city’s art scene?

The diversity and selection of visual art in Coventry is exciting and impressive. There’s something for everyone, no matter what your tastes. It’s just a case of knowing what’s on and where to go. This is where Curating Coventry comes in. We want to keep you up-to-date with all the latest events and exhibitions, and show off the incredible talent of Coventry’s local artists.

Alongside this blog, you can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, where we’ll be posting up-to-date info including:

  • The work of local artists
  • ‘What’s On’ in Coventry’s visual arts scene – events/exhibitions/art classes plus more
  • Opportunities for artists – i.e. creative jobs/bursaries/commissions etc
  • News and updates from some big names in the art world
  • Plus we’ll sharing a few things that we personally find inspiring and cool – quotes, music and a scattering of anything in between

So here’s the links to our Social Media pages:

https://www.facebook.com/CuratingCoventry/

https://twitter.com/CuratingCov

https://www.instagram.com/curatingcoventry/

Hope you enjoy what you see.

🙂

Artist Spotlight: Michelle Englefield

Michelle Englefield finished her BA in Fine Art at Coventry University last year, and was granted a place on Coventry Artspace’s 2017/18 Graduate Residency Initiative. Each year recent graduates can apply for this great personal development opportunity, which includes a year of free studio space, use of their city centre gallery, financial support to visit another cultural event, plus lots of chance to gain knowledge and expertise from other industry professionals.

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What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

I’d describe myself as a sculpture and installation artist.

What mediums do you use?

Found objects made from natural materials.

 What themes do you explore in your work?

Most of my work is autobiographical.

Who and what do you draw inspiration from?

I mainly draw inspiration from personal experiences and artists like Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin.

What projects will you be working on during your residency with Artspace?

I am currently also doing a Masters in Contemporary Arts Practice. The residency has been a massive safe haven to spent time to work on my practise and the theme of the aftermath of trauma.

What have you hoped to accomplish during your residency?

Lots of networking opportunities and a personal growth in my practise along side a exhibition.

 What are your future plans as a Visual Artist?

Strengthen and continuing my practise through exhibiting and a achieving a job in the creative industry.

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 Where can people find out more about you?

You can find me on Facebook @MichelleEnglefieldArt

And on Instagram @xreddangelx

Applications are now open for Coventry Artspace’s 2018/19 Graduate in Residence, and this year are offering two places. Application closed on 24th June.

Find out how you can apply here:

http://coventry-artspace.co.uk/residency/