Exhibitions to visit in Coventry this month

Coventry’s visual arts scene is in for a super busy June. Loads of exhibitions to view, so we’ve summed up some of the top exhibitions to check out over the next couple of weeks:

Project Coventry curated by Tara Rutledge

For one night only Project Coventry will run on Thursday 20th June at Classroom Gallery from 6:30 – 9:30pm. There is a cracking line-up of 12 Coventry-based artists for an immersive, interactive projection-based exhibition. We caught up Tara Rutledge, the artist behind it all last week to find out what’s in store.

Take a read here.

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To be within but not adrift by Ryan C. L. & Japhet Dinganga at Knights Wine Bar, Two Tone Village

Private View is Thursday 20th June, 5-9pm then it runs until 27th June.

Ryan says; “The work explores the ways in which we navigate social media. I challenge the prevalence of vanity and seek to present an alternative way of seeing things through a series of visual analogies. You’ll see a mix of photography and mixed media around the room. We’ll have live jazz music and performances, a night to contemplate and appreciate things.”

See the Facebook event here page for more details.

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Bearing Gifts in celebration of Refugee Week at St Mary’s Guildhall

Curated by Maokwo, this exhibition will showcase creative gifts by a fusion of cultures. Opening to the public on Friday 21st June, this two-week long exhibition celebrates the unique talents, and creative gifts that refugees and migrants bring to the city and UK as a whole. Artists from diverse backgrounds and communities will be exhibiting their work.

See their Facebook event page here for full details.

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Condition Humaine at Coventry Cathedral

Open until 30th June, this exhibition by Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange marks the 60th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities. Condition Humaine is concerned with human vulnerability. The exhibition features a moving selection of work by Coventry artists John Yeadon and Lisa Gunn together with Monika Marten and Kerstin Franke-Gneuss from Dresden. Paintings, etchings, linocuts, mixed media and sculpture explore courage, struggle and resilience – qualities both cities share.

Find out more about Condition Humaine here.

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Motion and Stillness: Works by Gary Wragg at the Lanchester Research Gallery

Curated by Matthew Macaulay, Director of the Classroom Gallery, this exhibition features both recent large-scale abstract paintings by Gary Wragg and more small-scale figurative paintings created back in the 1960s. Gary last exhibited in Coventry at The Herbert back in 1983, and flyers from that exhibition can be viewed here too. In the 70s Gary became an avid Tai Chi enthusiast, and his Tai Chi practice merges in with the artworks he created from this date.

The exhibition continues until the 5th of July between 10:00 and 16:00 on Tuesday to Thursdays. For appointments outside these times please contact Matthew Macaulay at: sayhello@weareclassroom.com.

View the Facebook event page here for more details.

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(Image by Alan Van Wijgerden)

Warwickshire Open Studios

Over 300 artists are exhibiting in 151 venues for this summer’s event which runs across Coventry and Warwickshire. It is now open and will run until 30th June. This year there will be 75 new artists exhibiting in Open Studios, and is set to be one of their best years yet.

Check out their website and artist listings and start planning your visits over the coming weeks – https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/

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Project Coventry – coming soon!

We’ve caught up with Coventry-based artist Tara Rutledge to find out about her exciting forthcoming venture – Project Coventry – a projection-based exhibition that will take place at Classroom Gallery later this month. We’ve also delved a little deeper into Tara’s creative practice and what inspired her as an artist…

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What is Project Coventry themed around?

Project Coventry is a projection-based exhibition exploring the ongoing rebirth and regeneration of Coventry.

During the Blitz much of Coventry was flattened and then rebuilt in a very different style, and in recent years a similar transformation is happening within our city, but for very different reasons. Coventry is changing and growing, becoming a University city, a City of Culture, a tourist destination and its City Centre is adapting to new trends in online shopping, and the ‘decline’ of the high street. When these changes happened back in the 50s and 60s they weren’t always popular, and nearly 60 years on, people’s attitude towards alterations in the city haven’t changed all that much.

There seems to be a strong link between our sense of self and the city we grew up in. If that familiarity is lost, is our sense of home lost too?

Project Coventry will bring together local artists, some who have never worked with projection before, and pair them with experienced projection artists, to make new collaborative artworks that explore this theme.

 

Tell us which artists will be exhibiting and why you selected them for your show?

There are 12 artists involved in Project Coventry, including myself.

They are all extremely talented and work with a wide range of media including photography, poetry, printmaking, animation and film. They all have a strong connection to the city so seemed perfect to interpret the brief, but they are also artists who I hugely admire and who have influenced my practice since being introduced to their work.

 

What kind of thing can people expect to see at Project Coventry?

I’ve tried to make the exhibition as interactive as possible, giving the audience the opportunity to become involved with the projections, wearing 3d glasses to view stereoscopic images of the city from the 1960s, seeing poems projected onto live performers, listening to music and soundscapes and becoming live projections themselves!

  

What dates will the exhibition run? 

Project Coventry – The Exhibition is a one-off event running from 6.30 pm – 9.30pm on Thursday 20th June at CLASS ROOM & Holyhead Studios in Coventry City Centre. It’s a chance to showcase all the artwork at the same time in one location, but following on from the gallery exhibition, a selection of the artworks will be toured around Coventry this autumn. I’m keen to take the artwork out to parks, libraries, shops, subways and public spaces where anyone can access them. In fact, I will be reaching out to the public for suggestions of where they’d like to view it in their local area, so if anyone has any ideas please get in touch.

 

Where can people go to find out more?

Please check out the Project Coventry website, where you can find full details of when and where the exhibition will be held and learn more about each of the artists involved:

www.projectcoventry.co.uk

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We’d love to get to know more about you as an artist. What type of work do you produce yourself as a Visual Artist?

My work is quite varied, recently I’ve been experimenting with projection, photography, film and outdoor installations.

 

What themes do you explore through your work?

I was wondering about this myself the other day, and initially didn’t think I had any in particular but, I noticed a reoccurring theme seems to be looking at things from a different viewpoint. Whether that be finding beauty within decay, viewing the world through a different lens or just questioning what we take for granted.

Otherwise the main consistent theme through most of my recent work is interactivity, taking art outdoors and community engagement.

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What forms the starting point for a new piece of work? 

Conversations, dreams, thoughts that pop into my head while walking, other people’s artwork often inspires me and sparks new ideas.

  

Are there any other artists who you admire and feel inspired by?

As well as the artists involved in Project Coventry I’d have to say individual artists like Luke Jerram, Niall McDiarmid, Alex Rinsler, JPS and then companies like Hellion Trace, Imagineer Productions, The Lantern Company, SquidSoup and Luxmuralis.

  

Do you have any future projects planned?

Too many! But, for now, I’m concentrating on just one or two.

Last year I went to Dublin and fell in love with the Dublin Canvas project, a campaign inspired by the idea of having ‘Less Grey, More Play’ within a city. The project does a regular call out to artists for designs to decorate the city’s traffic light control boxes. All have different themes and they really brighten up the areas they are located in. I’d love to bring this idea to Coventry, starting with a call out to local artists to design 12 boxes to inspire people and show what can be done, and then taking the project out into the community. Encouraging local schools/community groups/shop workers to design the artwork for the boxes on their street.

I’m also keen to bring a Flash Fiction competition to the city, giving winners a chance to be mentored by local writers and learn from their wealth of experience.

  

Where can people go to find out more about you and your creative practice?

 You can find me on

twitter: @sparkleyesXx

Instagram: @lajeteeproductions

I have a website going live in the next couple of weeks so keep an eye out for an announcement on social media.

 

 

Artist Spotlight: Our interview with Coventry Artspace’s Graduate Artists-In-Residence

During our May #ArtChatCov Tweet Chat we ran a live interview with Coventry Artspace’s Graduate Artists-In-Residence Helen Kilby-Nelson and Adam Neal. They have just past the half-way point of their one-year residencies and have been reflecting on the past 6 months. Take a read of what was discussed during their Q& A on Twitter…

How has the residency helped with your personal development as an artist?
Adam: So far it’s given me the agency and freedom to produce work along a line of inquiry that genuinely excites me – and me and Helen have also planned future collaborative projects.

Helen: Time, space and support which has been crucial in this first year after graduating. Networking has been very helpful and I’ve developed some valuable relationships. As Adam said, the residency has brought us together and we will be working collaboratively post residency!

How has having your own studio space to work in benefitted your creative practice since finishing your degree?
Adam: It’s been a proactive space to think and reflect in relation to contextual and theoretical frameworks of my practice – it has taught me that personally a studio isn’t a requirement for my practical work however.

Helen: it’s an interesting space which I fought with, a lot, during the first few months. I’ve used the space to stretch – as a place to contemplate, and to engage with my work without distractions.

What do you feel you have gained most from your residencies so far?
Adam: The networks made have been crucial, they’ve allowed me to exhibit all over! To have been afforded the opportunity to practice within an established organisation, towards a solo exhibition, has given me real focus.

Helen: The skills required to be an artist rather than an art student. It has been a steep learning curve!

How will you be spending the rest of your time during your residency?
Adam: Currently aiming towards the solo exhibition! I’ve been planing away in terms of a thematic, title, which works will be shown etc – there’s a myriad of factors to consider, but the responsibility of it all is exciting.

Helen: This next stage of the residency will focus on resolving my body of work 360 Perpetuation for the solo show, alongside my other commitments. Also final planning for an 18 month project which is informed in part from this work.

Do you have a date planned yet for your exhibition at the end of your residency?
Adam: Yes mine is 16th – 24th August, with the opening on the 15th August. It’ll be at the Artspace Arcadia.

Helen: My exhibition will open at Artspace Arcadia on 29th August for the PV, then open 30th August to 7th September. I’m VERY excited!

We’re looking forward to getting along to view their solo shows!

Coventry Artspace have recently announced that applications are now open for the 2019/2020 Graduate Residency Programme. This is open to graduates from a UK BA in Fine Art or related course on or after Summer 2018.

Each graduate is assigned a mentor and receives a number of studio visits from their associates and partners.  They also receive up to 10 months free studio space and funding for at least one research trip within the UK, plus an end-of-residency solo exhibition. This opportunity is intended to help support recent graduates bridge the gap between full-time education and a career in the arts.

Find out more about their great personal development opportunity here.

 

 

The Coventry Arts Organisation Bringing History to Life

Coventry based arts organisation, Mercurial Arts, in partnership with Yardley primary school, Oasis Academy Hobmoor, have launched a brand new digital app, that will share Yardley’s local heritage through the stories and memories of its children, residents and wider communities.

The App, ‘Histories at Hobmoor’ is the culmination of a two-year-long project that saw schoolchildren, and local residents participate in a series of poetry and heritage workshops during a programme of holiday and afterschool sessions. They have been working with professional artists to create the work before uploading the media for app users to enjoy.

Histories at Hobmoor App Launch 

Darren King, Principal of Oasis Academy Hobmoor, said; “It has been fantastic to be part of this exciting project with Mercurial Arts, the engagement by our local community and pupils of Oasis Academy Hobmoor has been amazing. I can’t wait to see the developments of the App over the coming months with community members adding even more of their own memories from across Yardley.”

Mercurial Arts Artistic Director Oliver Scott said: “This project has been a delightful journey over the last two years. Yardley has fantastic local community members and creative children. It has been a real joy running the workshops and connecting the participants with our artists and heritage workers. We are now launching our app, as an experience for people to get out and about in Yardley hear the memories in locations and share their own stories. The website is where people can upload and share their memories of the area and will continue as a local history resource”

As well as learning about those who have walked the Hobmoor trail before them, there is also an opportunity for members of the public to upload their own stories, memories and photographs from the local area.

A celebratory launch event was held earlier in the month at Oasis Academy Hobmoor. The free app was available for guests to download and the users taken on the Histories at Hobmoor tour.

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The app will be an ongoing resource that people from Yardley and beyond can continue to connect with and use well into the future to find out more about Yardley and the history of its community. Available to download now from the Google Play Store and Apple App store when searching for Histories at Hobmoor.

The project has been funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund in partnership with Oasis Academy Hobmoor.

Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange celebrate 60 years of twinning

The Coventry Dresden Art Exchange exhibition Condition Humaine in Coventry Cathedral’s Lady Chapel will run from 31st May to 30th June, (10am to 4pm), with two Coventry artists and two Dresden artists.(Entry free).

The exhibition was first shown at the Kreuzkirche in Dresden in February 2019 to launch the 60th Anniversary of the twinning of Coventry and Dresden in Dresden. This is the seventh collaborative exhibition with Coventry and Dresden artists that the association has organised in as many years, where peace and reconciliation is expressed through the practical work of a collaboration of friends by understanding the different histories and culture of our cities and learning from one another.

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Image: Condition Humaine and exhibition, Kreuzkirche Dresden. February 2019.

John Yeadon, whose initiative set up the organisation, explains. “This is Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange’s first themed exhibition. Condition Humaine is concerned with human vulnerability, courage, struggle and resilience; qualities both cities share.”

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Image: Cry, Lino cut. John Yeadon 1969.

On Saturday, June 1st Coventry Spires Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus and Neuer Chor Dresden will together celebrate 60 years of twinning between these two cities that were so ravaged by war. The choirs and orchestra will perform in a joint concert in at 4.30pm Coventry Cathedral, celebrating peace, reconciliation and friendship.

Tickets available from ticketsource.co.uk/spiresmusic

The Spires website www.spiresmusic.com

The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is a personal initiative of John Yeadon with the Dresden artist Jean Kirsten in 2011. The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange programme seeks to develop dialogue and communication between artists from the cities of Coventry and Dresden. The aim is to create opportunities by establishing collaborative partnerships of exchanges, exhibitions, educational projects and forums.

Other events associated with the exhibition Condition Humaine events will include:

Meet the Artists, Lady Chapel, Sunday 2nd June 12 to 1pm.

Lisa Gunn, Artist Talk: Exposed, the disabled artist. Wednesday 5th June, 6.30 to 8.30pm, West End Nave, Coventry Cathedral.

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Poster image Fraunkirche Dresden.

GUEST BLOGGER – Adam Neal

We’re delighted to welcome special guest blogger Adam Neal. His practice revolves around issues of social class, nostalgia and loss. Neal utilises his experiences, upbringing and ephemera from traditional ‘working-class’ environments. These elements act as a vehicle for his practice, allowing him to generate work about the social, from within it.

Bay Leaves II

A Plebeian, Aware of his Milieu
Adam Neal

 Value

I’m glad I titled this text something convoluted, I like to believe it renders it that little bit more facetious. Facetiousness is a positive characteristic for an artist, and art to have, as everything seems to take itself so seriously.

“Artists are too in the mind of ‘isn’t it good this is happening’ instead of asking whether it should be happening at all, or evaluating it in any way. art doesn’t have inherent value, it’s always worth prodding” (The White Pube, 2018).

Self-reflection should be constant, in that same breath I ask myself, is the work I am making interesting, valuable, and really is it any good? In all honesty, I deem trying to produce artwork that is ‘good’ subjectively unattainable, and the question lies more so in does my work have any value and real life application.

The value stems from the context, the relationship between my Nan and myself, and its application to a way of life. I am using these pre-existing facets of my life as the value, and a way in which I can comment on a way of life that is now fleeting. Whilst, simultaneously, attempting to define how contemporary working class culture manifests itself.

In actuality, I’m still unsure what a lot of this means or how to define aspects of the subject matter. However I deem there value in attempting, in elucidating a way of life that has contributed towards and been affected by our current political and economical standing, as a country.

“I don’t see how this has anything to do with ‘Art and Design’, you’re not designing anything”. Nan usually proclaims as I walk around the house with my camera, or when I ask to borrow things to photograph. Value is added within these interactions. Our relationship becomes a closer one, and she begins to understand what I am (attempting) to achieve within my creative and professional life. I’m not attempting to turn my Nan into an artist, however it’s exposing her to what contemporary art can be (like I’m a bloody Turner Prize winner). I’m aware that at the moment the value can be perceived as personal, and this is an aspect I am attempting to ameliorate and add value to a wider demographic.

Place

“next is location: the centre point in the women’s lives, i.e. where they live. Their physical location becomes ever more important to them struggling to hold on to who they are and how they wish to be known, but so does their social location: where they are positioned in social space: they are always aware of ‘being looked down on’, and situated ‘at the bottom’. (Mckenzie, L, 2009, p.p. 14)

Lisa Mickenzie’s statement resonates particularly in terms of the relationship between physically and social space. ‘Working-class’ communities are seemingly locked into geographic locations, primarily as a result of occupation at the height of British Industry. However, this idea of being locked in or perhaps unaware of one’s social space is a trait often attributed to the ‘working-class’. Being more upwardly mobile is a trait connected often to the middle classes and upward, however with new social classes being formed characteristics are harder to attach to certain groups. We always generalise, I feel.

Analysing this is integral to my own position as an artist producing work of this ilk. Going through an arts education, I immediately become more upwardly mobile; I have access to new social spaces now due to connections made, my occupation and practice. However, where I live still encapsulates idea’s of the ‘working-class’. I am privileged, I acknowledge this privilege, but now feel uncomfortable crossing between these environments. I do not have any answer to this, and perhaps this tension and awkwardness is integral to my practice. It grounds me, allows me to self-reflect constantly, and probes what I do and its value.

Personally, I still deem my practice to be problematic in terms of its scope. Being cemented within academia until last June has resulted in me working only with my own locality. To an extent this was sufficient, but only sufficient relative to my abilities, understanding and position. Locality, and specificity is crucial for closer studies, and more focused methods of thinking, but for my practice I believe cast my net further afield also. Pierre Bourdieu’s approach of studying Kabyle communities in Algeria springs to mind, as I am convinced this level of cultural cross-examination would elucidate the pathway my practice needs to take, and aid in the enhancement of the contextual framework.

Process

Everyone’s a photographer now aren’t they? Whether it’s on your iPhone, or you’ve saved up money to buy a decent DSLR, just point, click and don’t worry about it pal. Joking, and generational generalisations aside, photography as a creative medium has never been so accessible, and equally over saturated.

“In other words, the photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning” (Sekula, A, 1984). Constantly, this quote slaps me in the face, and forces me to think deeper about the application of photography. Photography alone, presents the idea or possibility of meaning, Sekula here doesn’t tell us how to create meaning. There is no formula for activating the meaning within photography, this is purposely ambiguous and the space has been left open for personal interpretation.

Photography has a magnitude of applications within creative processes, from documentation to realisation. I do agree with Sekula in that photography, in isolation, is rarely enough especially within contemporary creative practices.

I am not discrediting photographers or photography as an occupation, it’s important to make the delineation between photographers and artists who primarily use photographic processes. As I consider myself an artist who uses photography as a primary process.

Coinciding with this, my stance is that photography needs activation within my practice; it needs another ‘thing’ alongside. Combining photography with disciplines such as sculpture, physical objects, or ready-made objects seemingly creates more dynamic dialogues between the work, which culminates in a more engaging and coherent overall communication of the ideas.

Gavin and Stacey, Series 1, Episode 4. The vicar in Stacey’s hometown church begins to ask the congregation what their favourite sandwich is. Ultimately it boils down to this: “The point is that the bread is the Holy Spirit, the mayonnaise/butter is the Father, and the filling is the Son. We all like different fillings but ultimately the bread remains a constant just like God”.

I’d like to attach this sandwich metaphor to process. Most of us will have our bread, a go to process we are either well versed in or simply enjoy, and this will remain a consistent. We should all, however, consider what our filling is, what accents the bread in a tasty way. What processes should we use to complete our sandwich, and both compliment and challenge our consistent.

I suppose the mayonnaise/butter also remains constant, the vicar didn’t really elaborate on this. Perhaps we should think of it as the theoretical and contextual frameworks. Either way, at this point I think you get the gist.

Book I

Artist Spotlight: Andy Farr

Warwickshire-based artist Andy Farr has been working with the Institute of Mental Health in Nottingham on a moving project which documents a number of individual’s experience of PTSD. The series of paintings created during this project will be on display at the Lanchester Gallery from 7th March – 5th April. We’ve interviewed Andy ahead of his solo show to find out more about him as an artist, and what inspired him to create this thought-provoking body of work.

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(Image by John Whitmore).

When did you first get into Art Andy?

Good question. Art was always my passion growing up, but then school talked me out of doing A-Level and my path went in other directions until just over 10 years ago. Both my sons are good artists and their passion drew me back in. About a year later I was seriously ill and while in hospital decided that if I survived that commuting down to London wasn’t how I saw my future. After six months recovery I handed my notice in and to be honest I wasn’t quite sure how the future would pan out. Fortunately, I met a wonderful artist called Caroline Hulse who ran painting courses. She must have seen something in my early daubs as she acted as my mentor over my first summer of my second life. Encouraging me to be more experimental and bold. At that point I assumed that I would at some point return to the world of marketing but ten years later I am very much a full-time artist.

 

Tell us how you came to work on the project for your forthcoming solo show “The Twisted Rose and Other Lives” which explores post-traumatic stress and the process of recovery.

The Twisted Rose project evolved out of the work I did for my MA. I used the MA as an opportunity to look back and try to make sense of events from my own childhood. My father was bipolar, and it is only recently that I’ve come to realise how profoundly his illness impacted my own being. I found that process to be cathartic and came to realise that the works resonated with others who had had direct experience of mental issues. The actual idea of working with people who have experienced PTSD came from Gary Winslip one of the lecturers at the IMH (Institute of Mental Health) in Nottingham. He connected the dots between an earlier project I’d done commemorating WW1 and my interest in mental health. One of the legacies of the War was many thousands left suffering from with what was then called “shell shock”, what we now term post-traumatic stress disorder. With the promise of exhibition space from the IMH, Coventry University and Lancashire County Council I was able to secure some Arts Council Funding.

Rose

What process do you go through when you are creating a new piece of work?

For this project my process has had to change radically. Each painting has to be created in a way that respects the feelings and vulnerabilities of the subject. The start point has been a dialogue with the person whose experience I’m conveying. That discussion is focussed on how the emotions and feelings that their experience has evoked rather than the details of the traumatic event. That conversation might be over several months via email, or face to face, or both. From that dialogue ideas for metaphors or ways of expressing their story will start to emerge. From there my usual process of seeking images, colours, textures will start to take over. For several of the paintings the person has agreed to be photographed and the resultant image could be described as a “narrative portrait”. This final step of being present in a painting, and then being in public, is a significant one and so far proved to be cathartic for those involved. Unlike other paintings the degree of responsibility felt by me, the artist, to the person I’m painting is huge. I have never felt the same level of trepidation, as I have during this project, when sending or showing the first version of a painting to someone before. So far the responses have not just been positive but deeply moving as well.

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Have you been inspired by any other artists in the past?

I’m a fan of painters whose work has an underlying narrative. From Hopper through to Justin Mortimer and a number of Eastern European artists such as Daniel Pitin and Miriam Vlaming. I like their combination of figurative elements with more abstract mark making.

 

What’s next for you as an artist following your show at the Lanchester Gallery?

The Lanchester Exhibition will be followed by four more shows of this work, two in London, the first straight after Coventry in April, and then Newcastle in May/June and Lancaster in October/November. For the Lancaster show I’ll be working with more people to add additional works to the exhibition. The second London show will be broader encompassing some of my earlier work as well. If more opportunities arise then the work might pop up elsewhere as well! I’m also starting to do some work with psychotherapists to see if there is learning from my work that can be used more widely within therapy. Provisionally we have a cross disciplinary seminar planned for Coventry later in March. However, I am also looking forward to doing some less intense subject matter … I have some ideas but they won’t crystalise until I’ve finished working on the four new painting for the Coventry Exhibition.

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

To find out more about my work people can go to my website www.andyfarr.com which has a lot of background to my work. I also post work in progress on Instagram @andyfarrart

The Man Inside

Our first #ArtChatCov of 2019

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This month we will be running an extra special Tweet Chat to mark our first #ArtChatCov of 2019! Instead of the usual Wednesday, this month’s will be Thursday 31st January, 7-9pm.

#ArtChatCov will be a two-hour special. During the second hour, Chloe of Curating Coventry will be going live on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio to give a live update of the Tweet Chat. This will be great chance for those who are not on Twitter to gain an insight into what goes on during #ArtChatCov. Then those who join the Tweet Chat will have the chance to hear about themselves live on BBC radio!

We’re planning on running the Tweet Chat a little like this…

7-7:30pm – #ArtChatCov will kick off with a live Q & A with Adam from the Blue Door Gallery – find out more about Coventry’s newest art gallery and join the conversation.

Following this from 7:30pm – 9pm – we’ll run our usual monthly networking session. Share with us your latest projects, any news and updates on what’s coming up, plus forthcoming events and exhibitions.

Then from approximately 8:40pm Chloe will be live on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire “The Culture Club” radio show giving a live update from the TweetChat.

You can tune in online here.

Hope you can join us on the night!

So if you have any forthcoming events/exhibitions or want to share what you are working on, be sure to follow #ArtChatCov between 7-9pm on the night to join the conversation!

(We will go back to running #ArtChatCov on a Wednesday night from February onwards.)

Find out more about #ArtChatCov here.

Our 2018 Highlights

As 2018 is coming to an end, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back at some fond memories of the year. The city has once again enjoyed an incredible mix of visual arts and although we were sad to say goodbye to the CET Pop-Up back in June, it will definitely leave a lasting legacy in the city.

So here our some of our highlights from 2018:

Coventry University Drawing Prize at the CET Building (March)

The annual drawing prize is ran by the faculty of Arts and Humanities and is open to all students and staff of the uni, both past and present. The exhibition was held at the CET, and although called “Drawing Prize” a diverse selection of media was exhibited.

The winner was Michala Gyetvai with this beautiful oil pastel drawing titled “threads”. Michala is currently studying an MA in painting at Coventry Uni and is also well known for contemporary landscape embroidery work.

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“I Migrated” at The Belgrade by Maokwo, founded my Coventry artist Laura Nyahuye in celebration of International Women’s Day (March)

This moving exhibition told the story of migrant women through photography, poetry and handmade body adornments. The exhibition gave an insight into inner struggles, fears, loss, joys and triumphs and aimed to challenge perceptions. The event was opened by Lord Mayor of Coventry and featured some incredibly touching, thought-provoking talks, poetry, music and dance.

Following the event, we interviewed Laura Nyahuye to delve a little deeper into her as an artist and the incredible work that she is doing to empower women.

Read this interview here.

 

John Yeadon “What’s the meaning of this?” at the CET Building (May)

Renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon opened his solo show “What’s the meaning of this?” in the Newsroom at the CET Building back in May. This featured a retrospective view of paintings he produced in the 1980s, which, at the time, were deemed shocking and controversial, alongside a collection of his more recent work. This exhibition encouraged the viewer to reflect on the political, ideological, social and economic changes that have taken place in this period.

His selection of older work featured paintings from his “Dirty Tricks” exhibition at The Herbert Gallery in the 80s. A collection large-scale of grotesque-realist paintings, which at the time were branded in the press as “Smut not Art”.

In stark contrast to this, John’s idealistic landscape paintings, from his more recent “Englandia” series were on display. This collection of work challenges myths, preconceptions and contradictions of national identity through landscapes. Then alongside these, the exhibition featured series of digital assisted paintings of Sellafield Nuclear Power Station. The paintings reflected his interest in technology and yet also the way in which 20th century technology dates so fast and so badly.

We chatted to John before the exhibition opened.

Take a read of his artist interview here.

 

Our first ever live #ArtChatCov at The Pod (September)

We teamed up with The Pod Café for a Supper Club back in September, for our first ever live #ArtChatCov. This sell-out event was a wonderful social evening where artists and arts organisations from the city came together for a night of great food, live music and good company. Birmingham based electronic duo EIF performed an amazing live set while people shared delicious vegan dishes sourced from local produce. We also got to find out more about the social activist movements that come under the umbrella of The Pod Café, including The Time Union – a city-wide time bank and Food Union which focuses on connecting people through conversation and action around food. It was a wonderful relaxed evening, connecting like-minded individuals in this absoulte gem of the city. We hope to run some more events like this over the next year.

(For those who haven’t heard of it, #ArtChatCov is our monthly networking TweetChat connecting artists and arts organisations across Coventry. Find out more about it here).

 

Coventry First Thursday at Classroom (October)

A selection of Coventry-based artists were selected for this exhibition for their positive contribution to the perception of the visual arts both inside and outside the city. Upstairs featured a selection of abstract painting, figurative work, photography and digital work. Then as you entered the basement, the smoke-machine bellowed as you explored room by room which hosted installations, moving image work, and painting in this wonderful atmospheric setting. The opening night was absolutely packed and we really loved the way that this amazing space was used!

(Which leads us to our next highlight…)

We Are Luminous launch at Holyhead Basement (November)

We Are Luminous is a Moving Image forum set up my Coventry Artspace trustee and artist Hannah Sutherland along with Artspace studio holder and digital artist Carol Breen. For the launch they put on a cracking event in the basement at of Holyhead Studios ahead of bonfire night. This took inspiration from Cai Guo-Qiang’s One Night Stand: Explosion Event (2013), Andrew Waits Boom City (2012), Shunji Iwai’s episode of the Japanese drama series titled “Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?”

Once again this atmospheric space was filled with an exciting selection of work from moving image and new media artists based from in and around the city. Holographic glasses were handed out, which gave each piece of work a whole new dimension. The garden was open, and sparklers were lit, drinks were poured whilst ambient electronic sounds from TOPS OFF (Laura Coffin and Jack Carr) echoed around the basement. What a night!

Backbone at Artspace Arcadia Gallery (November)

During the final month or The Art of Coventry programme, artists from The Shared Collective worked alongside curator Anna Douglas exploring “The Art of Curation”. During this 3-day workshop they worked with images of older women by the famous docu-photographer Shirley Baker. Each artist chose a photograph which they felt most connected to, and responded with poetry or their own written piece. The final result was an immersive audio/visual installation displayed at Artspace Arcadia Gallery. This enclosed space was filled with a sea of rose petals, leading to life-size images projected onto the far wall, with the voice recordings of each artist’s response exploring women’s identity in today’s society.

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Coventry Open at The Herbert Gallery and Museum

Over 300 pieces of work were submitted to this year’s Coventry Open, and these were whittled down to 99 artworks, which are all currently on display at The Herbert Gallery until 24th February.

The exhibition features a wonderful diverse showcase of talented artists from across the region with a wide range of media from painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and textiles. If you haven’t already been along yet, we couldn’t recommend this enough!

The judges winner was contemporary painter Jack Foster, for his painting Kite. You can vote for your own winner and the people’s choice winner will be announced when the exhibition closes!

 

 

 

Artist Spotlight: Andy Sargent

We’ve interviewed Warwickshire based contemporary painter, Andy Sargent to find out a little bit more about his creative practice, ahead of his forthcoming solo show (opening 22nd December 2018 and Nuneaton Gallery and Museum). 

The Coombe track

Tell us a little about your history as an artist Andy. When did you first get into painting?

I was drawing and being creative before I could read or write! I was surrounded by art as a kid, my grandfather was a talented amateur artist as well as his brother in Llandudno. I remember reading all his big reference books on art, so I got to be aware of the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Sickert and Singer-Sargent at an early age. My grandfather was also a guide for many years at Coventry Cathedral, and I often got to draw all the amazing artefacts when I was young in the Cathedral’s under croft, and I remember staring for hours at the famous works of art in there, by Sutherland, Piper, Epstein and so on. I was starting to dabble in painting whilst at school (I won an award in the Coventry Building Society’s young artist competition that they used to run each year, I think it would have been around 1980) and then really got into it at College, studying for a BTEC Diploma in General Art & Design, then for a degree in Fine Art at Birmingham Polytechnic.

How has your style changed and evolved over the years?

As I had grown up, reading and being influenced by 19thC French painting and so on, my work changed vastly, especially after I came under the tutelage of Dave Berry-Hart and Geoff Yeomans at “Tech” in Nuneaton. Dave was a fabulous sculptor, but he opened my eyes up to Dada, surrealism, abstract expressionism etc. Geoff was an amazing painter and was a stickler for the traditional craft of painting. This had a profound influence on my painting at the time. I had a terrible time on my degree course, and after gaining my degree I destroyed all my work, vowing never to paint again! In the mid 90’s I started getting commissions for portraits and animal studies, then I started painting for myself again. Since then, my work has often gone from expressive realism into abstraction and back again. I have always been particularly fond of Fauvism, and its experiments with colour, and this is often an influence on my work. I’m always experimenting, and trying new ideas. Since my spinal injury in 2010, my work is often painted in discomfort and pain, hence the reason that some of my works look like they’ve been attacked with a brush, and extreme tonal arrangements have been used, plus vibrancy of colour.

Plain

What themes do you explore in your paintings?

I have for many years dealt with the landscape. Not just in the traditional representation of it, but in different ways it plays on emotions, memories of being in it, things that happen in it and so on. Sometimes the subject is the starting point, but the work itself takes on its own “persona” so to speak, and becomes more about its own composition, technique and materials. Being a disabled artist, I have to paint what is around me, hence landscape is an important subject. I am also developing a body of work, which is a biographical series called “Hidden monster”, and deals with the issues of being a permanently disabled creative in today’s society. It deals with pain, depression, isolation, people’s reaction to you, and being a sort of “phantom” in your own life, not being able to do the things you once did.

What process do you go through when creating a new painting?

I’m very much a spontaneous painter. I don’t hang around. Having said that, some works do take a lot of thought, and juggling with before jumping in with the paint. Due to my physical issues, I can’t spend hours of time on a work, and things like keeping it “fresh”, and not overworking things are important. Some of my work is done in stages, some taking months or years to paint, but that’s only because I’m not happy with something, so I put it away to leave it till the mind clears! I don’t have a proper studio, I paint where I can. That could be out the boot of my car, in the kitchen or in my father’s badly lit and drafty garage! I dream of having a purpose built studio one day!

Chiltern barn

What other artist’s work do you like and why?

I could write you an essay! However to keep it simple, here’s a few to start with! Gustav Caillebotte – simply because the atmosphere he created in his paintings is mystifying! Maurice de Vlaminck – My grandfather met him, so I grew up hearing a lot about him, and his Fauvist works were incredible, as an exercise any painter should try to just have a go at replicating one of his works, it’s not easy, forget traditional colour theory! Frank Auerbach – I have always been interested in his work, his paint application (like the paintings of his friend Leon Kossoff) is almost sculptural, and his story is well worth reading about. Sir Howard Hodgkin – Hodgkin was a painter’s painter (If you know what I mean). He used paint in a different visual language, to the layman Hodgkin’s work seems abstract on first inspection, but to him they were descriptive of a memory, event, or other subject. I had been using the frame around works as an integral part of them way back at college, never having really looked at Hodgkin’s work properly. So to see him doing this in his creations attracted me to his work on purely technical grounds.

What can people expect to see in your forthcoming exhibition at Nuneaton Museum and Gallery?

This exhibition is the culmination of two year’s work (since I became ill health retired from the Civil Service, and I could concentrate on my art without distraction). In those two years, I have explored different ways to interpret the landscape. So visitors will see both traditional and more contemporary/alternative descriptions of it. Not only the landscape itself, but memories of events in it, seasonal references, all sorts of things. Two of the paintings have been seen on television and one of the works was selected for the Midlands Open Exhibition in 2017 at Leamington Museum and Art Gallery. There are over forty works in the show, using a variety of materials and methods, and as with all the work I create, each tells a physical struggle in the making of them if the viewer looks at the mark making contained within the work itself.

Freedom, to the city

Andy’s solo show “From the Land – Differently” will run at Nuneaton Museum and Gallery from 22nd Dec – January 27th.

Find out more here.

www.andysargentartist.com

Thicket of things

Curating Coventry Instagram Artist of the Week

Back in May 2018 we ran an Instagram Takeover with Coventry 2021 City of Culture Trust. There was an overwhelming response with over 620 images submitted to be featured, showcasing the work of so many talented artists from the city.

Way too many to feature during a one-week Takeover, so following the one-week Insta-Takeover, we decided that each week we will continue to feature an artist a week on our Instagram page, until 2021!

For your chance to be featured, use the hashtag #CuratingCoventry2021 to images your work on Instagram!

In the meantime, we’d encourage you to explore other Coventry artist’s work using the hashtag on Instagram and celebrate our city’s creative talent!

Artist Spotlight: Curious Boys Club

Back in October we visited The Gallery, Kenilworth for the first time, to enjoy the opening of the Curious Boys Club exhibition for Black History Month. This featured a photographic collection of work that glimpses into the lives of first, second and third generation migrants in the Midlands. The exhibition gave you an insight into the Curious Boy’s family history and how this helped them form the values to which they now live by. The boys put on a cracking event! There was a great atmosphere on the night and it ended with a beautiful live performance by singer/songwriter Erin Jae Golding.

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We’ve since caught up with founder, Cory to delve a little more deeper into what the Curious Boys Club is all about. Here is what he has to say:

What brought you all together to form Curious Boys Club?
We are just three friends dealing with life and inspired by the same things. We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years, I moved away and always wanted to be part of a collective, a brand, an agency so we shared ideas between COVENTRY and Brooklyn where i was based at the time and created THE CURIOUS BOYS CLUB.

Tell us more about the 9 core values of the Curious Boys

For people to by into your ideals you have to understand who you are and so we developed 9 values that are at our core as boys, men or as human beings.

Those values are AUTHENTICITY  CHALLENGE – COMPASSION – CURIOUSITY – HONESTY – MINDFULNESS – RESPECT – RESPONSIBILITY – TRADITIONAL These values speak clearly to our past, present and future and the legacy that we will leave behind.


What led to you putting on the exhibition at The Gallery?
This all happened relatively quickly we were looking around the midlands for events on Black History Month and saw nothing in Coventry or Warickshire. A little frustrated we sat talking and Cara from the gallery said we have an opening at the gallery if you wanted to put something on. We are all about opportunity and said why not “when does it need to start?”
“10 days!”

“Cool” we replied!

Thank you to Cara and Ben at The Gallery for being so supportive and giving us this opportunity along with everyone that attended

How did you go about curating this?

We didn’t have time or the insight to fully research black history so how do we make this work? How do we make this meaningful?

We tell our story, that’s the honesty value. We began collating all our family images and had the hard task of editing that down to 8 images each of which would speak to the past with 2 images of the present shot of the 3 of us by photographer and friend of the club Chris Ward-Jones.and Videography by new member Jack Cole.

 

Do you have plans for any future exhibitions?
We would love to develop further exhibitions and events but we don’t want to stop at , exhibitions we want to create experiences that engage audiences in new ways whether its black history, creativity, music or just life. It’s all one thing for the curious boys and we hope to take more people on this journey.

Who and what inspires your own creativity?

Life inspires us. Our children inspire us and together that drives and sparks our imagination further.

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What’s next for the Curious Boys Club?
Stay Curious
@curiously_being

#ArtChatCov

ArtChatCovFinal#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.)

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!

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, Dr Marsha Bradfield of Artfield Projects, artist Dr Simon Pope and Dr Andy Webster of Coventry University.

#ArtofEmptySpaces

#TheArtofCoventry

 

 

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.

The British Scene 1982

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:

https://tammywoodrow.jimdo.com/

 

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 activities happening in and around the city, and hear the latest news and updates from the city’s art organisations.

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.