“Quinn: A Journey” at The Herbert Gallery

It was only just over a week and a half ago, pre UK Lockdown we got along to visit ‘Quinn: A Journey’ at The Herbert – an exhibition by award winning photographer Lottie Davis. On viewing this we were oblivious to how the following 10 days were to unfold. Looking back through the pictures we took during our visit, the exhibition feels even more moving and poignant than ever.

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‘Quinn’ takes you on an immersive journey through a series of moving image works, photography, audio/visual pieces plus an insight into this fictional character’s life through an installation of his living space, thoughts and personal belongings.

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As we meandered around the large-scale screens we joined him on his lonely journey across deserted British landscapes from South West England to Northern Scotland. The setting of his story is post-war Britain, responding to the trauma that people experienced – was this a worrying premonition of what’s to come?

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Even though his story is fictional, the work responds to the real-world experiences of trauma in the early 20th century and now. The works reflect on grief, isolation, loss and ironically the human search for meaning and the hunt for salvation by stripping back to our natural world and environment.

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Beautifully curated by Dr Rachel Marsden, and produced by Elizabeth Wewiora and Charlie Booth, we hope that if the current crisis blows over, we may get to view this again. Next time it will be with a whole new set of eyes, and greater appreciation for the harrowing themes that it explores.

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Contemporary Coventry Visual Artists opening a joint show for International Women’s Day

Coventry based artists Sherrie Edgar and Tarla Patel will be opening a joint exhibition at The Albany Theatre on 12th March to mark International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

JPEG Albany Theatre Exhibtion Invite March 2020

All are welcome to join them on the opening night from 5:30pm on 12th March where there will be exclusive film screenings and an installation. The exhibition will then run until 14th April.

We ran a live Q&A with Sherrie and Tarla for our February #ArtChatCov to find out a little bit more about what to expect from their forthcoming show, and what has influenced their work. Take a read below.

 

CC: Tell us about your forthcoming exhibition – what is it called and what themes will it explore?

TP: Title: Intergenerational women. It is a personal journey exploring the stories of three generations of women in one space, themes of belonging, identity, culture through the Masterji archives.

ArtChatCov using a sari to create a physical connection

SE: My part, HER Lonely explores women who suffer or have suffered from loneliness and isolation.

 

CC: What artistic medium do you work in?

TP: Currently my main medium is playing with analogue and digital photography and film. I develop my own black/whites and love using Polaroid Originals instant film. For this work I have experimented with textiles and printing on different objects. But I also use 16mm film with a bolex camera, mobile footage and film cameras, I plan to go into AR and electronics.

SE: HER Lonely is a series of photographs and a film with audio recordings.

 

CC: Does the exhibition tie in with International Womens Day?

TP: The work ties in with International Womens Day because it is giving a voice to women’s stories through women artists. A story that explores migration, fear and belonging and hope is something that we can all relate too.

SE: Intergenerational Women and HER Lonely are timely exhibitions IWD2020!

 

CC: How will the exhibition explore inequity within the arts?

SE: HER Lonely focuses on underrepresented women, their inner strength reveals delicate and remarkable artworks.

TP: I think equity in the arts will only change with better representation of women from working class backgrounds: decision making/funding/strategy. Sherrie and I are making ourselves visible with the limited resources.

The exhibition is to give a voice to women, for me a voice of what is to be a woman that has come to live in a country without support of a family to what it is to being British Indian.

SE: Female artists are integral to the arts. Women artists face challenges due to gender bias, we feel systematically excluded.

TP: We would love people to be there for opening night : the Sari, installation, and my films will only be available for that evening – and refreshments will be available!

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.

 

 

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.

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

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

 

 

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.

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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What’s the Meaning of This? – John Yeadon at 70

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Renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon will be opening his solo show at the CET Building on 18th May, and it will feature a selective retrospective view of paintings produced in the 1980s alongside his more recent work.

John Yeadon looks back to his 1984 Dirty Tricks exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and compares this work with his recent paintings.

Thirty-four years ago this controversial exhibition of Yeadon’s grotesque realist, large allegorical ‘history paintings’ was received with alarm and pleasure. At the high point of AIDS paranoia and gay ‘blame’, Yeadon’s forthright, radical, critical, ‘in your face’ paintings challenged preconceptions on sexuality and society.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph declared that it was ‘Smut Not Art’, however the exhibition increased the attendance at the Herbert by 40%. Works from this exhibition were later that year exhibited at the Pentonville Gallery in London and the British Art Show of 1985. The Arts Council of Britain also bought a version of ‘The Last Chilean Supper’ one of the ‘lavatory wall smut’ paintings so derided in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and John Yeadon was featured by Emmanuel Cooper in his book the Sexual Perspective/Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West, published in 1986.

This exhibition not only compares Yeadon’s paintings of the 1980s with his recent work but asks the viewer to reflect on the political, ideological, social and economic changes. These past struggles and contradictions of the 80s that generated Yeadon’s work might also be relevant today.

Have things changed – is society more tolerant, more open minded, more liberal today? As Coventry approaches the City of Culture, is the city more enlightened, less provincial?

Now at the age of 70, this is the second of three ‘retrospective’ exhibitions John Yeadon is having during the next 12 months.

Three Witches, Feb – April, The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park.

What’s the Meaning of This, Yeadon at 70. May – June. Newsroom Gallery, CET Building, Coventry.

70 X 70, Incorporating, Unbelievable Stories and Fearful Symmetry. February 2019, Lanchester Research Gallery, Coventry University.

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.

Plant Good Roots

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