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.

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.

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”.

Imagineers

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.

Picasso

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.

Highlights from Spon Spun

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

See their Facebook event page here.

So here’s how the day went…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

purple biennial logo

Martin Green. 2017

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

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


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

Coventry has so much potential at the moment!

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

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

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

James Lomax. 2017

What dates will the festival be running?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Granby Workshop _ Marie Jacotey. 2015

What venues will be hosting these events?

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

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

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

What artists will be on display?

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

The full artist list is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Where can people follow you on Social Media?

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cov_Biennial

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

Web: www.coventrybiennial.com

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

Andy Holden. 2016 (1)