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.

EOJJ5810

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.

Advertisements

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art #TheFuture

CovBiennial

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.

MiraCalix.jpg

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.

MartinGreen

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.

Magician

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.

ZenGardenLitterTray

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

TurntDown

and Kurt Hickson’s “Shit Neon”.

ShitNeon

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.

1NatalieYellowSmallcopyrght

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.

PaulNewman

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.

JohnYeadon

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

This untitled mixed media installation by James Lomax,

image2

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

image4

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

image3

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.

Andy Holden. 2016 (1)

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.

FionaGrady

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.

Ha

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.

JamesFW2

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.

EOJJ5810

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.

Scratch the Surface – Dialogue Festival Review

IMG_5572.JPG

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.

IMG_5554

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.

IMG_5560.JPG

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.

IMG_5684

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.

IMG_5692

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.

IMG_5676.JPG

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.

IMG_5688

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.

EOJJ5810

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.

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”.

Tabi2

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.

Shufflebotham3

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?

AndyFarr4

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.

AndyFarr3

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.

YueHuang1

 

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.

YiwenChen3

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

IMG_5168

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.

IMG_5180

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.

IMG_5182

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.

IMG_5201

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.