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!

Artist Spotlight: Ryan Hart

This year we’ve been seeing his work popping up in exhibitions all across the city, so we’ve tracked down Coventry-based artist Ryan Hart to find out more about the person behind the striking work we’ve viewed so far. Ryan is about to embark on his second year as a BA Fine Art student at Coventry University and has exhibited 8 times already this year. We’re excited to see what’s next to come!

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We’ve seen you’ve been having a busy year. Where have you exhibited so far in 2019?

It was very busy towards the start of the year but I’ve been giving more time to reading and working lately. I exhibited at Coventry Cathedral for refugee week, St Mary’s guildhall for Women’s week, the Coventry University Drawing Prize, The level 1 Coventry Uni show, Coventry Cathedral for Open Projections, The 2tone Village for my joint show with Japhet Dinganga, St Mary’s guildhall again and Friargate house.

Now that you are entering your second year as a BA Fine Art student, how has your experience been so far at Coventry University?

Uni has been amazing. It’s really helped to refine my work and build my knowledge base and interest in contemporary art. I’ve had some super interesting conversations with my tutors who have pushed me to think more about the details of my work and why I’m making it. Their encouragement has also been a huge part of my growth as an artist and being given Firsts in every module was also really encouraging. It’s exciting to be part of a community of artists all growing together and engaging with these conversations concerning the wider art world and society, it’s both symbiotic and challenging which is always good.

When did you first develop your passion for art?

From as far back as I can remember I was always interested in some form of art, mainly drawing. I’ve come to realise that I really did internalise the encouragement that I received from peers and family, I adopted the label of an ‘artist’ from a young age despite the lack of clarity regarding the meaning and function of an artist, which I still don’t know to this day. I see art as something that flows out from someone in certain circumstances, when certain triggers like reading, seeing, feeling etc result in an internal need for the work to come out. So I feel like it’s always been flowing from me in some way, causing an interest in artists, writers and musicians that speak words or sentences of the same internal language as myself.

How would you describe the work that you create?

I’d say that my work is contemplative and inviting. It offers aesthetic and auditory comfort to the viewer then confronts them with questions that are often avoided. It’s work that is intended to be felt but not always understood, a poetic discussion. It dances in liminal spaces and calls for the engagement of both the intellect and the emotion of those experiencing the work. I’ve never stuck with one medium but have always spoken the same visual/conceptual language through the medium which can speak it the loudest, the best communicator. Most commonly painting, drawing, video and sound.

 

 

What themes do you explore through your work?

I explore themes of obscurity and its effect on thought, contemplation as an effect of obscurity (or vice versa), race politics and POC experience, observations of everyday life, the human condition, familiarity and unfamiliarity, liminal spaces and the conditions which lead to existential questions. These themes are always in conversation with each other throughout my work.

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

It always starts with a lot of messy note taking and reading. I don’t draw as much as I should but when I do it’s always very useful for preliminary drafts and ideas. Immersion in the work is always my best approach so I try not to think about things too much. I make the work then ask questions after as I begin to connect the dots between what I’ve been reading/seeing/thinking and the work that I make. It’s like a form of introspection.

What other artists are you inspired by?

In the world of contemporary Art I’ve been inspired by the work of Anri Sala, Hurvin Anderson, Francis Alys, Michal Rovner, John Akomfrah and Hreinn Fridfinnsson. I recently saw a Fridfinnsson show in Geneva, which really expanded my thinking in relation to the possibilities of Art, he’s an amazing conceptual storyteller. Picasso’s rose period work and the Bauhaus movement has also peaked my interest recently. The Coventry Artist Jack Foster has inspired me a lot in the past couple of years. He changed the way I view painting and art making in general. Really enigmatic work that you kind of get lost in, it’s always been work that has fascinated me for a reason that I don’t yet know.

Have you got any more exhibitions planned this year?

I’m having another group show with some Birmingham artists which should be really cool, their work is all very intriguing. I think it’s in October sometime but will keep updates on my Facebook (Ryan Hart). I also have a collaborative commission with my friend Japhet which will be displayed at a festival later this year. Other than those I’ll probably chill but I can hardly refuse commissions and exhibition opportunities so I’ll see what happens.

 Where can people go to find out more about you?

Facebook: Ryan Hart

Website: Link to be released on Facebook

Email: ryanclhart98@gmail.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about their great personal development opportunity here.

 

 

Artist Spotlight: Andy Sargent

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

The Coombe track

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

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

How has your style changed and evolved over the years?

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

Plain

What themes do you explore in your paintings?

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

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

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

Chiltern barn

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

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

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

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

Freedom, to the city

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

Find out more here.

www.andysargentartist.com

Thicket of things

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

Artist Spotlight: Michelle Englefield

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

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What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

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

What mediums do you use?

Found objects made from natural materials.

 What themes do you explore in your work?

Most of my work is autobiographical.

Who and what do you draw inspiration from?

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

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

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

What have you hoped to accomplish during your residency?

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

 What are your future plans as a Visual Artist?

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

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 Where can people find out more about you?

You can find me on Facebook @MichelleEnglefieldArt

And on Instagram @xreddangelx

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

Find out how you can apply here:

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

 

Artist Spotlight: John Yeadon

John Y in Studio 2018

Image by Marta Kochanek Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How dare I

Control Rooms, Sellafield 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see.

What’s next for you as an artist?

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

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

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

Just paint and continue to annoy people.

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The Collective//Pod welcome their new artist in residence

Flying the Skies, Breathing the Earth.

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

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

Here’s what he has to say:

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

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

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

What process do you go through when creating your artwork?

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

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

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

What themes does your work explore?

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

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Who and what do you draw inspiration from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Birth of Dionysus

 

Artist Spotlight: Melissa Smith

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

How did you first get into Doodle Art?

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

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

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Was the skill all self-taught?

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

What inspires you to create your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What tools do you use to create your work?

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

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Do you create commissioned work?

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

What motivated you to create the Feel Good Community?

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

What types of activities do you do?

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

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

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

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Have you got any more events in the pipeline?

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

What are the future plans for the Feel Good Community?

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

How can people get involved?

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

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

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

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

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Artist Spotlight: Natalie Seymour

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

What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

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

What mediums do you use?

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

What themes do you explore in your work?

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

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

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

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What other artists have you drawn inspiration from?

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

What is the next project you are planning?

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

 What are your future plans as a Visual Artist?

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

Where can people find out more about you?

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

Instagram: @natalie_seymour_artist

www.facebook.com/NatalieSeymourArtist/

www.natalieseymour93.wixsite.com/artist

Twitter: @natalieseymour_

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