Our Q&A with Coventry Biennial

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#ArtChatCov is our monthly artist networking Twitter Chat where you can find out news and updates from Coventry’s artists and visual arts scene.

On Wednesday 25th September we ran a Coventry Biennial special #ArtChatCov featuring a live Q&A with the team behind the Biennial week ahead of it’s opening.

If you missed it on Twitter, here’s a quick recap on what we chatted about on the night…

What inspired the theme “The Twin” for this year’s #CovBiennial?

Coventry now has 26 twinned cities across the world. The first being Volgograd. This year marks 75 years since the historic bond of friendship was formed.

What better way to pay tribute to this!

We think so! There are so many cities that might take some people by surprise. Like… Kingston Jamaica.

It’s also worth remembering the quote by Bifo from our printed programmes about extinction and immortality. The Twin the double and feedback loops define our age, this feels urgent for a Social Biennial.

How did you go about selecting the artists you have chosen to exhibit at this year’s event?

The selection of artists for Coventry Biennial has been rooted in our curatorial research for the past 2 years. Lots of visits to studios, galleries and festivals – we see as much work as we can and then work out what makes sense together and in relation to the theme.

Must have been a busy two years then. How many artists are exhibiting in total?

More than 100 artists. Certainly an increase from 2017!

Where can people go to view the programme for this year’s event?

You can visit http://coventrybiennial.com for the full listings or printed biennial brochures are available now around the West Midlands and online at: http://bit.ly/2019BiennialBrochure

Lots to see and do! Including workshops, talks and screenings. There’s even Artist-led-yoga! All of the exhibitions are free to attend and many other events are, pay what you can.

Which Coventry venues will the Biennial be running across?

All of our venues can be viewed via http://coventrybiennial.com/venues/ BUT you’ll get to explore art galleries, artist’s studios, cafes, modernist buildings and medieval spaces. There are lots of places to explore this year. 21 in fact!

Could you recommend a starting point for people coming into #Coventry to view the exhibitions of the Biennial?

The two best starting points would either be The Row (an amazing ex-NHS building in the city centre) and The Herbert. These are our two biggest exhibitions. We’d fully recommend exploring the smaller spaces too. Weavers House is stunning!

Lovely to hear that historic venues such as Weavers House are part of the Coventry Biennial.

Yes, it feels really exciting to be working in some of Coventry’s historic spaces. Older building and very contemporary artistic practices seem to really work together and can provide something genuinely unexpected.

Are the opening events on 4th October open to anyone to attend? If so, do you need to purchase tickets?

No need to purchase, but you do need to register. Everybody is welcome. Some events have limited space just book in advance. The website is listed by date, so you have a handy guide of what’s on for the day.

Well thanks for joining us for #ArtChatCov this evening. We can’t wait till the opening night!

Thanks for having us #ArtChatCov. Please keep your eyes on our Social Media pages (@CovBiennial) for behind the scenes glimpses of the Biennial.

We’ll see you for the launch!

 

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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.

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art #TheFuture

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As the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art draws to a close, we have reflected on the excitement that such an ambitious, large-scale visual arts event brought to the city. The festival’s vast programme consisted of 13 exhibitions and over 60 events, featuring a diverse selection of local, national and international artists. The Biennial launch night alone saw over 1,000 attendees! One thing is for certain – the event sure drew in the crowds.

“The Future” was the key theme running through the festival, and made title for the Biennial’s central exhibition at the former Coventry Evening Telegraph building. What an incredible and fitting venue this made. This vast maze holds abandoned offices, eerie-dimly-lit corridors, and huge industrial print spaces, still hosting machinery from the now out-dated print industry. It provided such an interesting juxtaposition of the old vs. the new, where the now redundant, media-production was replaced by so many contemporary pieces of artwork, reacting to “The Future” theme, and created in response to the building itself.

You were free to roam the whole building, and experience each piece of work in it’s setting, a vast majority of which were site-specific pieces. In experiencing the sheer scale of such an immense showcase, we soon began to understand the hard work and vision that the Director Ryan Hughes, and his team, had put into curating such a vast and diverse exhibition.

Mira Calix’s installation dominated the former press hall, an incredible audio/visual immersive experience “By being in two places at once”. Contrasting sounds echoed through the hall, while a twisting network of wires leading to different screens represented the idea of the way in which we occupy both our physical and non-physical environments.

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Martin Green’s installation “How do I know if I’m addicted”, and live-curation the following week, presented a fascinating project created from years of collecting categorised found objects. He displayed a huge array of double-sided paintings, each positioned like miniature sculptures, balanced upon found laughing gas canisters. They formed a series organised around the words “acquiesce” and “dissent” – reflecting the many “distractions” in which he says he is defined by.

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Artist collaboration Georgiou/Tolley’s “Magician Walks into the Laboratory” delves back into the cold war era, a time of global anxiety. This haunting, engaging audio/visual installation was created using CIA transcripts from ‘remote viewing’ sessions, and was voiced by the famous actor, Jack Klaff, acting as the fictional CIA agent. The project reflected issues surrounding mass surveillance, data gathering, biased media and even pseudo time-travel. From speaking to the artists prior to the event, we also felt gained an insight into concerns for the future, as technology continues developing at it’s alarming rate. Some really mind-blowing issues were raised.

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There was a degree of sardonic humour in some of the work, including Daniel Salisbury’s “Zen Garden Litter Tray”, incorporating a Chinese “Lucky Cat” statue amongst a sand-tray of discarded human litter – fag-butts, empty cans and food packaging.

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

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and Kurt Hickson’s “Shit Neon”.

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Local photographer Natalie Seymour (who we have interviewed) exhibited a series of photographic collages aiming to capture the essence of the Coventry Telegraph building prior to its change of use and modernisation.

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Birmingham artist Paul Newman displayed a series of paintings in which he incorporated imagined, and sometime futuristic landscapes exploring a contradictory push-pull of pictorial space and abstraction.

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Local artist John Yeadon paid homage to the oldest working digital computer in the world, with his 2017 version of his painting “WITCH” – he initially created a painting of this computer back in 1983, as a satire on modernism, a parody on “computer art”. The re-invention of this painting became a homage to the history of this mechanical national treasure, and fitted perfectly in it’s setting in the exhibition space, alongside the building’s original modular electronics.

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

This untitled mixed media installation by James Lomax,

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

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

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Thirty-five different artists exhibited in total, so we’ve barely scratched the surface here, but the team behind the Biennial have put together a great Instagram Tour looking at each piece of art on display.

Other impressive exhibitions that we visited during the Biennial included “Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape” by Andy Holden at The Box, FarGo Village: An hour long lecture delivered by the artist’s avatar guided through an animated landscape populated by iconic cartoon characters. Laws of physics were studied and questioned while he investigated how retro cartoons gave us a “prophetic glimpse’ into the world in which we now live.

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.

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Re-Tale by artist collaboration Ha, was another project that took place throughout the Biennial, occupying The Glass Box gallery as it’s exhibition space. To view, it appeared stark and barren, the sorrowful sight of a showroom ready to close, with simple carrier bags lined up along the walls. The project is in fact part of a data-gathering exercise, which the people of Coventry were encouraged to take part in. We interviewed the artists prior to the Biennial to gain further insight. Read more here.

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The Class Room gallery at Holyhead Studios hosted another remarkable exhibition by the artist James Faure Walker – a renowned international artist now based in London. Since the 1980’s his work integrated computer graphics with oil paint and watercolour. Using exuberant colours, and graphically influenced abstract imagery, this provided a unique and interesting collection in this wonderful gallery space.

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The Coventry Biennial intertwined with parts of the Scratch the Surface festival, so some exhibitions were covered by both programmes, such as Wen Wu’s Literary Paintings at CCCA Fargo Village, the END//BEGIN – Dialogue at City Arcadia, and the screening of the first ever FilmZine – you can read more about these exhibitions here.

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This is just a small section of the festival’s sixty events that we thoroughly enjoyed attending. There were parties, performances, tours, workshops, lectures, artist supermarkets, yoga, plus a host of family workshops inspired by the artwork of some the Biennial’s artists.

Before we wind up we’d like to say a massive well done to Director Ryan Hughes and his team. Thank you to all involved in executing an event of such magnitude – you drew in crowds, not just locally, but from across the country. This is just what was needed for a city bidding to be the City of Culture 2021, and will keep us talking for weeks to come.

Artist Spotlight: 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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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)