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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Join us for a live Q&A with the team behind Coventry Biennial!

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This month we’re thrilled to announce that the team behind the Coventry Biennial (taking place on 4th October – 24th November) will be joining us as special guests for #ArtChatCov.

Join us for a live Q&A on Twitter on Wednesday 25th September 8-9pm – just over a week before the Biennial opens, and get involved in the conversation. See what they have planned over the coming weeks, and chat to Coventry Biennial Director Ryan Hughes.

How to get involved

Simply log into Twitter between 8-9pm on Wed 25th September, follow the hashtag #ArtChatCov and join the conversation (making sure you add the hashtag to your tweets!).

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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Imagineer’s Bridge – a new outdoor experience coming soon to Coventry!

The team at Coventry-based production company Imagineer have given us a sneak peek into their exciting project ‘Bridge’ which will be coming to Broadgate in Coventry on 26th – 28th September.

Check out what’s in store…

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(Image credit – Tara Rutledge)

Bridge is an ambitious new outdoor experience produced by Coventry-based Imagineer Productions and created by artistic director Orit Azaz in collaboration with a creative team that includes choreographer Corey Baker, designer Dan Potra, writer Nick Walker, composer Peter Reynolds and circus director Paul Evans.

A beautiful bridge appears in the centre of Coventry, Grantham and Worcester, with a gap where the keystone would be. For three days, it is host to pop-up events and happenings that bring people together in new and playful ways including a free immersive headphones experience which offers people an insight into the meaning of the divided bridge.

On the Saturday evening, the bridge becomes the setting for an extraordinary and memorable outdoor performance. Gravity-defying circus acrobatics, dance, comedy, theatre and live music, inspired by local people’s stories, create a thrilling and moving montage of the courage, compassion, imagination and humour needed to bridge a divide.

Imagineer - Bridge. Photo Credit Andrew Moore (1)

(Image credit – Andrew Moore)

Bridge is rooted in each community in which it is based. Hundreds of local people will make their own bridges and share experiences of bridge-building, in all senses. Using a specially made kit, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s design for a self-supporting bridge, people who wouldn’t normally meet will come together to build a bridge in public spaces in their neighbourhood.

Jane Hytch, Chief Executive Imagineer said: “Bridge takes its inspiration from many different sources, from engineers and artists to people who are bridging social, spiritual and political divides. It is hugely exciting to see the project taking shape with such accomplished engineers, artists, performers and communities.

“At Imagineer we are interested in producing new and extraordinary outdoor work through creative collaborations in order to transform spaces and most importantly for us to build human connections where you might least expect them. Bridge will certainly deliver this as well as creating some unforgettable experiences along the way both for those involved and those who experience Bridge in Grantham, Coventry and Worcester.”

At the centre of the project is a surprising, beautiful and (in engineering terms) almost impossible, broken bridge structure. Sydney based designer Dan Potra (Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 Opening Ceremony, City of Unexpected 2017) worked alongside structural engineer Neal Fletcher, circus specialist Tarn Aitken, engineers from ARUP and a skilled team of theatrical technicians and fabricators to create a workable design for the bridge.

Imagineer - Bridge. #ImagineBridge. Photo Credit Andrew Moore (1)

(Image credit – Andrew Moore)

The size, scale and specialist requirements of the bridge has resulted in Imagineer creating a pop-up Creation Space – the likes of which did not previously exist in the Midlands – to enable the development of the Bridge performance, which includes high skill aerial and acrobatic circus performed at a height of up to 12 metres. Imagineer’s pop up creation space, with training facilities in a range of unusual circus disciplines including Chinese pole and Cradle, allows the international cast of 9 circus, dance and physical theatre performers and 3 musicians to rehearse and train whatever the weather.

Orit Azaz, Artistic Director for Bridge said: “Bridge has been imagined by artists; created by designers and engineers and inspired by people’s stories, it really is a project for our time and is already bringing people together in unexpected and joyful ways. Bridge is about the gap between two sides – the bit that is broken or unfinished – and the effort, good humour, courage and imagination of people needed to connect across the gap.

“In order to realise the project, Imagineer have created an unprecedented environment for the creation of the final bridge performance. Bringing together a world-class team, Imagineer’s pop-up creation space is a fantastic achievement. This is hugely exciting, not just for the development of our project but Coventry as a City of Culture and the UK outdoor arts sector as a whole.”

Councillor Matthew Lee, the Leader of South Kesteven District Council, said: “Working in partnership with Imagineer has provided a unique opportunity for local creative artists to develop their skills and for community groups across Grantham, and the wider district, to be part of a wonderful Outdoor Arts experience.

“Bridge will add further lustre to South Kesteven’s already celebrated outdoor arts offer and is not to be missed.”

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director at Coventry City of Culture Trust said: “Coventry is a city known for building connections across communities and bridging global divides. This project from Imagineer will be an opportunity for people across the city to come together, share their stories and experience a brilliant new work by this nationally renowned company. We are delighted to be supporting this project. Bridge will bring people together, demonstrate the innovation that exists in the city and throw a spotlight onto the great creativity of artists based in Coventry.”

Further information on Imagineer’s Bridge can be found at www.imaginebridge.co.uk

 

Imagineer - Bridge photographer credit Andrew Moore (1)

(Image credit – Andrew Moore)

Exhibitions to visit in Coventry this month

Coventry’s visual arts scene is in for a super busy June. Loads of exhibitions to view, so we’ve summed up some of the top exhibitions to check out over the next couple of weeks:

Project Coventry curated by Tara Rutledge

For one night only Project Coventry will run on Thursday 20th June at Classroom Gallery from 6:30 – 9:30pm. There is a cracking line-up of 12 Coventry-based artists for an immersive, interactive projection-based exhibition. We caught up Tara Rutledge, the artist behind it all last week to find out what’s in store.

Take a read here.

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To be within but not adrift by Ryan C. L. & Japhet Dinganga at Knights Wine Bar, Two Tone Village

Private View is Thursday 20th June, 5-9pm then it runs until 27th June.

Ryan says; “The work explores the ways in which we navigate social media. I challenge the prevalence of vanity and seek to present an alternative way of seeing things through a series of visual analogies. You’ll see a mix of photography and mixed media around the room. We’ll have live jazz music and performances, a night to contemplate and appreciate things.”

See the Facebook event here page for more details.

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Bearing Gifts in celebration of Refugee Week at St Mary’s Guildhall

Curated by Maokwo, this exhibition will showcase creative gifts by a fusion of cultures. Opening to the public on Friday 21st June, this two-week long exhibition celebrates the unique talents, and creative gifts that refugees and migrants bring to the city and UK as a whole. Artists from diverse backgrounds and communities will be exhibiting their work.

See their Facebook event page here for full details.

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Condition Humaine at Coventry Cathedral

Open until 30th June, this exhibition by Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange marks the 60th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities. Condition Humaine is concerned with human vulnerability. The exhibition features a moving selection of work by Coventry artists John Yeadon and Lisa Gunn together with Monika Marten and Kerstin Franke-Gneuss from Dresden. Paintings, etchings, linocuts, mixed media and sculpture explore courage, struggle and resilience – qualities both cities share.

Find out more about Condition Humaine here.

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Motion and Stillness: Works by Gary Wragg at the Lanchester Research Gallery

Curated by Matthew Macaulay, Director of the Classroom Gallery, this exhibition features both recent large-scale abstract paintings by Gary Wragg and more small-scale figurative paintings created back in the 1960s. Gary last exhibited in Coventry at The Herbert back in 1983, and flyers from that exhibition can be viewed here too. In the 70s Gary became an avid Tai Chi enthusiast, and his Tai Chi practice merges in with the artworks he created from this date.

The exhibition continues until the 5th of July between 10:00 and 16:00 on Tuesday to Thursdays. For appointments outside these times please contact Matthew Macaulay at: sayhello@weareclassroom.com.

View the Facebook event page here for more details.

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(Image by Alan Van Wijgerden)

Warwickshire Open Studios

Over 300 artists are exhibiting in 151 venues for this summer’s event which runs across Coventry and Warwickshire. It is now open and will run until 30th June. This year there will be 75 new artists exhibiting in Open Studios, and is set to be one of their best years yet.

Check out their website and artist listings and start planning your visits over the coming weeks – https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/

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Project Coventry – coming soon!

We’ve caught up with Coventry-based artist Tara Rutledge to find out about her exciting forthcoming venture – Project Coventry – a projection-based exhibition that will take place at Classroom Gallery later this month. We’ve also delved a little deeper into Tara’s creative practice and what inspired her as an artist…

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What is Project Coventry themed around?

Project Coventry is a projection-based exhibition exploring the ongoing rebirth and regeneration of Coventry.

During the Blitz much of Coventry was flattened and then rebuilt in a very different style, and in recent years a similar transformation is happening within our city, but for very different reasons. Coventry is changing and growing, becoming a University city, a City of Culture, a tourist destination and its City Centre is adapting to new trends in online shopping, and the ‘decline’ of the high street. When these changes happened back in the 50s and 60s they weren’t always popular, and nearly 60 years on, people’s attitude towards alterations in the city haven’t changed all that much.

There seems to be a strong link between our sense of self and the city we grew up in. If that familiarity is lost, is our sense of home lost too?

Project Coventry will bring together local artists, some who have never worked with projection before, and pair them with experienced projection artists, to make new collaborative artworks that explore this theme.

 

Tell us which artists will be exhibiting and why you selected them for your show?

There are 12 artists involved in Project Coventry, including myself.

They are all extremely talented and work with a wide range of media including photography, poetry, printmaking, animation and film. They all have a strong connection to the city so seemed perfect to interpret the brief, but they are also artists who I hugely admire and who have influenced my practice since being introduced to their work.

 

What kind of thing can people expect to see at Project Coventry?

I’ve tried to make the exhibition as interactive as possible, giving the audience the opportunity to become involved with the projections, wearing 3d glasses to view stereoscopic images of the city from the 1960s, seeing poems projected onto live performers, listening to music and soundscapes and becoming live projections themselves!

  

What dates will the exhibition run? 

Project Coventry – The Exhibition is a one-off event running from 6.30 pm – 9.30pm on Thursday 20th June at CLASS ROOM & Holyhead Studios in Coventry City Centre. It’s a chance to showcase all the artwork at the same time in one location, but following on from the gallery exhibition, a selection of the artworks will be toured around Coventry this autumn. I’m keen to take the artwork out to parks, libraries, shops, subways and public spaces where anyone can access them. In fact, I will be reaching out to the public for suggestions of where they’d like to view it in their local area, so if anyone has any ideas please get in touch.

 

Where can people go to find out more?

Please check out the Project Coventry website, where you can find full details of when and where the exhibition will be held and learn more about each of the artists involved:

www.projectcoventry.co.uk

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We’d love to get to know more about you as an artist. What type of work do you produce yourself as a Visual Artist?

My work is quite varied, recently I’ve been experimenting with projection, photography, film and outdoor installations.

 

What themes do you explore through your work?

I was wondering about this myself the other day, and initially didn’t think I had any in particular but, I noticed a reoccurring theme seems to be looking at things from a different viewpoint. Whether that be finding beauty within decay, viewing the world through a different lens or just questioning what we take for granted.

Otherwise the main consistent theme through most of my recent work is interactivity, taking art outdoors and community engagement.

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What forms the starting point for a new piece of work? 

Conversations, dreams, thoughts that pop into my head while walking, other people’s artwork often inspires me and sparks new ideas.

  

Are there any other artists who you admire and feel inspired by?

As well as the artists involved in Project Coventry I’d have to say individual artists like Luke Jerram, Niall McDiarmid, Alex Rinsler, JPS and then companies like Hellion Trace, Imagineer Productions, The Lantern Company, SquidSoup and Luxmuralis.

  

Do you have any future projects planned?

Too many! But, for now, I’m concentrating on just one or two.

Last year I went to Dublin and fell in love with the Dublin Canvas project, a campaign inspired by the idea of having ‘Less Grey, More Play’ within a city. The project does a regular call out to artists for designs to decorate the city’s traffic light control boxes. All have different themes and they really brighten up the areas they are located in. I’d love to bring this idea to Coventry, starting with a call out to local artists to design 12 boxes to inspire people and show what can be done, and then taking the project out into the community. Encouraging local schools/community groups/shop workers to design the artwork for the boxes on their street.

I’m also keen to bring a Flash Fiction competition to the city, giving winners a chance to be mentored by local writers and learn from their wealth of experience.

  

Where can people go to find out more about you and your creative practice?

 You can find me on

twitter: @sparkleyesXx

Instagram: @lajeteeproductions

I have a website going live in the next couple of weeks so keep an eye out for an announcement on social media.

 

 

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.