Goodbye CET – thank you for the memories

So the time has come for us to say our sad goodbye to the CET Building. With over 20,000 visitors in the past year, this pop-up cultural hub will leave a lasting legacy in the city. We’re gutted to see it go, but want to share some of our fondest memories of exhibitions we’ve visited there.

The inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art – the biggest art festival the city has ever scene – the CET Building made the perfect venue for the Biennial’s central exhibition.

This was our first visit to the CET, since it re-opened it’s doors. It was wonderful exploring the building in it’s stripped-back state, each artwork responding to it’s setting and reacting to the exhibition theme of “The Future”.

Here’s our round-up of the inaugural Biennial last year.

Coventry-based artist, researcher and photographer Jonny Bark’s “Inhabiting Edgelands” became a dominant installation in the press hall, which was a result of the artists journey of exploration of these derelict, transitional areas of land in urban landscapes.

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The CET Building held the 2018 Coventry University Annual Drawing Prize, which is open to all students and staff both past and present, across all faculties and disciplines. Since the first competition in 2010 the Drawing Prize has received wider recognition and prestige over the years with entrants from locally based artists to ex-students as far as London.

 

This year’s show certainly did not disappoint and viewers got to vote on who you felt deserved to win. The 2018 winner was Michala Gyetvai with this oil pastel drawing titled “Threads”.

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The Exposure Photography Festival of work by 2nd year BA Photography students at Coventry University was another huge and impressive event. The festival encompassed six exhibitions exploring themes of space and place, community participation, observation of society, the use of colour, an exploration of senses and personal relationships. What a great showcase of the level of talent that is coming from the university.

We loved viewing the highlights of the 2017 Spon Spun festival, and reminiscing the work we explored when we visited the art trail last year. Some took on a whole new dimension in the setting of the building, particularly this beautiful instillation by Min-Kyung Kim “Rain of Memory”, lit up to create overlapping shadows against the back wall.

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The CET hosted the preview of the Urban Culture Street Art Festival, which took place across the city on 9th – 10th June. We were gutted to miss the event, but loved getting along to see all the impressive urban art, which then decorated the walls of the derelict basement room following the preview event.

Award winning artist Sam Belinfante was a visiting artist for “The Art of Coventry” Programme, ran by Coventry Artspace. His famous audio/visual installation “Accordian” was installed in the atmospheric press hall, which lent itself perfectly to this work of art. Echoing sounds came out of the darkness, while the two films of the accordion player rolled simultaneously in their two locations, viewable through either side of the screens.

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We especially loved viewing John Yeadon’s solo show “What’s the meaning of this?” a retrospective view of paintings he produced in the 1980s alongside his more recent work. We interviewed him prior to it’s opening.

We were intrigued at how his paintings deemed shocking and controversial in the 1980s would be received again in the city 34 years later. Yeadon encouraged the viewer to reflect on political, ideological, social and economic changes over the past three decades. People travelled from across the UK to visit this outstanding show of grotesque-realist paintings from earlier years in stark contrast to landscape paintings from his more recent Englandia series, displayed alongside images of nuclear power stations.

 

We have so many happy memories from the past year, and are sad to see it go, but the emergence of this pop-up space created such a buzz for the city’s visual arts scene. It has supported and nurtured Coventry’s grass roots talent and encouraged artists to explore and engage with spaces outside traditional gallery venues. May it’s legacy live on as the artists of Coventry continue to push boundaries in discovering unusual exhibition spaces.

Farewell CET and thank you for the memories!

 

Our recent visit to the CET Building

In case for any reason, you haven’t yet visited it, we’d recommend checking out the CET Building. Not only is the old Coventry Telegraph building fascinating to explore on the self-guided tour, but it has also become somewhat of a cultural hub for the city, with a constant stream of art exhibitions, concerts, performances and gigs. We’ll be sad to see it go.

We spent a couple of hours on Saturday exploring the latest art exhibitions on display, so here’s an update on what’s currently on:

Theo Wright’s “Permutations” exhibition was the first we visited, and it explores the effect of mathematics on the patterns and colour sequences created in this contemporary weaved textile pieces. It was really interesting to learn about the knock-on effect that the tiniest change in sequence has in the whole pattern created, and he shared the mathematical formula and processes he followed to create each piece of work.

(Open until Sat 21st April).

 

Saturday also saw the opening of #Paintmysong exhibition by Florence Cliffe. A collection of vibrant abstract paintings influenced by music. Painting has become a therapeutic tool for Florence as she explores the subconscious mind through paint. (Check out what’s happening with the hashtag on Twitter).

The “Exposure” photography festival is still open, and is a wonderful showcase of talent from Coventry University photography students. It combines six exhibitions exploring themes of space and place, community participation, observation of society, the use of colour, an exploration of senses and personal relationships.

We got a sneak preview of the Spon Spun exhibition being installed (opening W.C 16th April) and displays a collection of highlights from last year’s Spon Spun Festival including the award winners and commissioned pieces. We really loved this installation by Min-Kyung Kim “Rain of Memory”, the winner of the visitors choice awards. We remembered it from the art trail at last year’s festival, but this installation took on a completely new appearance in this setting. The dramatic lighting in this dark area of the building really emphasised the shadows, adding a totally new dimension to this work.

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We then came across a collection of work by Coventry painter Christopher Sidwell “All Creatures Great and Small”. This exhibition depicts the artist’s sense of humour and is a celebration of life in it’s many forms. A series of acrylic paintings are accompanied by a screen projection and sound installation of his favourite classical piece, intending to portray different animals in musical form.

Coventry Artist Len Cattell has a collection of Aboriginal-style painting and crafts on display on the second floor. Whilst living in Australia he explored the painting techniques of the Aborigines, which inspired his own practice.

Jonny Bark’s immersive installation “Inhibiting Edgelands” fills the old Press Hall, and is the result of the artist’s journey of exploration of these derelict, transitional areas of land in urban landscapes.

 

This sums up a selection of the exhibitions we visited, but there are some more exciting events coming up:

This coming Saturday (21st April) will see a preview for the forthcoming Coventry Street Art Festival, and will feature live graffiti artists and plus live DJs (12-4pm).

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On the 28th April (12-4pm) – Synthcurious 2 – the sequel to the impressive live sound installation that took place earlier this year.

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Then on 17th May, renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon will be opening his solo show “What is the meaning of this” – a collection of his paintings created in the 1980s along with some recent pieces.

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Keep up-to date with all the latest events by following them on Facebook.

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.

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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.