Shop Front Theatre puts words centre stage Five new commissions, part of Humanistan

Image credit: Andrew Moore

Five Coventry city-based poets will put their words centre stage at the Shop Front Theatre from October through to February 2021 with a series of new commissions, funded through Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund, enabling Theatre Absolute to continue to provide essential support to independent artists.

Commissioned as part of Theatre Absolute’s two-year project Humanistan, which was paused earlier in the year due to COVID-19, Shahnaz Akhter, Laura Nyahuye, Andrea Mbarushimana, Lanaire Aderemi and Raef Boylan have responded to the project’s central provocation with new work which will be exhibited in the Shop Front Theatre windows. The monthly exhibitions allow for a safe, physically distant experience whilst also connecting people through culture which is at the heart of Theatre Absolute’s practice.

Shahnaz Akhter’s work is the first to appear in the Shop Front Windows. Having just gained her PHD from the University of Warwick, Shahnaz’s work looks at the discourse of British Muslims. She comments “Writing about non-mainstream voices, both within my PHD and within my playwriting is something that I am very passionate about.” Her words will be exhibited at the Shop Front throughout October.

Chris O’Connell, Artistic Director Theatre Absolute said: “We’re really pleased to be able to feature five Coventry based poets over the next five months, and present their words to people through our Shop Front Theatre windows. We asked each of them to respond in their own way to our Humanistan provocation and we are looking forward to sharing their work. These poems are for the people of Coventry (and beyond if you are able to stroll past the Shop), because we are one, and now more than ever we should support artists and our community, and aim to connect, inspire and bring people together through sharing culture.”

Humanistan takes inspiration from the thoughts on nation and society from writers such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Francois Matarasso and Ben Okri. The definition of ‘istan’ means land, country, of place. In that case, Humanistan means Human Country – a place we all belong to, but can find it hard to spend as much quality time in as we’d like. The idea behind Theatre Absolute’s provocation is to create a critical mass of work that forges meaningful connections, challenges division and isolation in society, and celebrates our humanity.

The Humanistan programme returns in full from 2021 with a poetry performance by Stephen Lightbown at the Shop Front Theatre in March, to be followed by performances of new work by Theatre Absolute’s own Chris O’Connell in June, and Sharron Devine in the Autumn. The full programme will be shared via theatreabsolute.co.uk and regularly updated in line with Government guidelines.

The commissions for the Shop Front Theatre windows will be on display from mid-October through to February 2021, with a different poet’s work featuring each month. Find out what’s coming up with Theatre Absolute and the Shop Front Theatre via twitter @theatreabsolute and the website: www.theatreabsolute.co.uk

The displays will run as follows:

October
Shahnaz Akhter – Shahnaz has just gained her PHD from the University of Warwick, her work looked at the discourse of British Muslims. She comments “Writing about non-mainstream voices, both within my PHD and within my playwriting is something that I am very passionate about. Theatre especially, provides a medium to tell stories of past and current events which are not always heard and brings these to life. I discovered Theatre Absolute through Coventry Peace Week and a phone call later found myself sitting near the windows, discussing writing for a scripted reading on a piece called The Stranger. Working with Julia and Chris helped inspire a love of play writing, and I am currently working on a piece inspired from an @38 session on mental health, which is an important for the body as any other kind of health.

November
Laura Nyahuye – Laura was born and raised in Zimbabwe.  She lives in Coventry. Laura is an Artist, Storyteller, Creative writer, Community worker and Activist.  Laura recently had a solo exhibition at Belgrade theatre (I MIGRATED an exhibition echoing the voices of migrant women, challenging perceptions using handcrafted Adornments…) During Refugee Week (2018) Laura curated an Art Event, (FUSION) with local and international artists and performers taking part. 

Laura makes unique handcrafted Adornments that address issues such as Migration, Women’s issues, Community issues, Marginalisation, Tokenism.   Her work challenges perceptions surrounding these subjects. Her adornments are a means of communication.  They carry a message of Hope and Freedom. Laura’s aim is to touch lives and shout….. ‘You are not alone, you can make it….you will make it!

Her work is driven by her love and passion to see Humans connect.

December
Andrea Mbarushimana –
Andrea has been published in two chapbooks ‘The Africa in my House’ from Silhouette Press and the V20 competition winning ‘Air Show’. A headliner in the UK and Ireland, Andrea’s poem ‘For My Husband’ recently featured nationally in the BBC Upload festival. She is in the current cohort of the Room 204 mentoring programme with Writing West Midlands. You can find out more at www.andrea-mbarushimana.com

January
Lanaire Aderemi – Lanaire is a playwright , poet and performer. Her work mainly explores the politics of memory whilst challenging the marginalisation of Black women’s voices, histories and stories. She graduated from the University of Warwick with a 1st Class in Sociology and the Best Dissertation in her department in 2020 and is currently on the Warwick MA Writing Programme.

Lanaire has years of experience mixing poetry with music to create powerful stories and multidisciplinary work. This experimental approach alongside her research in Black feminist, specifically, Yoruba oral tradition(s) has inspired the creation of productions like ‘an evening with verse writer’ (Tristan Bates, 2018), (Coventry Shop Front Theatre, 2019), (Warwick Arts Centre, 2019) which pushes the boundaries of storytelling, poetry and music. This play also won the Shoot Festival Artist Development Award in 2019.

Central to Lanaire’s work is re(imagining) community and creativity through various artistic mediums. Through her collaborative EP ‘Ancient History’ with rapper King Solomon, Lanaire blended spoken word with singing and lo-fi rap. She has also worked with communities in Coventry to celebrate unique stories. In 2018, she was one of 30 artists in Coventry selected by the Coventry City of Culture Trust to produce a commissioned poem for #HumansofCov. In 2020, she was commissioned by BBC Coventry for their #makeadifference campaign and recently wrote and voiced part of an audio play for ‘The Future Show’.

Her poetry film ‘change your style’ explores the hair journey(s) of Black women around the world whilst combining childhood songs with monologues from research she conducted in hair shops. She also shared her developing practice of mixing songs, chants and poetry through dialogical activations at the Tate Modern’s ASSEMBLY – a programme that explored protest and autonomy to 1500 young people. Lanaire can be found on @lanaire_aderemi on social media.

February
Raef Boylan Raef Boylan was born and matured (sort of) in Coventry, and wanted to be a writer from the age of five. He predominantly writes poetry – for both page and performance – and short stories, with a focus on social realism; but is also interested in stage drama and other forms. Over the years, he has won first prize in the CU Short Story Award and the inaugural Frederick Holland Poetry Collection Award, and was shortlisted for The Big Issue Short Fiction Award. Alongside this, he has had work published in various magazines/anthologies. Raef is keen to keep people engaged with Coventry’s literary scene – he’s had involvement with publisher Silhouette Press, organises local poetry night ‘Fire & Dust’ and is lead editor of Here Comes Everyone magazine.He really hopes investing his whole life into the written word pays off, otherwise he’s screwed.

@theatreabsolute | @shopfrontcov | #humanistan | theatreabsolute.co.uk

Photo Miners appoint a new Advisory Board as they plan for the future.

Coventry’s Photo Miners today announced the appointment of a new Advisory Board to support preparations for Coventry City of Culture 2021, and the organisation’s longer term future.

Photo Miners is a Community Interest Company set up in 2016 to help communities share their stories using photography. Over the past four years, they have developed a strong reputation for creating high impact exhibitions and adventurous activities that empower local communities.

Major projects have included the Masterji exhibition and book, Tale of Two Streets (viewed across 8 different venues and with a reach of 500K), Humans of Coventry (in partnership with Coventry City of Culture 2021) and Imagine Willenhall and Imagine Bedworth; two hyper local exhibitions about place and belonging.

Photo Miner Mark Cook explained why appointing an advisory board is such an important step right now:

“The three directors or Photo Miners have always had the intention of seeking advice and support from critical friends. The Covid crisis has given us, and everyone else, extra challenges. However, our Art Council England emergency funding has given us a chance to create our advisory board. The eight people we have chosen will support us in uncertain times. They will help us create a provoking and relevant programme for 2021, and they will ensure that 2021 leaves a legacy of greater public access and use of archive and new photography in creative ways.

We are planning an ambitious programme of exhibitions, interventions and community led creative activity for 2021. Our new board will support us to find and use venues, funding for activities and the development of the organisation to enable us to collaborate with communities, volunteers, freelancers and other organisations to put Coventry on the map.

We are faced with challenges creating indoor and outdoor exhibitions during Covid, so we are developing our capacity to create online exhibitions and improve our digital resources. We hope we can use these resources and new skills to reach wider audiences when we are able to use physical spaces again.

Director Ben Kyneswood added:

The eight board members have a wide range of backgrounds and expertise and will act as critical friends offering guidance on the development of our future programmes and encouraging us to see and think in new and different ways.”

Photo Miner, Jason Tilley told us:

“We were thrilled at the number of candidates who responded to our call out for advisory board members. It’s fantastic to see so many people, from an array of backgrounds and with strong local connections, invested in connecting with Photo Miners and the work we do in the wider community. I look forward to our first Zoom meeting and starting work on some exciting new projects.”

The new appointees on Photo Archive Miners advisory board are PhD researcher Eleanor Cook, arts manager Philippa Cross, PhD researcher Emily Hopkins, cultural development specialist Clare Mitchell, archivist and photo historian Jim Ranahan, award winning photographer Nicola Young, Community Embedded Producer Kim Hackleman & ex Coventry Mayor and experienced photographer Tony Skipper.

Eleanor Cook told us:

“I am delighted to be selected for the Photo Miners Board as I am particularly interested in how photographic collections can bring out the hidden stories of communities who are traditionally excluded from the historical record.”

Clare Mitchell said:

Photo Miners commitment to making ‘real’ the concept of public art and engagement is inspirational.  Their work effortlessly elevates personal, private and community owned archives, amplifies and celebrates local voices, and enables our communities to see themselves as relevant and influential stakeholders in the often elusive world of ‘The Arts’. Helping us all to see ‘the public’ in ‘public art practice’”

Photo Miners are currently working on projects with Arts Council England, Coventry Archives, Coventry City of Culture Trust and Coventry University.

Find out about these projects and more on the Photo Archive Miners website: https://photomining.org

Photo Credit:

Pictured above: Jim Ranahan (top left), Eleanor Cook (top middle), Kim Hackleman (top right), Emily Hopkins (middle left), Clare Mitchell (middle right), Nicola Young (bottom left), Philippa Cross (bottom middle), Tony Skipper (bottom right).

Coventry Biennial presents OTOLITH 1

Coventry Biennial will be presenting OTOLITH 1 by The Otolith Group in the Chapter House at Coventry Cathedral from 14th until the 20th August 2020.

The Otolith Group

The Otolith Group, Otolith 1, 2003. Courtesy: Arts Council Collection.
©The Artists. Commissioned by MIR Consortium / The Arts Catalyst

OTOLITH 1, a film-essay made by The Otolith Group in 2003, originally commissioned by MIR Consortium and The Arts Catalyst, is now a part of the Arts Council Collection.

Made of historical, found and newly shot footage, conflating fact and fiction, OTOLITH 1 weaves personal and public histories together to explore future female identities and separation. These themes relate to our wider research while also resonating with the impacts of Covid-19.

Kodwo Eshun, the group’s co-founder alongside Anjalika Sagar, was affiliated with the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at University of Warwick, highlighting another point of intersection with the research the team at Coventry Biennial are carrying out ahead of HYPER-POSSIBLE.

Ahead of this short exhibition, they have published the third in their series of communiqués, which is available to read, download and share from here.

Included in this issue is a new text by one of Coventry Biennial curator and director Michael Pigott and they are pleased to be able to share a section of Holger Schulze’s recent book Sonic Fiction which explores the aims, interests and work of The Otolith Group.

Ryan Hughes, Director of Coventry Biennial says of The Otolith Group:

“The Otolith Group are one of the most exciting collaborative practices working today. They have a huge commitment around working with other artists, academics, writers, musicians and actors creating an expanded knowledge base for each of their projects which have been shown in galleries, museums, festivals and biennials around the world. Kodwo Eshun, one of the co-founders of the group was affiliated with the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at the University of Warwick in the 1990s and the work that The Otolith Group makes feels very ‘Coventry’ – you can glimpse the past and the future simultaneously.”

Ryan Hughes says of the artwork:

Otolith 1 is one of the earliest artworks that The Otolith Group made together. It’s a short science fiction film-essay that blurs fact and fiction and explores how conversations might unfold across generations through the media that we produce and leave behind. The work touches on themes of protest, global feminism, race and cultural history all of which are key ideas that will resonate throughout HYPER-POSSIBLE, the 3rd Coventry Biennial which will open in multiple venues in October 2021.”

Please note that they can only accommodate 8 visitors per time slot to the exhibition to allow for physical distancing. You’ll be asked to wear a face mask while in the exhibition and to leave your name and contact details as you arrive.

Booking in advanced is essential using this link

 

Collecting Coventry – celebrating the city’s rich history

Collecting Coventry is a project organised by Coventry University to tell the story of the city. A team from the uni have plans to digitise the year of the City of Culture, but they want to go beyond 2021 which will become another step in the city’s rich history. The team are now working on a digital archive of Coventry’s past by working with arts organisations and artists from across the city. It will enable people to more easily explore the past, make connections and deepen their understanding of the practices that create a city. 

The team from the uni are calling out to artists and arts organisations from across Coventry to contribute towards this archive – whether their practice is current or historical.  

To find out more and register your interest, email Adele at digitalarchivescov@gmail.com.

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“Quinn: A Journey” at The Herbert Gallery

It was only just over a week and a half ago, pre UK Lockdown we got along to visit ‘Quinn: A Journey’ at The Herbert – an exhibition by award winning photographer Lottie Davis. On viewing this we were oblivious to how the following 10 days were to unfold. Looking back through the pictures we took during our visit, the exhibition feels even more moving and poignant than ever.

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‘Quinn’ takes you on an immersive journey through a series of moving image works, photography, audio/visual pieces plus an insight into this fictional character’s life through an installation of his living space, thoughts and personal belongings.

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As we meandered around the large-scale screens we joined him on his lonely journey across deserted British landscapes from South West England to Northern Scotland. The setting of his story is post-war Britain, responding to the trauma that people experienced – was this a worrying premonition of what’s to come?

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Even though his story is fictional, the work responds to the real-world experiences of trauma in the early 20th century and now. The works reflect on grief, isolation, loss and ironically the human search for meaning and the hunt for salvation by stripping back to our natural world and environment.

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Beautifully curated by Dr Rachel Marsden, and produced by Elizabeth Wewiora and Charlie Booth, we hope that if the current crisis blows over, we may get to view this again. Next time it will be with a whole new set of eyes, and greater appreciation for the harrowing themes that it explores.

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Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange – OPEN CALL FOR COVENTRY ARTISTS!

The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange are looking for a Coventry artist to take part in a month long residency in Dresden for September 2020.

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The residency will be a non-prescriptive period to reflect, research and explore art practice in the twin city for one month and to the establish new contacts and deepen established ones, acting as an ambassador for Coventry whilst in Dresden.

The residency will include return flights and accommodation at the cultural center Riesa Efau. A shared studio will also be provided with a Dresden artist plus £100 materials allowance. The residency will culminate in a showcase of work done in Dresden and an open studio.

Regarded as one of the most beautiful of German cities with unrivalled art collections Dresden has for over three centuries been an important centre of art production. As an art and green city and birthplace of European porcelain, art and artistic manufacture the city has been at the vanguard of European art and design and training through the Baroque, Romantic and Expressionistic periods up to the 1930s, which following its major destruction at the end of the Second World War was to some extent off limits for study during the Cold War, and despite unification Dresden has remained neglected.

Dresden is the capital city of Saxony and is a significant cultural centre with an internationally famous Art Academy and world class museums and art galleries.

The residency will include studio visits, art events and gallery visits in Dresden.

This is an Arts Council funded project with support from Class Room, Artspace Partnerships, Dresden City Council, Grafikwerkstatt and Coventry University, Arts and Humanities. Coventry/Dresden Art Exchange has had 10 collaborative exhibitions in both cities since 2012 and in 2017 began this residential exchange programme.

Applicants are requested to submit a 500 word proposal/project/research to be carried out in Dresden on a months residency, with CV, examples of work, website. The proposal should outline a personal programme of enquiry to be carried out in this twin city and the applicants motivation for this programme of work.

Successful applicants will be expected to make a report back at a forum at Class Room on returning to Coventry.

A panel will select a sort list and the successful candidate who will be informed by the end of May 2020. Deadline for applications 1st April.

Applications should be sent to Coventry/Dresden Residency
PO Box 6695, Coventry. CV3 9QZ

Any queries to j.yeadon@icloud.com

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Curating Coventry’s 2019 Highlights

As another year draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on our highlights of 2019. We’ve enjoyed some exciting and innovative uses of unconventional spaces, exploring new and unexpected venues from a disused NHS facility to a working allotment site. We’ve enjoyed immersive, interactive experiences where we’ve engaged with modern technologies. We’ve visited live art installations, and enjoyed thought-provoking performance-based work whilst confronting issues surrounding the environment in which we live.

So here’s a pick of some of our favourite moments of 2019:

Shrike by Sherrie Edgar
February 2019

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An invitation landed in our mailbox with a number to text on the 28th February. On the date the details of a room at the Britannia Hotel in Coventry were disclosed and time in which to visit.

In this unique, interactive live-art experience, we explored a site-specific hotel room installation, in which you were invited to take on the persona of the occupant. A video of this character played on the TV as we investigated the room cluttered with a variety of belongings. Hidden warning messages about the effects of loneliness could be found printed on discarded cigarette packets and empty wine bottles. Make up and toiletries littered the bathroom, where messages surrounding isolation were scribbled on the mirror in lipstick. The exhibition raised awareness about the impact of solitude and loneliness, and it’s effects on individuals suffering in society.

 

The Knife Angel by Alfie Bradley
March 2019

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In March the famous Knife Angel sculpture by Alfie Bradley came to Coventry where it resided for a month in front of Coventry Cathedral. The 27ft (8m) sculpture was made from 100,000 blades, which have been handed into police across the country. A giant celestial figure composed of shocking weapons used to damage, and to kill. A bitter-sweet work of art highlighting the scale of this worrying epidemic.

The sculpture drew in crowds from across the city and beyond, uniting people who came to pay tribute to victims of knife crime. Hundreds of messages were left around the sculpture’s surrounding enclosure with flowers from loved ones and friends. A real demonstration on how strongly a piece of public art can move a community.

 

Other Worlds at Arcadia Gallery
April 2019

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Other Worlds was part of the Shoot Festival 2019 programme – a festival created as a platform to showcase Coventry and Warwickshire’s up and coming talent. For the Visual Arts strand of the festival, Shoot teamed with Coventry Artspace. Three artists were selected to be featured in this exhibition, which explored imagined and parallel worlds. The exhibition included textiles, drawing and mixed media and featured:

Michala Gyetvai, who created an abstract, undulating textile based landscape (above).

Michael Snodgrass who’s work featured a large scale post- apocalyptic story using ink on paper drawings (below left).

Chidera Ugada’s mixed media paintings reflected contemporary life in Britain and the ever-increasing bombardment of visual information on citizens (below right).

 

Silent Walls by James Birkin at Classroom Gallery
May 2019

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Coventry-based painter James Birkin’s solo show “Silent Walls” opened at Classroom Gallery on 16th May, and featured as series of oil painting of many familiar derelict buildings from around Coventry and the West Midlands. The paintings explored both the interior and exterior of these abandoned sites, which sensitively paid homage to buildings that were once significant to the town or community, but now lay dilapidated and neglected.

Project Coventry curated by Tara Rutledge at Classroom Gallery & Basement
June 2019

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This one-night pop- up projection-based exhibition explored the on-going rebirth and regeneration of Coventry. It brought together 12 artists with a strong connection to the city, some of whom had never worked with projection before, who were paired with experienced projection artists to make collaborative new artworks in response to this theme.

Image by Tara Rutledge

(Image by Tara Rutledge)

This interactive show allowed the audience the opportunity to become involved with the projections, wearing 3D glasses to view stereoscopic images of the city. Poetry was projected onto live performers, and dark spaces of the basement were occupied with light installations and soundscapes – lots of really unexpected surprises made this a fun, unique and memorable evening.

 

Image credits:
2nd left top – Karen Lawrence
2nd left bottom – Tara Rutledge
Large right-hand – Victoria M

 

Wonder at The Herbert
July 2019

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A surreal, futuristic, immersive exhibition that took you away to a dream-like reality which featured augmented reality, an interactive light installation and animated intricate dolls houses inspired by the underworld of Film Noir. You got to step inside a painting to experience a life-sized 3D landscape, and explore insects and animals from the Herbert’s Natural History collection, brought to life through a series of animations. This was an exhibition that all ages could enjoy, and young ones had great fun engaging with the works.

 

Co-Op(t) Arty Party 2 – Integrate
West Indian Centre and Classroom
September 2019

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(Image by Ellie Ball)

After the success of the Co-Op(t) Arty Party back in March at Fargo Village, Arty Party 2: Integrate promised an even bigger event which spanned over two venues – the West Indian Centre and Classroom Gallery. It showcased visual art exhibitions, digital projections, spoken word, live performances, workshops and DJ sets. The evening featured the work of over 20 artists from across the world whose work, explored the theme of social integration. Many of the work touched on pressing issues surrounding class and race, with some very moving pieces, which celebrated people’s differences and focussed on gaining a stronger sense of solidarity.

(Images by Ashleigh Brown)

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art
October 2019

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The second Coventry Biennial dominated Coventry’s Visual Arts scene throughout October and November and spanned across 21 venues over the city, featuring a selection of local, national and international artists with work that responded to the theme of “The Twin.” Coventry’s newest arts venue The Row – a disused NHS facility featured the central exhibition for the Biennial, with a diverse collection of works from installation, moving image, sculpture and painting. Some of our favourite Biennial shows included the exhibition at Arcadia where a double-sided suspended screen projected films exploring the passage of time. We also loved the immersive exhibition at the Lanchester Gallery, which featured a panoramic photographic installation and soundscape, digital moving image projections, a strobe-lit sculptural installation and a fictional scenario in which two tribes at opposing political, social and economic positions were attempting to communicate.

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(We’ve been sharing our Biennial Highlights on Instagram, so have a nose at more of our favourites on there). 

The launch of underGROWTH by The Pod at The Pod’s Food Union Allotment
October 2019

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underGROWTH is a series of eco-art micro-residencies designed to confront issues relating to Coventry’s environment: the air we breathe, the trees and weeds lining our streets and our human responses to the city’s ecology.

The launch event was a celebration of Apple Day – a day founded in 1990 which was intended to be both a celebration and a demonstration of the variety we are in danger of losing, not simply in apples, but in the richness and diversity of landscape, ecology and culture too.

Co-curated by Lauren Sheerman and George Ttoouli with The Pod and DIALOGUE the afternoon brought together a series of performances, readings and live music around a campfire, bringing everyone back to appreciate nature. Attendees of all ages enjoyed picking and juicing fresh apples whilst recognising the significance to the themes the day explored.

 

 

 

 

 

Class Room hosts Artist-In-Residence for Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange

John Yeadon, founder of Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange has updated us on the latest residency as part of the initiative, and Class Room Gallery is currently hosting Dresden-based artist Lucas Oertel (www.lucasoertel.de) as artist-in-residence.

This residency will result in an exhibition at the gallery, and the opening night will be on Thursday 3rd of October for a private view between 6-9pm. (All are welcome)!

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Oertel, in his new work aims to offers the viewer his observation that the time we live in again sees war as something of an abstract notion. The marching figures in the installation exhibit a kind of collective pride, which for the artist is the result of the promotion of a new heroism that aims to glamorise warfare. The installation naturally draws the viewer to meditate on the meaning and perhaps to ask the questions of Who are these volunteers? Why have they joined up? 

This is not hard to relate to as here in Britain, posters usually appear during the January blues and near exam result days, advertising that military service and how it can provide an escape to a better life. They perhaps do not inform people of the true nature and reality of what they will be asked to do, they are instead sold a myth through slick and attractive adverts that usually follow a narrative about belonging or being the best. Today we make great tribute to the courage and heroism of those in the past, but for younger generations with no real experience of loss and destruction, it is easy to see warfare as something unreal and distant.

The work that has been made over September, has been constructed from a mixture of debris that Oertel has found during his stay in Coventry. In the studio, he has spent the time processing the materials, painting and constructing. He does not create artworks from working drawing, he slowly works directly onto the wall, creating relationships between the different pieces that he paints. Here the artist spends a lot of his time constructing and arranging the pieces to form the bodies of the figures.

This residency is the beginning of a series of collaborations between the gallery and the Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange. Together we aim to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Coventry’s bond of friendship with Dresden, through creating a series of opportunities that facilitate artists, in both cities, to experiment and develop their practice through both an intense period of making and an involvement in international dialogue.

This will be achieved through a timetable of exhibitions, events and a series of artist in residencies, in Coventry and Dresden, that seek to introduce artists from both cities to each other. This will be the second Dresden artist in residency that Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange has organised. Alexandra Müller was the first artist in residence from Dresden. Müller has been invited and is returning to exhibit in the Biennial.

More details of the Lucas Oertel residency and the Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange can be found at: www.weareclassroom.com

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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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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