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).

“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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GUEST BLOGGER – Adam Neal

We’re delighted to welcome special guest blogger Adam Neal. His practice revolves around issues of social class, nostalgia and loss. Neal utilises his experiences, upbringing and ephemera from traditional ‘working-class’ environments. These elements act as a vehicle for his practice, allowing him to generate work about the social, from within it.

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A Plebeian, Aware of his Milieu
Adam Neal

 Value

I’m glad I titled this text something convoluted, I like to believe it renders it that little bit more facetious. Facetiousness is a positive characteristic for an artist, and art to have, as everything seems to take itself so seriously.

“Artists are too in the mind of ‘isn’t it good this is happening’ instead of asking whether it should be happening at all, or evaluating it in any way. art doesn’t have inherent value, it’s always worth prodding” (The White Pube, 2018).

Self-reflection should be constant, in that same breath I ask myself, is the work I am making interesting, valuable, and really is it any good? In all honesty, I deem trying to produce artwork that is ‘good’ subjectively unattainable, and the question lies more so in does my work have any value and real life application.

The value stems from the context, the relationship between my Nan and myself, and its application to a way of life. I am using these pre-existing facets of my life as the value, and a way in which I can comment on a way of life that is now fleeting. Whilst, simultaneously, attempting to define how contemporary working class culture manifests itself.

In actuality, I’m still unsure what a lot of this means or how to define aspects of the subject matter. However I deem there value in attempting, in elucidating a way of life that has contributed towards and been affected by our current political and economical standing, as a country.

“I don’t see how this has anything to do with ‘Art and Design’, you’re not designing anything”. Nan usually proclaims as I walk around the house with my camera, or when I ask to borrow things to photograph. Value is added within these interactions. Our relationship becomes a closer one, and she begins to understand what I am (attempting) to achieve within my creative and professional life. I’m not attempting to turn my Nan into an artist, however it’s exposing her to what contemporary art can be (like I’m a bloody Turner Prize winner). I’m aware that at the moment the value can be perceived as personal, and this is an aspect I am attempting to ameliorate and add value to a wider demographic.

Place

“next is location: the centre point in the women’s lives, i.e. where they live. Their physical location becomes ever more important to them struggling to hold on to who they are and how they wish to be known, but so does their social location: where they are positioned in social space: they are always aware of ‘being looked down on’, and situated ‘at the bottom’. (Mckenzie, L, 2009, p.p. 14)

Lisa Mickenzie’s statement resonates particularly in terms of the relationship between physically and social space. ‘Working-class’ communities are seemingly locked into geographic locations, primarily as a result of occupation at the height of British Industry. However, this idea of being locked in or perhaps unaware of one’s social space is a trait often attributed to the ‘working-class’. Being more upwardly mobile is a trait connected often to the middle classes and upward, however with new social classes being formed characteristics are harder to attach to certain groups. We always generalise, I feel.

Analysing this is integral to my own position as an artist producing work of this ilk. Going through an arts education, I immediately become more upwardly mobile; I have access to new social spaces now due to connections made, my occupation and practice. However, where I live still encapsulates idea’s of the ‘working-class’. I am privileged, I acknowledge this privilege, but now feel uncomfortable crossing between these environments. I do not have any answer to this, and perhaps this tension and awkwardness is integral to my practice. It grounds me, allows me to self-reflect constantly, and probes what I do and its value.

Personally, I still deem my practice to be problematic in terms of its scope. Being cemented within academia until last June has resulted in me working only with my own locality. To an extent this was sufficient, but only sufficient relative to my abilities, understanding and position. Locality, and specificity is crucial for closer studies, and more focused methods of thinking, but for my practice I believe cast my net further afield also. Pierre Bourdieu’s approach of studying Kabyle communities in Algeria springs to mind, as I am convinced this level of cultural cross-examination would elucidate the pathway my practice needs to take, and aid in the enhancement of the contextual framework.

Process

Everyone’s a photographer now aren’t they? Whether it’s on your iPhone, or you’ve saved up money to buy a decent DSLR, just point, click and don’t worry about it pal. Joking, and generational generalisations aside, photography as a creative medium has never been so accessible, and equally over saturated.

“In other words, the photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning” (Sekula, A, 1984). Constantly, this quote slaps me in the face, and forces me to think deeper about the application of photography. Photography alone, presents the idea or possibility of meaning, Sekula here doesn’t tell us how to create meaning. There is no formula for activating the meaning within photography, this is purposely ambiguous and the space has been left open for personal interpretation.

Photography has a magnitude of applications within creative processes, from documentation to realisation. I do agree with Sekula in that photography, in isolation, is rarely enough especially within contemporary creative practices.

I am not discrediting photographers or photography as an occupation, it’s important to make the delineation between photographers and artists who primarily use photographic processes. As I consider myself an artist who uses photography as a primary process.

Coinciding with this, my stance is that photography needs activation within my practice; it needs another ‘thing’ alongside. Combining photography with disciplines such as sculpture, physical objects, or ready-made objects seemingly creates more dynamic dialogues between the work, which culminates in a more engaging and coherent overall communication of the ideas.

Gavin and Stacey, Series 1, Episode 4. The vicar in Stacey’s hometown church begins to ask the congregation what their favourite sandwich is. Ultimately it boils down to this: “The point is that the bread is the Holy Spirit, the mayonnaise/butter is the Father, and the filling is the Son. We all like different fillings but ultimately the bread remains a constant just like God”.

I’d like to attach this sandwich metaphor to process. Most of us will have our bread, a go to process we are either well versed in or simply enjoy, and this will remain a consistent. We should all, however, consider what our filling is, what accents the bread in a tasty way. What processes should we use to complete our sandwich, and both compliment and challenge our consistent.

I suppose the mayonnaise/butter also remains constant, the vicar didn’t really elaborate on this. Perhaps we should think of it as the theoretical and contextual frameworks. Either way, at this point I think you get the gist.

Book I

Behind-the-scenes action from the Coventry Arts Trail

Curating Coventry are delighted to welcome our first guest bloggers; Photographer John Whitmore (images) and Glass Maker Amanda Glanville (words) who are both opening their studios as part of the Coventry Arts Trail 16 June – 1 JulyThey’ve given us a wonderful account of what’s been happening behind-the-scenes on the run up to the event:

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If you’ve ever wondered what an artist’s studio or workspace looks like, whether a painter works in an ordered calm, or a textile maker in a colourful chaos now is your chance to find out.

From 16 June – 1 July, the artists from Coventry Arts Trail invite you in to meet them in their homes and workspaces to see how and where they make art. This is part of Warwickshire Open Studios, the county’s biggest free annual visual arts event.

JohnWhitmore_05John Whitmore, a photographer using traditional film techniques, and based in Binley Woods has documented some of the artists you’ll meet as part of the trail (including himself!) to give you a taste of the very different ways they work and their working environments.

From contemporary workspaces to quirky sheds, a homely room in a traditional Victorian villa to a bright corner in an Edwardian terrace attic, The Coventry Arts Trail artists have one thing in common with all artists – they like to surround themselves with intriguing tools and equipment.

 

TheoWright_02You’ll see lots of these when you visit the Arts Trail, along with art big and small (most of it for sale), work in progress, sketchbooks, and some of the artists will be giving demonstrations too – don’t miss the working loom in Earlsdon and the lamp work glass demonstrations in Chapelfields. At all the addresses there is the warm welcome you would expect with Open Studios – often with cake and tea too.

It’s a friendly and approachable way of seeing art and a must for anyone who has been put off visiting a art gallery in the past.

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Full details of all the Coventry Arts Trail artists are on the Warwickshire Open Studios website where you can search who is open when by area and times they are open. Coventry Arts Trail has its own Facebook page where you can find out more. Please note, not all artists are open all of the time.

Or you can use the Warwickshire Open Studios Brochure or Coventry Arts Trail leaflet which are widely available.

Come and see what we’ve all been working on!

Andy Farr

A painter exhibiting from his city centre studio an affecting and thoughtful body of work which interprets true stories of post traumatic stress
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/andy-farr

Emma O’Brien

Textile Artist and illustrator. Well known as the creator of ‘Naughty Monsters’ and co-author of children’s picture books. Emma’s delicious vegan cakes will be on offer during Open Studios.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/emma-obrien

Amanda Glanville

Maker of tiny glass stuff. Quirky, colourful and fun miniature objects for house and garden. Ongoing demonstrations in The Red Shed.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/amanda-glanville

Adam Tucker

Intricate detail of England’s natural landscapes captured in paint
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/adam-tucker

Katie O

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Pencil and watercolour artist capturing in great detail the essence of wildlife. Showing as part of a group exhibition with four other artists at University Hospital Walsgrave. Please note this is an unmanned exhibition.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/katie-o

Sarah Howarth

New to Coventry Arts Trail, a mixed media artist who specialises in decorative mirrors.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/sarah-howarth

Theo Wright

Fine detail of intricately loom woven textiles. Demonstrations on full sized loom.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/theo-wright

Aleks Dille/Katharine Hopley

Designer / Makers of fine jewellery in all precious metals with a particular specialism in gemstones.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/aleks-dille 

Adam Hussain

Distinctive contemporary kiln fused glass as large installation pieces and smaller domestic bowls and plates. Adam offers workshops in beginners fused glass techniques.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/adam-hussain

John Whitmore 

Landscape, townscape and portrait photography using traditional camera techniques (non digital) and hand printing. Weds during Open Studios – pre bookable in depth demonstrations at his Binley Woods studio.
https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org/summer/2018/john-whitmore

There are more artists to discover on the Coventry Arts Trail – not all of them were available for photographs. Discover the full list of places to visit here.

 

You can follow this blog post authors on the following:
John Whitmore
Facebook: @thedarkshed
Twitter: @thedarkshed
Instagram: @thedarkshed
https://johnwhitmore.gallery

Amanda Glanville
Facebook: @TheEarringCafe
Instagram: @theearringcafe
www.earringcafe.co.uk

Emerging Art, Emerging Place

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The cold, damp January weather certainly didn’t deter the crowds from turning out for this motivating event at the CET Building. Set in the old press room, attendees were immersed in Jonny Bark’s (the event organiser), atmospheric “Inhabiting Edgelands” installation, which occupied the space in which the event took place.

Emerging Art, Emerging Place was devised to focus on how artists in Coventry can capitalise on the City of Culture 2021 win. The event consisted of three powerful talks from Jonny Bark, photographer, researcher and lecturer, Ryan Hughes, Director of Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art and Birmingham based photographer Nilupa Yasmin. Following these talks, artists mingled with industry professionals from across the midlands for an inspiring and uplifting networking session.

It was exciting to hear from Ryan Hughes about the successes of the inaugural Coventry Biennial, and the incredibly positive impact that the festival had on the city:

  • The event saw over 24,000 attendees
  • 60% of the attendees were from outside Coventry
  • 35% of the attendees had never been to Coventry before
  • ¼ of the Biennial attendees were under the age of 20.

Some impressive stats here, and pleasing to see that such a young audience are really engaging with Coventry’s Visual Arts.

Ryan has experienced a huge amount of national interest in the Visual Arts scene in Coventry, from many high-profile arts organisations from across the country, so there is no denying that Coventry is making its mark in the art world.

Nilupa Yamsin then gave us a little more insight into the themes that she explores in her own creative practice, and talked about the opportunities that the City of Culture Bid brought to her as an artist. Her project “Grow me a Waterlily” became a huge focus in the promotion of the City of Culture Bid, and this in turn really spring-boarded her career. She is now exhibiting at the Argentea Gallery, Birmingham and is working with Coventry-based organisation, The Photo Miners on a commission based around Foleshill. Nilupa’s tips for success included, taking up voluntary opportunities with leading art organisations to get your foot in the door. Nilupa has also utilised the power of social media to promote herself as an artist, and has been approached for work through this.

Jonny Bark closed the talks highlighting the importance of networking with industry professionals to help to push your career forward. Its all very well having the talent, but taking the time to get yourself out there is just as important. Jonny couldn’t stress enough the importance of seizing opportunities when you have the chance, and the Coventry win of the City of Culture 2021 couldn’t be a better prospect facing creative individuals in the city right now.

Following these powerful and insightful talks, everyone had the chance to mingle and discuss their work with leading Visual Arts organisations from across the Midlands, and revel in the opportunities that artists in the city are now faced with. This is an unbelievably exciting time for Coventry artists, and this event really brought together the creative community in the city. Emerging Art, Emerging Place proved that there is a powerful support system in place within this community. This is something that all Coventry artists should be tapping into. Never underestimate the importance of networking if you are looking to advance your career in the industry.

We want to say a massive well done to Jonny Bark, and all who were involved in making this event happen. It really did leave attendees bursting with excitement for what the future of the city may hold.

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Artist Spotlight: Alan Van Wijgerden

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Renowned local photographer Alan Van Wijgerden has been capturing images of the Coventry for decades. His vast collection of hundreds of thousands of images, tell stories of the history of the city from over 40 years.

He is currently exhibiting a collection of work titled “Fun Factory” at Class Room Gallery (open until 14th Jan 2018). This captivating selection of images are a documentation of the lives of Fine Art students in Coventry in the 80s. He captured protests, gritty student accommodation, music gigs plus a record of work at the degree show.

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We’ve chatted to Alan to find out a little bit more about his photography. Here is what he had to say:

When did you first get into photography?

I first got into photography when I was about 12 with a brownie type camera cutting people heads off which I still hate now.

What type of photographer would you describe yourself as?

Primarily a documentary photographer, although I have done a lot of architectural photography.

We were fascinated by your “Fun Factory” exhibition at Class Room GalleryWhat was it about the lives of the Fine Art students in the 80s that drew your interest in?

I first became interested in Fine Art when I met students in the art-fac canteen then the best cafe in the poly. It was interesting and exciting, very active politically.

What other subjects and themes has your photography explored over the years?

Mainly architectural and demonstrations.

What and who do you draw inspiration from?

I draw most inspiration I would say from the Magnum photographers and Walker Evans.

Have you got any future projects in the pipeline?

Yes there’s several photo projects in the offing and also several videos.

Where can people follow you to find out more?

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/wijgerden

Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/134520525@N07/

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Curating Coventry’s Highlights of 2017

 

We are still buzzing from the announcement of Coventry’s win of the City of Culture 2021, and as the year is drawing to a close, we’ve been looking back at what an incredible mix of visual arts that the city has enjoyed in 2017. Coventry is a hive of creativity, and this is such an exciting time to be in this innovative city.

Here are a few of our highlights from 2017:

The Inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art

The biggest visual arts festival the city has ever seen.  The 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 at the CET building! One thing is for certain – the event sure drew in the crowds.

Click here for our write up on this event.

 

 

Spon Spun Festival

An impressive selection of creative workshops were held throughout August, open for anyone to attend. The festival weekend on 9th and 10th September had a super exciting programme, for all the family to enjoy, including creative activities, music, theatre, delicious food and the remarkable Spon Spun Art Trail. The community really got involved in exploring their creativity and enjoying the talent of others. We especially enjoyed exploring the Art Trail on the festival Sunday – see our journey here.

 

 

Scratch the Surface – Dialogue Festival

The aim of the festival was to celebrate the provocative and vanguard, and bought together a vast programme of cultural activists and arts organisations both local, national and international. The 11-day festival surrounding mental health, was sensitively executed and addressed many taboo subject matters in an incredibly liberating way. A remarkable, inspiring and thought-provoking event.

See more from our round-up here.

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Festival of the Imagineers

Linking art, design and engineering, the Festival of Imagineers delivered a riveting week-long programme incorporating local, national and international creative talent. This unique festival included outdoor and site specific performance, art installations and interactive experiences for everyone to get involved in. We especially loved Luke Jerram’s “Museum of the Moon”.

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Feel Good Festival of Creativity at Fargo Village

Prior to the event, we were lucky enough to interview the Founder of the Feel Good Community Melissa Smith, so had a clear picture of the outstanding work she does in the community, and the valuable message that she is spreading. The event focussed on bringing the community together to creatively explore different ways we can increase wellbeing. This was an amazing uplifting day – so many positive vibes as attendees celebrated and explored creative crafts, live doodle art, animation workshops, spoken word performance, great tunes, drumming workshops, plus many more feel good activities taking place. Fargo Village was absolutely buzzing that afternoon. We can’t wait to see what the Feel Good Community have in store for 2018!

 

George Wagstaffe “The Artist’s Wife” at St Mary Magdalene’s Church

This beautiful collection of work by notable Coventry artist George Wagstaffe, paid homage to his late wife, and their sixty years together – in times of both joy and sadness. The selection of work gave you an insight into the passage of their time together, and the way in which his creative practice developed over these years. This was a very moving and emotional exhibition to view, plus a wonderful showcase of the diversity of his skills as an artist.

 

Coventry University’s MA Showcase

An outstanding showcase of raw talent from the MA Painting and Contemporary Practice at Coventry University. This exhibition really blew us away. The paining exhibition included explorations into levels of human consciousness, modern depictions of World War I scenes, to unique fictitious landscape scenes, and incredible portraiture. The Contemporary Practice pushed through convention with audio-video installations, a digital fabrication of wearable sculptures, eerie dolls house of figurines made up from Barbie dolls, fairies, combined with military action-figures

See our write up of this show here.

 

Kaleidoscope at The Mead

An amazing collection of British Art from the 1960s featuring a vast selection of the big names dominating the art world during that period of time. Op Art, Pop Art Constructivism and bold, abstract sequence and symmetry. A wonderful selection of paintings and sculpture from this eclectic era. Artists included Bridget Riley, Anthony Caro, William Turnbull Robyn Denny – to name but a few.

 

Picasso: Linocuts From The British Museum at The Herbert

A wonderful collection of Linocut prints, loaned from the British Museum, which Picasso created in the late 50s and early 60s when he was over eighty years old. The exhibition presented some of Picasso’s most notorious works in linocut, alongside a selection of ceramics on loan from Leicester Arts and Museums Service.

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Alan Van Wijgerden’s “Fun Factory” at Class Room

Alan had become a renowned urban docu-photographer in the city, and “Fun Factory” was a fascinating documentation of the lives of Fine Art students in Coventry in the 80s. This impressive collection of images captured protests, gritty student accommodation (including students squatting in tents in back gardens along the Binley Road), music gigs plus a record of artwork from the degree show.

 

This is just a small selection of the vibrant offerings that Coventry’s visual arts scene delivered in 2017. We will continue to keep you up-to-date with events and exhibitions happening in Coventry through 2018, so be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay in the loop, and see more of the impressive selection of visual arts that we explored this year.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed 2017 as much as we have.

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.

Ha

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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