Month: February 2015

Coventry graduates among winners in New Art West Midlands 2015

Foremark Reservoir IIShufflebotham

New Art West Midlands is in its third year and getting your work into it is a prestigious draw for recent art graduates – last year 100,000 people are said to have visited the exhibition across three galleries.

This year there are four involved – the Herbert in Coventry, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the Barber Institute of Fine Art, showing the work of 30 people in total. All have graduates in fine art from one of the West Midlands art schools in the past three years, with successful works chosen by artists John Newling and Bedwyr Williams, and art historian Amna Malik.

There are four Coventry University graduates showing in the exhibition, and I spoke to them at the opening in Birmingham.

BA in Fine Art graduate Jennifer Shufflebotham’s work (top) had already been recognised before she was also selected for New Art West Midlands. She was offered a residency at the Pod in Coventry after her degree show last summer.

At the Birmingham gallery she I showing two paintings inspired by a box of slides she found in her grandparents’ attic in Burton on Trent about four years ago, showing family holidays in the 1960s, when photography was more of an effort than today when people can take pictures by taking their phone out.

She said: “I’d never come across them before and I was really interested in the balance of analogue photography and the easy access to photography and Instagram that we have today.”

She has re-layered them to create paintings, with blurred and slightly strange images produced. Foremark Reservoir II is particularly interesting, with one person reduced to a dark shape which could be deliberately cloaked.


Michael Carr’s work includes Instructions Not Included, a screen print of the instructions for looking after a vinyl disc, and A Message To You Rudy (above), a digital ink work showing Lynval Golding from the Specials depicted on a street map of Coventry. If you pick up the exhibition leaflet you get your own copy of this.

Michael came into the world at the Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry and said music of the Specials had been “a big influence on my life”, and puts the work in the context of “a vision of psycho-geography and how music can motivate and change lives and people”.

He started this work with an illustration of Lady Godiva on a map: “The Specials and Lady Godiva testify to the strength of the city. A lot of people speak badly about Coventry but if you look at the invention of cars, sewing machines, watches and all its industry there’s a lot of strength there.”

Michael has just finished an MA in Contemporary Art Practice but his undergraduate degree was in graphic design, and he hopes to get a studio and have some links to the university still. I’d already seen his work at a couple of exhibitions in Coventry, showing he’s getting out there already, and with his energy and enthusiasm he’s sure to go places.


Reece Kennedy’s work was inspired by talking to his Coventry University tutors about art education, studying, and the student’s audience. He chose to capture the paradigm of the art fair by creating an installation of a room from the Frieze art show entitled Greatness Engine Future Prospectus (above). Reece graduated with a BA in Fine Art and is running his own printing business in Birmingham.

SparkesAn Ode to Christian Joy

Other works on show at Birmingham Art Gallery & Museum included Emily Sparkes’s self-portrait in a colourful costume, Ode to Christian Joy (above), and she also has some paintings on show at the Herbert of Pearly Queens, relating to cross dressing and gender roles. They are interesting and keep the attention. James Turner’s reworking of paintings from the gallery’s collection sees beams of light coming from the painted women’s eyes, distorting how they are viewed and turning them into light box works.

At the Herbert in Coventry, Andrea Hannon is showing her installation works. Housekeeper is a lightshade with things hanging from it, and Territory Formula features flowered wallpaper and cut outs of women from magazines. Puppeteer includes more cut outs, an old framed mirror, and little character cut-outs, including a Victorian woman.

Coventry born and bred, Andrea has recently completed a Fine Art PhD at Coventry University. She used to do large paintings, but has now moved into multi-media installation and collage works.

She said: “It was during the masters I became interesting in structures of knowledge and how we become defined as one thing or another.”

She uses a lot of magazine and encyclopaedia images, and this set of work is based on the idea of what it means to be the ideal woman, as seen through the media, being good at cooking and housekeeping. Andrea has now moved to live near Stratford, and is teaching at the college there and working with some other former Coventry University students.


Also at the Herbert are varied works including Megan Sheridan’s documentary-style photographs depicting British people on a traditional seaside holiday (above), or having lunch on the grass in Birmingham’s St Philip’s Square. There’s also an intriguing video from Jade Blackstock entitled In, In, In (below), in which she wears white and paints her skin white and is then sprayed with white liquid foam, an unpleasant claustrophobic experience which aims to turn ‘white’ from an adjective to an actual object.

In In In

I’ve visited two of the galleries and at first sight haven’t been as impressed overall with the selection as last year. Maybe that’s because there’s nothing as stand-out impressive as Lucy Hutchinson’s masks and wallpaper, James Birkin’s paintings, or the transformative sculptures of Sikander Pervez, who is currently exhibiting at the New Art Gallery, Walsall, after being selected for a solo show.

But only time will tell whose work from the 2015 exhibition we will be seeing more of on a larger stage.

*New Art West Midlands is on at Wolverhampton until April 26, both the Birmingham galleries until May 17 and the Herbert until May 31.


Designer of Coventry post-war icons is featured in exhibition – discovered by chance in Leeds

So, my first ever visit to Leeds, for a job, but of course I had to get there early so I could visit the city art gallery.

And just as predictably for me when trying to explore new places, the upper galleries were closed for work, but a wander into the attached Henry Moore Institute produced a surprising and enjoyable find. An exhibition about the work of Dorothy Annan and Trevor Tennant whose work I had seen repeatedly over the last twenty-plus years without ever knowing it.

Everyone who’s ever stopped to look at the Godiva Clock in Broadgate will have seen Tennant’s work in the Godiva figure which rides out every hour, and the Peeping Tom which watches her. There is a lovely photo of a long-lost Broadgate with the Godiva statue facing the clock and people sitting on grass to watch it being unveiled.

If you turn the corner to Broadgate House, those are also his carved figures displayed on it. Entitled People of Coventry they are supposed to represent people in a timeless feeling of continuity, an important aspect to the post-war rebuilding of the city. Broadgate House was a key part of Donald Gibson’s plan for the rebuilding of the city centre, and included in the exhibition is some correspondence between architect and sculptor. There’s also a great picture of Tennant working on the relief figures on a blitzed site in London’s Regent Park.

He also created the Levelling Stone of the Phoenix which now resides in Coventry, and a brick carving of a falcon which is described as being on the side of a Coventry junior school – though it didn’t say which one.

A fascinating series of photos also show Tennant giving a sculpture demonstration at Coventry Training College in 1947, creating a model of a woman sitter’s head in front of a live audience, seemingly all male, who are also shown peering closely at the finished work.

Trevor Tennant and Dorothy Annan were members of Artists International Association (AIA), a left-wing group established in 1932 whose aim was “Unity of Artists for Peace, Democracy and Cultural Development’. They were based in Leamington during the Second World War where they were also members of the Artists and Designers Group and worked on public commissions, influenced by their membership of AIA.

Dorothy Annan’s post-war work included a mosaic entitled The Good Earth for the Rugby Road Junior School in Leamington, an oil on brick mural design produced by the Artists and Designers Group, and showing a combination of industrial and pastoral scenes.

There are also images of her designs for the Neptune Tea Bar and another room at the Finham Park Hostel in Coventry in 1942.

This exhibition also covers the pair’s commissions in London and other parts of the country. Their Dorothy Annan and Trevor Tennant archive joined the Henry Moore Institute Archive of Sculptors’ Papers in 2012, donated by their family. This exhibition brings together photographs, sketchbooks and exhibition catalogues to give a chronological account of their practices and show the role of art in British society post-war. It’s on until March 1 in the Upper Sculpture Study Gallery, and I was glad to have found it.

* I also visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park, though with a bit of a mist about it possibly wasn’t the best day for it. And luckily I had the wellies in the car as it was pretty muddy and slippy and I was mindful of a friend who fell and ended up with a broken arm after a visit! The whole site was too big for me to do it justice in the time I had, but I’d like to return another time. Enjoyed seeing several large Henry Moore sculptures in the landscape, plus Anthony Caro’s large Promenade row of sculptures, Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree, which was outside the Chapel and Julian Opie’s Galloping Horse lightbox work racing through the gloom.

Inside the chapel was also Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson’s Song for Coal, an “immersive audio visual work” created to mark the 30 year anniversary of the miners’ strike. It’s pretty impressive as music and visuals combine to form a stained glass window appearance of miners and their lives on the chapel wall.

An island on the lake also caught my eye – loads of herons perched on nests and flying around, closer than I’ve ever seen them, and near enough to hear their flapping wings. It seems a great place to combine the man-made and the natural in a day out.

Cardboard ‘canvases’ are a feature of Terry Williams show at Lewis Gallery

         Terry Williams1

An unusual material forms the basis for a new set of paintings by Coventry-based Terry Williams.

Entitled An Old Bird Still Sings, the exhibition includes a number of works painted on what appears to be unfolded cardboard boxes.

Terry said he started off experimentally with the works, then decided they were good enough to keep and exhibit – but then of course began the problems with keeping them safe and in a condition to be displayed on the wall.

They were created at the Artspace Artists Studios in Lower Holyhead Road in Coventry city centre where he is the longest-lasting studio holder. He graduated from Coventry University’s Fine Art degree in the 1980s.

The cardboard-based works in question have an American feel to them – something that seems to be occurring a lot in Coventry and Warwickshire exhibitions recently. Using photographs from various sources, Terry has painted people at leisure, enjoying the sun. The rippling cardboard as the basis for some adds a depth of texture which works well with the ideas of sand and sea. Terry said they were part of a set where he wanted to capture people “in the midst of life”.

Some people are in rows of deckchairs on the beach, with plenty of sunglasses and overflowing swim suits on show, and one shows a cheerful couple in the sea, the man improbably dangling a fish he looks very pleased to have, and it’s called appropriately, Proud. A fat man from one of the pictures is shown in more than one image, including a facial close up, and Terry said he keeps returning to him for more works. A couple in a car, called To The Beach, have a stylish 50s look to them. Sunset shows children frolicking on the beach

Terry’s main interests are figurative, and these works are skilled and show an interest in capturing people at rest but in situations which when put in close focus do appear strange and rather unrelaxed.

Terry Williams2

The exhibition also includes a set of works which have been on show before at the Pluspace Gallery in Coventry in 2012. There’s Cadet with Flag, then the same young man with Roses, Poppies and Brown Background.

Other works are more abstract, representing his other favoured style, lots with heavy impasto. Crazy Golf Mark One is a strange piece with what look like rocky islands bursting out of the sea with little golf flags on them. Fecundity Mark One, and Two, are two small abstracts which work well.

The title, An Old Bird Still Sings, comes from one particular work, which features a fairly abstract pile of computer hardware – but at the opening Terry said rather dryly that people had decided to interpret it as being rather a more personal title.

The exhibition fills the Lewis Gallery at Rugby School in Rugby, and the exhibition is on this week, 2-5pm.

terry williams jpeg poster