Month: June 2015

Photographic exhibition captures different views of city life

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A small exhibition tucked away in the centre of Coventry celebrates city life in several different facets.

The exhibition, on the first floor of the Belgrade Theatre, is the work of 11 keen photographers, who each show three images under the title of City Life. They were challenged with interpreting that title to capture their city’s people, nightlife and environment, though some have chosen Birmingham or London instead of Coventry. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between the pictures.

Primary in city centre

Jim Harris pictured the large Primark building against a bright blue sky with the brutalist architecture and large open spaces in front giving it the stark appearance of an eastern European city in the communist era. Another shot looks down as two women sit separately near the escalator in the Upper Precinct, both alone with their thoughts or their phone. Jim said he was fascinated by the triangulation in the paving and an incongruous traffic cone (both works above).

Kim Slater’s images are attractive black and white ones of people walking on the cobbles of Hay Lane. In one, an old man looks at the ground, and in another a man looks down at his feet as if he’s stumbled, and another shot captures a walker at a lower level. She said it was only now they are on show together, she sees as well as the area which she likes, they all involve a concentration on people’s feet.






Tony Skipper has captured a colourful vegetable stall on the market, a street performer framed between passing pedestrians, and a cheeky monotone image of a young man, baseball cap pulled down as he poses with his skateboard next to a ‘no skateboarding’ sign (above and below).

Market stall


Rebekah Mason’s three images show dramatic graffiti art at the Custard Factory in Birmingham (one of them, left), and Maria Ahmad’s London photos include some pretty flowers, in front of a sleeping homeless man. Angela Haworth also concentrated on a London train station, taxis in a row and bicycles also lined up, while Craig Simpson’s three images show increasingly blurred images of buses going by, one cleverly capturing the bus framed between flashing beacons on opposite sides of the road.

Kelly Upton concentrated on the Flying Standard pub and the surrounding area in Coventry city centre, Caroline O’Hagan on grand buildings in Coventry and further away, Tommy Byatt on people and the area around the cathedral, and Magdalena Tomczyk has photographed night scenes of Coventry, which with the blurring lights make it more exciting than the reality.

All the photographers are evening class City and Guild Level 2 Photography & Photo Imaging students at City College, showing the high standard of work produced by the students taught in Simon Derry’s class. The exhibition is free, and on until June 20.




Don’t miss University of Warwick’s art collection on show at Mead

An exhibition not to miss is on for only a couple more weeks in Coventry.

Imagining a University: Fifty Years of the University of Warwick Art Collection is on at the Mead Gallery at the university until June 20.

I have already written about it in the Coventry Telegraph, but it also seems worth mentioning again alongside the book produced to go with it, which is a delight in its own right.

The book contains pictures of the university when the site had just a few buildings in open green fields, and art works in position from the early days. There are also many beautiful photographs of the works of art discussed. The book contains a series of essays by experts in the field which add a lot to our understanding of the foundation of the collection and the Mead Gallery.

Simon Patterson, Cosmic Wallpaper, 2002, digital wa

Simon Patterson, Cosmic Wallpaper, 2002, digital wallpaper

Alan Powers writes what is logically the first chapter on The University of Warwick: the architect, the collector and the patron, which explains how it came to be built, the brutalist architecture and the founding of the collection.

The exhibition tells the story with Coventry Telegraph newspaper cuttings about the permission being given for the University of Warwick and six others to be established in the 1960s to provide higher education for a more socially diverse cohort of students.

Some of the first paintings are those discussed by Powers and by Beth Williamson in her chapter on Becoming a Collection. There are some of the nine huge, colourful abstract paintings given by Alistair McAlpine. Large abstracts dominate the first room, including two works by Patrick Heron, and one by John Hoyland, and one full of zig zag lines by Roger Barnard, who travelled from Japan to the exhibition opening, plus Terry Frost’s Red All Over.

Williamson discusses the difficulties that went with the decision for the collection to not be kept in a gallery or store room, but to be displayed around the place to add to everyone’s education. Along the way some pieces have regrettably been damaged, but others have become part of people’s daily lives.

Throughout this book, current and former member of staff and students explain the importance of individual pieces to them, sometimes as an irritant but more often something to gaze at for inspiration or to escape daily life.

In my own five years as a part-time Warwick student I remember several pieces in rooms in the humanities block, and when my mind wandered to them I knew it was time to concentrate harder on the seminar. Other works on library stairs had me causing a crush when I stopped to read the labels.

Later, as a part time university worker, I was delighted in my first office to have a Michael Rothenstein one side of the doorway and a Stanley Nolan the other; sadly an office move left me lacking that daily art. Visits to University House were a joy to see a Terry Frost, or Maggi Hambling’s portrait of a former VC on the way to a meeting room.

The exhibition gives a chance for everyone to see artworks from all over the University gathered together.

Screenprints and lithographs feature in one section, including Birmingham Race Riot by Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein’s red and blue Sandwich and Soda. There are 12 Paolozzi screenprints inspired by Wittgenstein.

The exhibition moves on to a wall of screenprints and etchings, including works by Paula Rego, Babe Rainbow by Peter Blake, a Kitaj collage, and two small works by Coventry artist George Shaw, showing desolate garages and fence posts by a hedge, lacking a fence.

There are some works donated by Cyril Barrett, a Jesuit Priest and Reader in Philosophy at Warwick, including two boxed mixed media works by Harry Thubron. Other works came into the collection with the merger with Coventry College of Education in 1984, whose principal Joan Browne had collected paintings and ceramics.

A collection of land art works include The Wet Road by Richard Long, and Hamish Fulton’s Callanish, A Five Day, One Hundred Mile Walk photograph, as well as Andy Goldsworthy’s Bullrush Debris, a photograph created on site when he was the university’s first artist in residence. In the catalogue, former registrar Michael Shattock writes of focusing on this work during many meetings, and being grateful for then discovering the artist.

Newer additions to the collection include Hannah Starkey’s posed photograph of a woman with leftover office flowers in a bag, Olga Ivanova’s two photographs of people in Russia from a 2014 exhibition, and the painting Scenes from the Passion: The Swing, a George Shaw work showing nearby Tile Hill.

Other essays in the book cover the forming of the Mead Gallery in the 1980s, the development of the collection and site-specific installations, and its future.

Wherever it goes in the future, don’t miss the chance before June 20 to see so many fantastic works brought together in one place.

*The book, Imagining a University: Fifty Years of the University of Warwick Art Collection, is £18 or £25 after June 21. The exhibition is free to visit.