Coventry events

High standard of works are on show in first Coventry University MA Painting exhibition

The inaugural exhibition of the MA Painting course at Coventry University has ended on a high with an exhibition of works by the first graduating students – and they have set the bar high for those that follow.

The top floor of the Graham Sutherland building on the corner of Cox Street in the city centre is the venue for the show, open Saturday, September 10 and Monday-Wednesday 12-14, and it is worth detouring to see (if you can get in the building). There are works by just three full-time and two part-time students.

The works that drew me in most were by Zhen Zhai, who also calls herself Dakota Zuch, and who comes from the south of China. She has created a number of paintings of life in China for two very different groups of people. Some of the works are ‘normal’ painting-size, but there are also dozens of small postcard-sized ones with an extraordinary amount of detail.

The whole collection is called They Don’t Want to Live With Grandparents. Some paintings feature the glamour and wealth of the big city, where a bright highway cuts through dark sky scrapers, and contrasts with village scenes of poor homes and pylons, trucks in quarries, and people gathering berries or selling fruit by the roadside. Zhen Zai told me they were about the children left behind with grandparents when parents went off to the cities for work. They stayed poor, whereas the children that grew up in the cities were rich – shown in these images of university graduation, glamorous hotels and schools. She had been to the rural north to meet the children left behind, some of whom didn’t even know what the glasses on her face were. The poignant story has created some confident, skilled paintings; Zhen is returning to China to complete another MA there.

Matthew Morrison Macaulay’s work is familiar from previous exhibitions in the city, but studying for the MA has led him to rethink and look anew at paintings, and he said this collection is “paintings about paintings”. In particular he had become interested in Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus from the Ashmolean in Oxford. Some of his works feature lines bisecting them, and this comes from the balcony and shutters in the picture, and there’s also more blurring of colours and seemingly smudging over “in a Richter-esque way”. It’s interesting to see where his works will go in his future studies.

Susa Lee works with textiles and paintings; some, which she said come from her imagination, showed cats in colourful, abstract scenes, plus one which brought back nightclub memories. The textile works involve cutting, painting and arranging in flag-like ways. She said the MA had been all she hoped it would be, and said she has realised she has to see other people’s artworks ‘live’ to be inspired by them.

Part-time MA student Andy Farr has just finished showing his work at the Deasil Gallery in Leamington, but they focused on movement and speed and the three here are very different. They are large, and more concerned with social issues, The Third of January 2015 links to Goya’s The Third of May 1808 which is shown on one wall of a room, seemingly looking over New York, and featuring an image from an IS killing on the table. Ideal Home is clearly anything but, a chair laying on its side in another room, and trails of red streaking down the painting. In the third painting, children’s toys merge with more adult videos to draw attention to the loss of innocence. They are accomplished and show his versatility.

Doris Tissington is also part-time so half way through her studies; her paintings are extremely colourful, involving lots of bright circles and patterns, one seeming almost like a mandala.

Graham Chorlton thanked the students for their commitment to the course and each other, their hard work and spirit of adventure, but he has also clearly brought out the best in them, and it will be interesting to see those who follow.

 

Visiting Professor explores travellers through distance and time in exhibition

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A Professor of Fine Art from Madrid University is exhibiting in what is now being called the Lanchester Research Gallery

The gallery, which is inside Coventry University’s Graham Sutherland building on the corner of Cox Street in the city centre, is showing Transits and Crossings: New Works on Paper by Pilar Montero, who is currently Visiting Academic Fellow in Visual Arts Research at the university.

The works are divided into three sections, and “explore the aesthetic potential of the contemporary nomadic condition”, with Montero apparently looking back to travellers in eighteenth century Europe: Pasavant in England, Ponz in Holland, England, France and Belgium, and Goethe in Italy, to look at the alienation and pursuit of knowledge that travelling artists confront.

Mirrors is along one wall, a series of attractive photographs of the surface of water from different distances, with something red reflected in it.

Variations of Vocabulary is a selection of pictures of poppies with words flying through, plus dozens of scraps of cloth with words on piled on the floor. Other scraps with words are seen hanging on a washing line.

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Little Shoes on Paper is a huge wall covered with what look like tiny, fragile shoes, again with different words written in them, showing a huge attention to detail and craft. Another wall features four large black and white paintings.

It’s an exhibition which makes you think, and it’s good to see the gallery space open again. The exhibition is on until August 19.

Strong Rooms are a powerful experience of history in the making

Strong Rooms have come to make their mark in Coventry this week, and call in for an illuminating experience

And enjoy them from what you find out, rather than focusing on the slightly confusing story of what’s behind them.

After a week in Rugby, two shipping containers are in University Square, opposite the cathedral steps, until Monday, July 18, for a project called Strong Arms. They seem to be part of a number of different things though  – a leaflet describes Strong Arms as a new project by artist Mohammed Ali and Soul City Arts, developed by Archives West Midlands and Arts Connect, the Bridge organisation for the West Midlands and Arts Council England Lottery Funding.

It’s also described in a press release from Crisis Skylight Coventry and Warwickshire as a project delivered with The Herbert Museum and Art Gallery as part of Art in Crisis 2016, with work by Coventry-based artists who have experienced homelessness.

However it is defined it’s an interesting dip into history and art in one go, with research carried out at West Midlands archives.

On the outside of one container, Ali has painted, in his graffiti, street art style, Dorothie Feilding, who was born at Newnham Paddox near Rugby, a child of the Earl of Denbigh, but who went on to drive ambulances in the First World War.

Inside one of the containers, he has painted six portraits of people from the West Midlands, some well known and others not. They include Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the composer who had an African father, and Coventry-born Colonel Wyley who is well known for leaving the Charterhouse to the city, but I didn’t know he was the founder of the Coventry and Warwickshire Society of Artists in 1912. There’s also Emma Sproson, born in West Bromwich, who became a suffragette, and Scottish-born Mary Macarthur who led women chainmakers in Cradley Heath in a fight for a fair wage in 1910.

The floors and walls are covered with old, detailed maps of parts of the Midlands, and there’s also atmospheric sound effects, and a film of a poem being read in a field.

The other container shows works by Midlands artists who have experienced homelessness. There’s some ‘Lost’ posters, featuring various places on earth, including the Temple of the Sun, Baalbek, Syria, marked as “Destroyed”, and the Sphinx of Giza.

A desk has been beautifully customised with cut outs of tiny feet, flowers, with letters sticking out of the drawers and what look like fezs hanging from the ceiling. A huge collage of people and artefacts also brightens one wall.

There is a work, The Book of Known Thieves, 1895-1910, inspired by an archival document which contained information on 1,400 people from Aston in Birmingham who came before the courts in Warwickshire, and were recorded in it.

As a project to promote use of the archives it make a good point of what of interest can be found there; it’s a shame that (in Coventry at least) the opening hours and days of archives are being continually cut back to make it harder to visit and explore.

The Art in Crisis Coventry project continues with an exhibition at the Glass Box in the city centre from July 18-28, by Crisis clients who have worked with photographer Jamie Gray to explore the city, and Pride & Perusal at The Urban Coffee Company at Fargo from July 18-29, a mixed media exhibition celebrating the work of Crisis clients in Coventry in 2015-16.

Fun is sadly over but flamenco exhibition is still on show

I was going to suggest a visit to two small exhibitions, but after a wander past today I see one had closed two days earlier than expected.

Mask, in the Glass Box opposite Drapers, had been due to stay up until Monday, with works on show by a number of artists, and was meant to be a reference to masks used in ritual ceremonies, combining art with fun. It was curated by Matthew Macaulay and Gwennan Thomas and when I looked in today there were still leaflets there but no art – hopefully it wasn’t the worry of an EDL march passing close by that led to the early closure.

The other exhibition was opened on Wednesday, as part of the Flamenko Coventry 2016 festival (sic) at Coventry University, also not without problems, and is entitled the Iconography of Flamenco, Small Moons With Attitude, and was curated by artist Frieda Van de Poll. The works will be on show in the Alan Berry Atrium Gallery at Coventry University (opposite the Cathedral) for a couple of months.

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The interior of peña flamenca in Montellano, a village in the province of Seville, that features on one of the posters

The exhibition uses as its source the collection of Marcos, a flamenco artist and senior lecturer at Coventry University. Marcos has been collecting instruments, recordings, posters and other objects on a flamenco theme since the 1960s, and they are photographed and shown in themed posters here.

There’s flamenco furniture, such as the straight-backed, usually rush covered chair the musicians prefer. There’s Marcos’s big collection of capos, or cejillas, photographed.There are photographs of alcohol, and information about the flamenco musicans’ love of a drink, and the information that “flamenco people don’t eat, they only drink”.

There are seven inch single designs for iconic singers such as Paco de Lucia and Camarón, and an entertaining section about The Looks of a flamenco singer, and the importance of the way he enters a bar, checking to see if there are any rivals there.

Unfortunately the exhibition opening was not without hitches, as three posters had been disappeared during the day, apparently by workman carrying out jobs in the building; hopefully they will return before this small but fascinating and educational exhibition is over.

Gosford Books is interesting venue for Sight Reading performance film installation

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An installation in Coventry second hand bookshop Gosford Books is a feature of a conference being held in the city this weekend.

The Dance and Somatic Practices Conference 2015 has a free events programme running alongside it. One of the items is the installation Sight Reading from 2007 which can be seen in Gosford Books from mid-day until late tomorrow, Saturday, July 11, and from late morning until 2pm on Sunday, July 12.

Shop owner Robert Gill, who has run Gosford Books for 38 years, doesn’t possess either a computer or a TV so it’s a bit unusual to see the flat screen TV propped on top of a bookshelf, with the nine-minute film playing on DVD. But there are two stools – of vastly differing heights – where you can perch to watch the film.

Sight Reading, made with an Artsadmin bursary, was apparently inspired by artist Lucy Cash’s chance finding of a second-hand book, which led her to explore how particular forms of somatic skills might destabilize our relationship to the world around us.

The information leaflet explains it: “As a film Sight Reading offers the viewer a cycle of performative gestures which deliberately evoke a strange, dreamlike sensation of synthesia through collaging re-enactments of ‘eyeless sight’ experiments with a choreographed exploration of an eclipse. The soundtrack includes a partial rendition of Eric Satie’s Vexations by Finnish pianist Timor Fredriksson.”

Sitting amidst the shelves, watching the screen and listening to the soundtrack through headphones it’s certainly unnerving to see people in the film, their eyes covered, but ‘reading’ through their arms. It’s certainly likely to be the strangest art event in Coventry this weekend……

* There are also glass photographic slides and writing on show at Drapers Bar, and limited edition posters available from the Rising Café from the Rubble at the Cathedral.

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Coventry University degree show is full of art but has painting gone out of style?

Where have all the painters gone? That was what I was left wondering after visiting the Coventry University annual art degree show last night.

Over several floors, graduates showed their skills, from Foundation students fittingly in the basement to graphic design, illustration and fine art. It’s on the top floor where most of the paintings are usually to be found, and there were some, but not as many as expected. It’s a national trend according to a locally-based painter I spoke to later. The opening night seemed quieter than normal but on the plus side, there was a welcome return of lots of (cheap) free wine stations.

But anyway, what’s good to see about the degree show 2015, which continues in the Coventry University Graham Sutherland building on the corner of Gosford Street and Cox Street until Thursday. Photography is also only up the road in the Lanchester Gallery and Glass Box Gallery.

The Foundation students’ work seemed more interesting and better produced than I’ve seen for years, and is definitely worth a visit. Georgiana Irina Catana’s animation entitled Everything Remains Possible, with a little stuffed creature seemingly playing the piano was entertaining, and Tolu Olubrade’s Autonomic brought order to a china animal collection.

Rohanie Campbell-Thakoodun’s use of a polling box type device where people can confess a secret or confide their sorrows, and then shred it, was inventive, and Harjinder Rahore’s painting machine, using bicycle parts to create splattered T shirts was also fun. Testa Joseph’s Restriction in Freedom photographs combined bondage and fashion and Testa is off to Central St Martin’s next year to study fashion design. It’s always worth remembering George Shaw did his foundation year here before moving on.

Also on the ground floor, graduates who’ve created larger more sculptural items are showing. Myah V K Sahota has taken traditional pinafore designs and stitched them with more feminist slogans. Marc Evans was in a separate room and had the best hair of the night, possibly helped by taking a head set on and off again and trying to persuade other people to use it to literally light up the room with the power of their minds.

On the top floor, Camille Louise combined natural objects such as driftwood with weaved wool, and had a room full of sand with paint-splashed walls. Bethany Dartnell’s tiny and detailed drawings of flats in Birmingham were also interesting.

Muziwethu Nduma’s paintings were my favourite of the night, showing in a colourful, direct painting style, parts of Coventry that have become home, including a bus pulling into nearby Cox Street. The image in KFC was particularly arresting, the customer faceless with their back to the door and the two staff equally so, blocked by the customer or items.

I counted three people writing that their inspirations had included Tracey Emin, and one of them was Peige Smith, whose room had a parental guidance warning. In the corner one latex model of several penises dripped a white fluid into a metal bowl. She also referenced Helen Chadwick and Sarah Lucas, and the direct influence of both could be seen in the use of tights to create sexually-outspoken models of genitalia, and plaster casting of male and female genitals.

Eleanor Hudson’s black and white room was also interesting and detailed, and Chidera Ugada’s paintings, inspired by West African masquerades, stood out for their imagery and originality.

In the Lanchester Gallery, Oliver Wood’s The Farewell Train’s Last Whistle photographs of a former rail route were displayed in a interesting concertina way. Jenny Stonely explored the Anglo-Indian experience through portraits, and Ella Parkinson explores the state of dreams though some spooky self portraits.

These are the ones that stood out for me, so have a look and see who you think we should be seeing more of in future years.

Family photo exhibition launches Coventry University Romani Week

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An exhibition opening tonight began a week-long event celebrating the culture of a community now established in Coventry.

Coventry University Romani Week continues until Friday, May 1 and through it, in the words of one of the organisers, senior lecturer Marcos Young: “Our University confronts the last bastion of acceptable racism, promoting positive images about Gypsies.”

The exhibition opening was celebrated with food made by the local Romani community, including a huge chunk of one of the tastiest, if stickiest, cakes I’ve ever eaten. It was lucky no politician tried to eat it in front of a camera.

The works on show are photographs by Antony Weir, taken at a specially-organised Romani Family Picture Day, curated by Rosamaria K Cisneros and taken in collaboration with the Coventry Roma Project Families. The exhibition is called Family Matters, or Chestiuni de familie.

All posed against the same dark background they show couples hugging, families posing starchly or casually, a mum or child falling about with laughter, little girls in pink pretty dresses and little boys unsure whether to smile or cry. They show a community happy to be photographed together, demonstrating their close ties, and many of those in the pictures were at the exhibition opening.

Deputy council leader Phil Townshend, cabinet member (policing and equalities), officially declared the exhibition open, and said he did not play lip service to the idea of community cohesion, but tried to make things happen.

He said he had recently made a presentation to the Romanian ambassador and 60 members of the government, and hoped soon to welcome the ambassador to Coventry for a third time, this time for a forum with members of the engineering industry and representatives of other eastern European EU states.

He said: “There are more things that unite us than divide us and we must not let people divide us because there’s no need for it, that’s not how life’s meant to be, and it is about recognising the contributions of the people who come to Coventry and make their home here.”

Being a proud Romanian and a proud Coventrian were not exclusive, he added. “We welcome the contributions the Romani community make in this city at all levels. Coventry takes pride in the richness and diversity of its community and the Romani community is a central part of that.”

The photographic display is on in the Coventry University Alan Berry Atrium Gallery, opposite Coventry Cathedral steps.

Other events this week include films, talks, a performance installation and conversation series, including Ramón Flores, from the Council of Europe’s Forum of European Roma Young People Program, making a special visit from Seville to talk about his work with the European Commission, and an evening of entertainment in Opre Roma in the Lanchester Gallery at 7.15pm on Thursday.

There are more details below and on the Facebook page Romani Week Coventry University.

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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.

The Shed – or Coventry Centre for Contemporary Art – has a new temporary home

The best travelled shed in the Midlands is back in one piece for another exhibition – though it was nearly claimed by Father Christmas!

The shed, officially known as the Coventry Centre for Contemporary Art, was originally used in a Bob and Roberta Smith installation at the Mead Gallery at the University of Warwick in 2009, and was then left for local artists to use. Coventry-based Martin Green and Lorsen Camps used it to exhibit with Joanna Rucklidge in Earlsdon, and the three reunited for an exhibition in the shed, rebuilt at The Herbert in Coventry, this summer.

It has now passed on to the Peapod Collective, based at the Pod in Lamb Street in Coventry, and has landed, in Tardis-type style, at Fargo in Far Gosford Street. However Fargo traders thought it could have a festive use as Santa’s grotto, but it was soon retrieved for its proper purpose.

Exhibiting in it are Eve Hyde-Davis, who graduated from Coventry University this summer, and sound artist HKid.

Eve is also one of three artists using studio space at the Pod which is made available to recent graduates of Coventry University’s Fine Arts degree course. Her work on show at Fargo was also in her degree show in the summer, but there it was hung up high, with other pieces around it, and at Fargo it fills the small shed space, and you just have space to walk around it. The work consists of several large sheets of paper, painted black and with different angular shapes cut out of them.

At a low-key opening Eve said they were typical of her work, “sterile, geometric and lacking in emotion”, which might partly fit in with her interest in brutalist architecture.

“This one was in the bigger show but it was in a much bigger space. It’s really interesting here, it’s got a different feel,” she added.

Eve will be working in studios at the Pod this year, alongside Lauren Heywood and also Jennifer Shufflebotham, who has been selected for the New Art West Midlands 2015 exhibition.

*Eve and HKid’s exhibition at Fargo continues until the end of January, and will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 5-6.30pm, and weekends 2-4pm.

Arty-Folks stage Tibetan influenced exhibition

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Art inspired by colourful mandalas made by Tibetan monks is on show at Coventry’s Central Library.

The drawings and glass paintings were made by members of Arty-Folks, a group for people recovering from mental health problems.

Art tutor Lorella Medici said the works describe how the person feels about themselves in relation to the world around them through patterns, mark making, textures and colour. The works have been inspired by the mandala, which in Sanskrit means circle. Mandalas are spiritual and ritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe.

Lorella said: “Our minds are always busy seeking solutions for our many problems.  Making these mandalas has helped people to concentrate on creating beautiful and meaningful artwork, and to give their minds a rest.

“Tibetan monks create intricate mandalas as an aid to meditation and to help stabilize and re-order inner life.  Arty-Folks uses the visual arts in a similar way to help people on their recovery journey. ”

Jean who is one of the people exhibiting says: “I used to believe that art is just for people who are very creative, imaginative or skilled. I started coming to Arty-Folks after I lost my mum and it motivated me to get out the house at least once a week.

“I never saw myself as an arty person but I just got totally caught up with all the different things Arty-Folks introduces me to.  Now I enjoy art because it helps me to communicate and to connect to others, and I have fun experimenting.”

The display includes as step-by-step instruction on how to create your own mandala art.

Arty-Folks meets from 12.30-2.30pm on Wednesdays at the Artspace Studios, 15 Lower Holyhead Road, Coventry. Anyone interested can pop in on a Wednesday, or call 024 7641 4740 for more information. The exhibition at the library is on until November 16.

Also see www.arty-folks.co.uk and Arty-Folks on facebook and twitter.