Midlands events

Dreams Part I: A surprise house in the woods and a bed in a field – Packwood House installations intrigue

Embedded close up
Dreams – so important for all of us, as two art shows visited on the same evening showed.
At the National Trust property, Packwood House, near Lapworth in Warwickshire, the sun shone as artist Hilary Jack led visitors on a tour of her installations in the grounds. One is a large wooden four-poster bed which was inspired by a quote from a 1930s visitor’s book at the house, which described it as “a house to dream of, a garden to dream in”.
More of this exhibition below, but it was soon off to The New Art Gallery in Walsall for Dealing with Dreams, the Garman Ryan Collection’s 40th anniversary exhibition. As one of the women, Lady Kathleen (Garman) Epstein wrote in 1973, the year before the collection was first exhibited in Walsall “I feel we are dealing with dreams and about to house them in a solid Midlands setting for posterity. How delightful.” More about this exhibition here.
Delightful would also be one word to describe Hilary Jack’s installations at Packwood House. Although based in Manchester, her work has recently been seen in Empty Nest at Compton Verney, and she was afterwards asked to work at Packwood, and Packwood Follies is the result.



New Art Gallery brings together great overview of Richard Long’s career

There has been a lot of Richard Long’s work on show in the Midlands in the past year – and now there’s an exhibition dedicated to him at The New Art Gallery in Walsall.
The gallery is showing Richard Long: Prints 1970-2013 and a work created in the gallery, Spring Circle, 1992. The prints cover all those he has made during his career.
In a fascinating In Conversation with the Walsall gallery’s director, Stephen Snoddy, Long was questioned about his career and his work.


Bill Drummond begins 12-year world tour at Eastside Projects, Birmingham

Bill Drummond raft bed with daffodils
An exhibition has opened in Birmingham which is then going on the longest-ever art world tour, ending back in Birmingham on 28 April 2025 – if the artist does not die beforehand, as the publicity materials dryly state.
Bill Drummond is 60, and his name to me and others of a certain age will always be synonymous with a bunch of KLF hit records of the late 1980s and early 1990s, 3am Eternal, Justified and Ancient and others from The White Room, classics of their time.
But Drummond’s life since then has become almost an eternal art performance, and this exhibition which stays in Birmingham until June 14 will see him taking part in many strange acts involving people around the city.


mac’s inspiring new exhibition explores art made by taking a walk

Taking a walk as an artistic act is explored in a new exhibition which is full of varied works from the last few decades.
Exhibitions can be like buses – you wait ages for something then two come along at once. Walk On at the mac in Birmingham is billed as the first exhibition to “examine the astonishingly varied ways in which artists since the 1960s have undertaken a seemingly universal act – that of taking a walk – as their means to create new types of art”. The current exhibition at the Mead at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry is described as the most comprehensive exhibition of British land art ever. In truth, there’s a lot of pieces which could fit in either exhibition, but the good thing is it means there’s a chance to really immersive yourself in artworks created from this outdoors perspective.
The mac exhibition fills the upstairs gallery, and pieces are dotted around downstairs, with some on TVs easy to miss in the entrance area.


George Wagstaffe and Michala Gyetvai brighten January with joint exhibition

Michala and George 2
An artistic relationship which has helped two artists to become newly-inspired and revitalized has led to a joint exhibition in a great setting.
Michala Gyetvai and George Wagstaffe opened their show Powerful Forces with a talk about their work. The exhibition is open to the public until February 13 – and well worth the journey.
It is on at the Michael Heseltine Gallery at the Chenderit School, a visual arts college in Middleton Cheney, near Banbury. The gallery is made from glass and galvanized steel with cedar panelling, and is built in lean-to style against the school wall, offering wall spaces and plenty of room to display Michala’s large textiles and George’s sculptures in a way that looks like it was designed around them.


Pop Artist (and woman) Pauline Boty finally gets the attention she deserved

colour her gone
Colour Her Gone by Pauline Boty
The past few decades are full of examples of people who looked good, and died young, becoming a legend and an icon. Unfortunately her tragically-early death did not do this to the artist Pauline Boty, but an exhibition and book are likely to bring her the lasting fame she deserved.
Pauline Boty, Pop Artist and Woman are the title of the exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, and the accompanying book by the exhibition’s co-curator Sue Tate. Both tell Boty’s story but more than that, place her in the 60s world which she seemed to revel in, and also examine her role as a woman artist, and what that meant at the time. Tate’s book includes many images but is scholarly in approach, coming firmly from a gender analysis perspective which is refreshing.


Coventry University graduates land starring role in West Midlands shows

man versus motherland -dean o-brien
Above, Man Versus Motherland by Dean O’Brien, at the Barber Institute
Four Coventry University graduates are showing work in top Birmingham art galleries as part of the New Art West Midlands initiative.
They are among 22 recent graduates chosen from West Midlands university art schools for the exhibition.


Jenny Saville’s first solo UK show explores bodies and babies

JENNY SAVILLE                                  Small SAVILLE 2010 Reproduction drawing IV -after the Leonardo cartoon--1
Picture by Geraint Lewis
Jenny Saville’s name belongs with the other YBAs of the 1990s, but she has waited longer to have her first UK solo exhibition.
While Damien Hirst has a retrospective this summer at Tate Modern and Tracey Emin had one last year at the Hayward and is now showing in Tate Margate, Saville’s show is in the cosier surroundings of Modern Art Oxford, in the city where she has her studio.
The exhibition includes works from the 1990s until the present – with one being finished just the day before the exhibition opened, and another being framed and hung in the gallery on the press preview day.


George Shaw and Graham Chorlton make New Art Gallery THE place to be

LEYTONSTONE 1995199 2012
Above, Leytonstone 1995, 1999, 2012, by Laura Oldfield Ford

There is a Place…. where you can find works by six artists in a thematic show which brings together some great scenes of urban emptiness.
The New Art Gallery at Walsall is showing There is a Place…until April 14, and it’s a place well worth visiting.
Coventry-born George Shaw contributes both Humbrol-painted paintings, and more unusually, etchings, of Tile Hill. There’s a huge pile of rubble behind a fence, showing the end of a pub where his mother apparently once worked, and another empty space, and in The End of Time, a path leading to where a pub building once stood.
The 12 short walks are etchings of scenes from around the area, showing scenes that are becoming familiar if you’ve seen more of his paintings and watercolours – garages, bleak paths, but green tree-filled areas too, and poignantly fence posts with no fence in between. They’re small, detailed and show his versatility.