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Great Masters and naughty goings on in the woods combine to great effect in George Shaw exhibition

The Foot of a Tree

The Foot of a Tree, 2015-2016, Enamel on canvas, © Courtesy : The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London

Two and a half years spent amidst some of the best art works in the country has resulted in a stunning new exhibition for Coventry-born artist George Shaw.

George has been the National Gallery’s Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist – and the exhibition he has produced as a result shows the influence of time spent among the Old Masters, but also growing up in Coventry.

George’s paintings, which saw him nominated for the Turner Prize in 2011, focused on the urban landscapes of Tile Hill in Coventry, where he grew up, plus some of its back paths, semi-derelict garages and surrounding woods. Further works showed the remains of buildings such as pubs which have now been lost.

Here, there’s not a building in sight, but still plenty of evidence of human intervention in nature. The exhibition is called My Back to Nature, which can be read several ways, and is certainly a title George has thought about and played around with.

George

George Shaw in his studio, Photo © The National Gallery, London

At the press preview, the typically plain-speaking George talked about his first feelings at being asked to take on the residency. He said: “The initial reaction was complete mystification – how did I make the list. The second drove me to the toilet and I don’t think I have been off the toilet since.

“I spent about six months wishing I had never been asked. But I could hear a 14-year-old boy [himself] saying do it, that’s why you have been doing this for more than 30 years, or it’s been a waste. And I could hear my dad whirring round wherever he may be saying do it.

“It’s a very humbling experience, it’s like having your trousers pulled down in the shop window and you have to stay there. The bullshit of contemporary art slips away but you can’t hide behind vague theory, you have to be in the firing line.”

He shook his head, slightly in amazement still: “Setting up this exhibition, I had Velasquez staring at me – while I was pinning my drawing on the wall Velasquez was on the other side of the gallery.”

George had been a regular National Gallery visitor since he was a child. He said: “My first visit would have been when I was eight or nine years old and came down with mum and dad on the coach, walking through St James Park from Victoria, and my first stop was the National Gallery.

“My parents met in London and knew London quite well and they were aware that if you wanted to see art the National Gallery would be the place to come. We would have come here first then we would go to the newly-opened London Dungeon. I saw no distinction between the two.”

In one cabinet in the exhibition there is a drawing after a work by Piero Della Francesca, from 1984 – and when you remember George was born in 1966, then there’s the proof he’s been a long-time visitor.

He added that, like the 1970s cartoon character Mr Benn who always returned from a journey with a souvenir in his pocket, whenever he ventured away on an adventure to an art gallery, he would come home with a reminder in the shape of a drawing of a painting: “It was more I made a record of my time spent in front of the pictures. I am very aware of the anxiety of time passing, and I am aware my paintings and drawings are very about the sadness of time passing and sadness has a strong relationship with beauty. That’s where art lies, in the gap between sadness and beauty.”

In the Heart of the Wood

The Heart of the Wood, 2015-2016, Enamel on canvas, © Courtesy : The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London

George says in a film showing with the exhibition that he came into work every day like the other Gallery staff, but in his case to a studio to paint. Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator at the National Gallery, said in the film: “He’s got this pose that he’s just a working man, doing a working man’s job.”

But this job involved studying masterpieces, and he found unlikely connections with his previous inspirations in Tile Hill. One example he cited is The Triumph of Pan by Nicolas Poussin. As strange creatures and beasts frolic semi-naked, food and drink vessels lay abandoned on the ground; not dissimilar to scenes found on weekend mornings in Tile Hill woods, he thought.

He said: “I realised that there wasn’t a room in the gallery that didn’t have a woodland in it and there wasn’t one without a lady parading round in it, and very few that didn’t have a Jesus in it.

“It seemed to be the opposite of nature, to go into the woods take your clothes off and run around being half man and half animal and have sex with anything that will come along. I thought that quite exciting. I quite enjoyed the chance of that – I missed out on it when I was young because I was painting. I was never invited to that party.

“My return to nature was where I bring everything with me.”

The Tossed

The Tossed, Enamel on canvas, © Courtesy : The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London

He felt everything seemed to be happening on the outskirts of towns, in the woods, away from the culture. Along with scepticism about going back to nature to find yourself, he decided he had his back to nature – hence the exhibition’s title.

But how does he fit into the great tradition of British landscape painting, he was asked by National Gallery director Gabriele Finaldi.

“I was told I don’t. I don’t find landscape painting the most exciting part of painting, I find painting Jesus Christ being tortured on the cross, or sexual activity or nudes more exciting. The big question is why don’t I do that – because I can’t.”

He said the teenage boy who didn’t get invited to the exciting parties dreamt instead of being Van Gogh or Rembrandt, and he’s still striving for that, saying about this exhibition: “My reference point was six Rembrandt self-portraits, the way he painted them was the way I wanted to paint a tree.”

The more he looked at the National Gallery works, and the woods around Tile Hill, the more he started to use elements in the landscape figuratively and physically. Three trees together started to be the three crosses at the Crucifixion, at Calvary.

The young George had always loved Titian’s Death of Actaeon at the gallery, and by the time he became Associate Artist the gallery also had Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto.

George said: “Death of Actaeon is one of the greatest paintings in the galleries and it’s one I go back and look at and it’s always impressed me on many different levels.

“I knew I wanted to deal with that subject in a way. I am drawn to the subject of the story.”

In the story, the hunter goes into the woods, finds a curtain which he pulls aside to reveal women bathing. One is Diana who turns him into a stag, and his own hounds devour him – and in the Titian painting she is seen raising a bow and arrow for good measure.

George added: “Maybe coming from Coventry the subject matter attracted me, the tradition of Lady Godiva protesting about taxes in the city and Peeping Tom has his eyes burnt out for being drawn to her.

“I went into the woods as a young man and my dad was pointing out all the finer points of flora and fauna and I was more drawn to the copies of Penthouse magazine blowing around. I thought I would come back later and get it.”

Every Brushstroke is Ripped From My Body

Every Brush Stroke is Torn Out of My Body, Enamel on canvas, © Courtesy : The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London

When George ordered three canvases, 178×198 cm, Gabriele said it only meant one thing – they were the same size at the Titian works, and he was going to create his own version. A chance find to take the place of the curtain helped.

“I found a builder’s tarpaulin in the wood. When I saw it I thought are you joking me, I feel I am being set up here.”

George still paints in the Humbrol enamel paints he started using about 20 years ago, and said they become unusable very quickly “It’s very difficult. I enjoy it – I don’t know if that’s really my Catholic upbringing, if you enjoy something it must be bad.”

The paintings are created from photographs, drawings of the same scene and then he varies what is there to suit what he wants, and said by working in the National Gallery he’s been glad to get away from the feeling of his photos bullying him.

He has also tried painting on canvas for the first time. “The gesture and mark making became a little more free form, shaking off my British anal retentiveness.”

In the film also on show at the exhibition he’s seen laughingly fretting about paint running on one of the big works, then he notices more: “It’s like Zulu, they are all coming!”

Most of the painting went on at the National Gallery studio, though there was quite a lot of travel between the “Bermuda Triangle” of London, his home in Devon and Coventry, and some of the smaller paintings travelled with him to be further worked on.

He revealed: “I don’t like my work. I wouldn’t have it because I always see it may be better. When I had about six months remaining here I wanted to be around for another year because I had not made a great painting yet.”

The exhibition is on in the Sunley Room at the National Gallery until October 30 for you to judge for yourself.

The Old Country

The Old Country, 2015-2016, Enamel on canvas, © Courtesy : The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London

 

 

 

A look back at the art highlights of 2015 in Coventry and Warwickshire

As I take a rest before throwing myself bravely into a new year of trying to balance a wine glass, note book and pen at exhibition openings, there’s time to reflect on a year of varied shows – and meeting two gallery bosses called Kate who really suffer for their art.

In July, a retrospective exhibition by Coventry-based artist Nancy Upshall was my first experience of the Deasil Art Gallery in Oxford Street in Leamington. I talked to Nancy about her artistic career and paintings made in Coventry from the 1950s onwards, and also Kate Livingston and Kate Bramwell who run it.

Openings at Deasil are always fun, and Kate B welcomed me to one, when she had her hands full, by inviting me to pour my own Prosecco and “fill it to the brim” – a girl after my own heart. The exhibitions I’ve enjoyed the most have been Nancy’s and also Inked Palette, which brought a new audience to the gallery, as it showed works by people who normally work as tattoo artists. The two Kates really showed their commitment to their work at that exhibition, as each got a tattoo live at the opening – I’m glad to say I’d left by that point, though Kate B has an artist’s palette on her abdomen and Kate L a letter on her leg as a memento of it!

Adrift Adrift by Nancy Upshall

Earlier in the year, Gallery 150 bowed out of its central space in Leamington after Englandia, an exhibition by former Coventry University lecturer John Yeadon, an investigation into England’s national identity which John said doesn’t exist. I met up again with John at the Hunger Meal at Coventry Cathedral, organised by Artspace’s City Arcadia project, where we were among the naughty children, including Dean John Whitcombe, who didn’t join the organised conversations, but still enjoyed the talk and food enormously.

Rugby Art Gallery started the year in uncertain silence, with the Rugby Collection making an earlier than normal showing, including some new additions to the collection. Its later Open, fairly predictably inspired by the Rugby World Cup, was a bit disappointing but The Gain Line by Ravi Deepres was a mesmerising film which held my attention thoroughly, partly through merging local scenes from the town with a game at a huge venue.

The Mead Gallery at the University of the Warwick began the year with some fascinating Russian photographs from the early twentieth century, and by five contemporary photographers. And, not usually a huge fan of film installations, I was blown away by The Unfinished Conversation, a three-screen installation by John Akomfrah about cultural theorist Prof Stuart Hall. The summer exhibition focused on the Mead’s own collection, now in its 50th year. It was an excellent chance to see together works which are generally spread around the university.

I was also lucky enough, on a beautiful bright day, to be invited to the installation of a new work by David Nash at the University of Warwick’s Diamond Wood, accessible from the Coventry to Kenilworth cycle route and walkway. I talked to the artist as the work was painstakingly winched into place and David positioned it down to the last millimetre. It’s called Habitat and the idea is that local wildlife such as bats, birds and insects will use it; I must return to see how it’s bedded in.

The Mead’s final exhibition of the year, Making it: Sculpture in Britain 1977-1986 was a thorough and educational exhibition about the works in this period, but my overwhelming feeling afterwards was that this wasn’t the most interesting period of sculpture by a long way.

Nuneaton’s Museum & Art Gallery does a valiant job in staging two or three exhibitions at the same time, and it continued to show some small and interesting ones this year, including some inspired by works left to the museum. It started the year with an exhibition of miniatures, which revealed some lovely works by Lady Stott, who’d lived an interesting life. A later exhibition of works by Jhinuk Sarkar was inspired by a collection of items owned by Canon John Turner during his time as a missionary in Baffin Island early last century. It’s amazing where these things end up. Other good shows there this year included urban landscapes of Coventry, Nuneaton and Senegal painted by Sarah Moncrieff, and cartoons by Nuneaton-born professional cartoonist Noel Ford.

The White Room in Leamington continued to lay on fun opening nights, packing people, wine and nibbles into the small but perfectly formed gallery space.

The Lanchester Gallery had been in the prominent and easily accessible spot on a corner in Jordan Way in Coventry for the last couple of years, and flockOmania, which combined giant jewellery and performance, was one of the oddest. It’s a shame it’s now back inside the far less accessible art school building on the corner of Cox Street.

The RSC in Stratford continued to surprise with some good exhibitions, including one about Bruce Bairnsfather, the Warwickshire-born wartime cartoonist I had never heard of but was fascinated to learn about.

In In In   MichaelCarrMessagetoyourudy Foremark Reservoir IIShufflebotham

Works by Jade Blackstock, Michael Carr and Jennifer Shufflebotham in New Art West Midlands.

New Art West Midlands was challenging, not least to me when I found myself shut outside Birmingham Art Gallery & Museum desperate to get in early before a drive to Colchester (don’t ask). Thankfully PR Helen Stallard rescued me and it turned into a fun opening, with chats to several lovely artists including Michael Carr who I kept running to at exhibitions throughout the year.

Compton Verney had what felt like a good year, starting with an exhibition entitled Canaletto: Celebrating Britain, which showcased his paintings from 1746-55, and I was glad to have attended the official opening and heard gallery director Dr Stephen Parissien put them in their artistic, social and historical context.

Warwickshire-based artist Faye Claridge’s Kern Baby was on show outside all season, a five metre-high faceless, gowned creature, inspired by some Benjamin Stone photographs, with some of her admittedly “edgy” photos inside. I described Kern Baby at the time as looking as though she’d escaped from the building. Months later I visited to find her down by the lake; apparently her prominent position – great as an art work – didn’t go down so well with the venue’s wedding business and photo opportunities.

 

 

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Kern Baby’s second position, by the lake.

The Chinese Collection enjoyed a big revamp after winning funding, and it made a huge difference, showing the importance of the collection rather than just being on a route between galleries.

Leamington Art Gallery & Museum held A Leamington Lad brought together lots of works by Terry Frost, 100 years after his birth in the town. It was brought to life by some recordings of interviews with the characterful Frost. Later in the year I chanced upon another Frost exhibition in Banbury, Frost, Family and Friends, showing works loaned by individuals rather than galleries, and the often personal stories behind them. The works were mostly smaller and not all in Frost’s usual style, which made it fascinating; it’s on until January 9 so there’s still time to see it.

Recording Britain at The Herbert was a V&A touring exhibition which showed the country in 1939 captured by artists of the time, and many lost scenes were recorded; it was poignant though that not all were lost in the war, some were drowned under reservoirs or lost as industries declined. The autumn season of remembrance at the Herbert included work by contemporary artists, but seeing John Piper’s paintings of the city the day after the Blitz were most memorable.

Away from my usual round of galleries, there were some other gems.

A photographic exhibition at the Belgrade Theatre showed the works of a class of 11 adults studying for City and Guild Level 2 Photography & Photo Imaging at City College, and included some really good works on the theme of city life.

Skateboarder John Blakemore

A skateboarder by Tony Skipper in the Belgrade Theatre exhibition, and a John Blakemore from Imagine Hillfields.

Imagine Hillfields was an exhibition which came from a research project, and brought together works by contemporary and historic photographers depicting Hillfields. Jason Tilley had created new portraits for it, Richard Sadler had documented his grandmother’s life in the 50s and Masterji had documented South East Asian families through the decades; but the most astonishing, by John Blakemore from the 1960s hadn’t been seen before. The bleakness of some of the images was at odds with the fizz-fuelled and fun opening.

Lucy Cash presented a film installation in Gosford Books in Coventry city centre as part of the Dance and Somatic Practices Conference 2015 which was being held in the city; about two people could squeeze in to view it at a time.

In the Michael Heseltine Gallery at Middleton Cheney near Banbury, Coventry artist George Wagstaffe, known for his sculptures, held his first painting exhibition at the age of 80-plus, and it was interesting to hear about how Pre-Raphaelite women he’d seen in paintings in Birmingham around the time of the Second World War were influencing him still.

I discovered CRW Nevinson at the Barber in Birmingham, and loved his attitudes and mix of futurist and cubist styles; the gallery showed German Expressionist prints at the same time, works which were derided by the Nazis and can be appreciated now for their honesty and power. On London visits, I discovered and enjoyed the art galleries at the Imperial War Museum.

My first visit to Bilston Craft Gallery was to see Bilston’s Happy Housing: Otto Neurath’s Vision for Post-War Modern Living, an examination of the plan for homes that would actually make people happy, and what happened to that inspirational idea.

There was an exhibition of photographs as part of Coventry University Romani Week in April, with an introductory talk by the late Deputy Council Leader Phil Townshend, who spoke passionately about the city’s dedication to community cohesion.

On a trip to Cornwall, I was amused to find lots of koans (you know, the pointy thing in front of the Warwick Arts Centre) on show at the Tate St Ives as part of a show of Liliane Lijn’s works. I didn’t get to London often this year but was very glad to make it to Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Royal Academy; I had thought he was more interesting as a person and campaigner than artist, but seeing lots of his pieces together made me revise that view – the personal and the political merge to create really great works. An exhibition of portraiture by Giacometti found me also having to look anew at works more on paper than in clay by one of my favourite sculptors.

One of the oddest art experiences of the year was the Art Trail run as part of the Earlsdon Festival, where I paced the streets looking for some elusive art works. It was something I felt could grow and be improved upon in 2016, but with the Earlsdon Festival now not happening perhaps it won’t go ahead at all.

Anyway – thanks for the art, the laughs and the gossiping in gallery corners this year – and looking forward to what 2016 will have to offer!

BBC Good Food Show offers some tasty (and thirst quenching) treats

So, Private View II decided to take its eye off art today and concentrate on two other things close to its heart, food and drink. A press invitation to the BBC Food Show Winter at the NEC was just the ticket.

It’s on until Sunday so there’s still time to get along. It’s vast, and has an enormous number of imbibing, scoffing and shopping opportunities, plus cooks – many known for their TV shows as well as restaurant work and books – putting in appearances with live cooking demonstrations, interviews and book signings. Still to come over the next few days are, amongst others, James Martin, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, Tom Kerridge, the Hairy Bikers, Lisa Faulkner and Hemsley+Hemsley. Today I saw a bit of Phil Vickery being creative and Lorraine Pascale talking about her love of peanut butter.

I mostly enjoyed the wandering and sampling though. There are enough freebies to mean you don’t need to buy any of the admittedly-nice looking snacks for sale.

The drinks area has plenty of wintery-type drinks, including a chocolatey and flat white Martini Baileys, and other spirits infused with cream too, plus gins and vodkas, as well as wine, cider and beer brewers. There was even one vodka apparently made with milk – a side product of a dairy farmer.

I had a chat with jolly Jaspal Purewal on the Indian Brewery Company stall as I sampled the wares of his son’s company, which include Indian Summer, India Pale Ale, Peacock, Bombay Honey and Birmingham Lager. Why do they call themselves the Indian Brewery Company I asked, expecting it was something to do with the ingredients or brewing process: “Because we’re Indian” came back the reply. Ask a stupid question…. They’re currently based in Ansley in North Warwickshire but looking to move into Birmingham.

I ate a potentially nightmare-inducing amount of different cheeses, and some hot curries, sauces and cooking mixtures. There were lots of sausage-producers there and also the Linda McCartney vegetarian range. The Saucy Fish Co served me up a nice snack, and I also tried different types of smoked salmon, crab and anchovies. There seemed to be lot of gluten-free versions of every type of food you could think of. I also sampled rice pudding, ice cream and fudge. I wish all my sampling was in proper meal order but I must admit it wasn’t – thank goodness for a strong stomach.

The main difficulty was getting to the front of the stalls, through the crowds, with everyone trying to get the most for their ticket price, which started at around £20 and increased considerably for VIP packages including Supertheatre.

My tips for getting the most out of the day:

  • Don’t have much for breakfast
  • Get there as soon as it opens, before it gets busy
  • Don’t wear too much, or leave your coat in the cloakroom – it got hot in there
  • Sharpen your elbows to deal with the lurkers around the front of the stands where all the free samples are being given out
  • Try something new; I enjoyed a kale smoothie (yes really) and took home a free leaflet of recipes
  • Leave your sense of embarrassment at home – if you want to make the most of your ticket and eat and drink your way round the show you can’t have an in-depth conversation with everyone on a stall. Just dip in and depart.
  • If you don’t have access to the ‘Supertheatre’ (and the very name put me off), don’t fret, there are opportunities for seeing lots of other big names in areas such as the winter kitchen, bakes and cakes stage and Stoves live cook stage. Today there also seemed to be some giveaways of kitchen items at the start of these – but they involved audience members having to get up and dance while being filmed and shown on a big screen before the host presented the goodies. Consider whether you want a new toaster that much!
  • Don’t miss the goody bags being given out nearby when you’ve left the main exhibition area – that huge box of pasta at least will come in handy!

 

Koans take centre stage in St Ives summer exhibition

An exhibition at the Tate St Ives will have a familiar feel for anyone who’s ever visited the University of Warwick’s Warwick Arts Centre – and another piece in the show may well ring bells for those who’ve visited The Herbert in Coventry.

The Tate’s summer exhibition, Images Moving Out Into Space, takes its name from a series of kinetic sculptures that Bryan Wynter began to make in the 1960s – this is the Cornwall-based artist’s centenary year. The exhibition leaflet says the exhibition uses the series, which Wynter called Imoos, to “consider how abstraction can move us”.

Gallery 1 though features a series of koans by Liliane Lijn – a large one of which has stood outside the Arts Centre for decades, ready to feature in student sci-fi fantasies and be the backdrop to graduation pictures. They are apparently so named because of the similarity to cone, which they look like, and the Japanese word pronounced koan, which means question without an answer. The room full of differently-named, differently sized, but similarly-shaped spinning koans certainly brought on a sense of déjà vu.

The exhibition includes other works linked to the theme, though it’s not always obvious how.

The fascinating Dan Flavin’s work “monument” for V Tatlin from 1969-70 features white fluorescent tubes, and there’s a further room of his work, all in T shapes made up of different coloured fluorescent tubes, and a quote from Flavin: “it’s important to me that I don’t get my hands dirty….it’s a declaration: art is thought.”

John Divola’s Zuma project involves photographs of a derelict house by the sea, each one showing changes in it or developments brought about by him or others, and a number of sculptures including works by big-name artists including Elizabeth Frink, but casually laid out on tables created by Nicholas Deshayes so they are easy to almost disregard.

There are also lots of typical paintings by Bridget Riley, and by Bryan Wynter, including Saja of 1969, and Green Confluence and Red River; lots are concerned with the flow of water, as suited a keen canoeist. There’s also one Imoo, number VI, from 1965, hanging between rooms where you can linger to see yourself reflected, then not, in the slowly moving shapes.

It’s not a perfect exhibition but fun and interesting, and with those déjà vu moments for anyone who’s familiar with the koan at least.

 

Tate St Ives and other exhibitions in town add to September visit

A little trip down to St Ives, and I somehow managed to sniff out an exhibition opening night – and also visit what I think is probably the best exhibition I’ve seen at the Tate.

While wandering off to dinner I discovered Wild Heaven opening at Uys Gallery in Tregenna Hill, St Ives, described as a celebration of landscape by St Ives artists, with the exhibition continuing throughout the current St Ives festival. A cheeky glass of red and a look round before my meal were both rewarding.

There are 45 pieces by a number of artists, and include paintings, drawings, and ceramics. Barbara Turner Jones’s three paintings, Wave Near Godrevy I, II and III are well executed and attractive, small works with close ups of the waves and some background detail.

Michele Wright’s Oystercatchers and other works from nature show quality detailed observations from nature. Samuel Winterburn’s three works showing an interesting use of colour and tight detail, especially Fox Loves the Foxgloves.

Colin Smith’s Engine House is a line drawing of a typical St Ives sight, Mel Sheridan’s Nancledra seems to show allium heads against a background, and works by Melanie Uys, Trevor Price and Liz Luckwell also stand out. There are many galleries in St Ives but this one’s definitely worth a look round.

Also showing some big-name works is Belgrave St Ives, where pieces by Roger Hilton, Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham, Sven Berlin, and Terry Frost amongst others are also on show until the end of September.

The Tate St Ives is celebrating its twenty first year in the town, and its current exhibition also until September 28 is International Exchanges: Modern Art and St Ives 1915-65, which according to the publicity aims to show the art of St Ives “to place it not in relation to where it was made but in relation to what was made, how it was made and its position in wider international modern art”. What this means is an exhibition of works by artists associated with St Ives, but also pieces from wider afield.

My favourites were sculptures by Brancusi and Giacometti. There are also sculptural pieces from Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Eric Gill, and The Spider, a suspended work by Alexander Calder.

Other memorable pieces include Cossacks 1910-11 by Kandinsky, Schooner Under the Moon by Arthur Wallis (amongst others), George Bracque’s Guitar and Jug, Bryan Wynter’s Cyclamen, a Rothko, Number 23 by Jackson Pollock, and works by Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron. Ceramics are represented by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada.

Information boards and a guide bring it all together in a way that makes sense, as well as including some top quality works by well-known St Ives artists, and those not normally associated with the town.

If there was ever an excuse needed to get down to St Ives before the end of September, the current exhibitions there seem to provide it.

Dreams Part II: Two women’s gift which transformed a town’s landscape is celebrated 40 years later

Kathleen Garman Ryan
Lady Kathleen Epstein with some of her art collection C.1972
(Image ref: GarmanRyanCollection)

It is 40 years since the Garman Ryan collection was created and given to the people of Walsall, and put on show for everyone from further afield to enjoy.
The permanent exhibition at The New Art Gallery in Walsall has been supplemented with lots of archival material for the anniversary exhibition, entitled Dealing with Dreams, which tells more about the history of its creation by two generous and insightful women. There’s also a room dedicated to works left by another woman who is part of their complicated story.
The story of the Garman Ryan collection is one of generosity and loss.

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Jeremy Deller exhibition at Mead focuses on industrial and musical past to raise valid questions

It’s been D-day in Coventry- Jeremy Deller day. All That is Solid Melts Into Air is the title of the touring exhibition he has curated which is now showing at the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre, at the University of Warwick in Coventry.
On the opening day Deller was in Coventry to take part in an In Conversation with Mead curator Sarah Shalgosky held at The Herbert in Coventry and then there was the exhibition opening party at the Mead. I caught up with Deller in the morning as the final touches were put to the exhibition – including fixing the jukebox which takes central position in one room.

adrian street and his father 1973 photo dennis huthinson (c) dennis h    (2)Adrian Street and his father1973 photo Denis Huthinson (c) Denis Huthinson
The exhibition is described as “Jeremy Deller takes a personal look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British popular culture, and its persisting influence on our lives today”.
He told me that wasn’t what he had set out to do: “Originally it was to be a show much more about music culture and industry but when I started looking at the industrial revolution it became fascinating to me and I became more and more interested in it and the effect it had on people and urbanization and the show became less about music and more about the social and cultural aspect.”

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Belfast weekend brings wealth of rewarding art exhibitions

What seems to have become an annual weekend in Belfast was a chance to take in some of the latest exhibitions.
At Belfast Exposed, Tom Wood’s photographic exhibition Men and Women makes use of his vast archive to pull out works to make up this gender-related exhibition. People go about daily life, caught in action by Wood, who was born in Mayo in west Ireland in 1951, and studied painting at Leicester Polytechnic. It’s a fascinating set of observations, with Three Wise Women standing out, showing three women, one proudly carrying a new waste bin, carefully walking away from a very tatty outdoor sale.
The mac, Metropolitan Arts Centre, was a new find to me last year, and opened in April 2012. Last year it featured Belfast’s first big Andy Warhol exhibition. This year it’s showing works by Kara Walker, or as the mac puts it “We at the MAC are Exceedingly Proud to Present an Exhibition of Capable Artworks by the Notable Hand of the Celebrated American, Kara Elizabeth Walker, Negress.”

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Coventry artist Jack Foster asks big questions in London exhibition

JackFoster1
A Coventry-born artist and successful graduate is holding a fascinating-sounding exhibition in London.
Jack Foster who is from Allesley, Coventry, studied on the foundation diploma course at Coventry University then the BA, graduating this year with a First, and winning the Coventry University drawing prize. I liked his works in the university degree show, writing at the time in Private View that his works for that focuses on religion, pilgrimage and superstition, and were “intriguing and well executed”.
Jack sent a proposal for an exhibition to the British Humanist Association, and the result is a show at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, until the end of January, entitled Methinks It Is Like a Weasel, described as a critique of religion and religiosity.

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Adam Buick’s Pembrokeshire kiln opening event is a new art first

Pots in landscape
I’ve been to lots of exhibition openings – but never a kiln opening before.
This was a holiday treat too, something I found out about while away in Pembrokeshire, but it’s a good idea which could do with being copied.
The ceramicist in question was Adam Buick, a name to watch whose work has already featured in national art, design and style publications. He focuses on making white porcelain moon jars, inspired by the Korean dal-hang-a-ri vessels, but of widely varying colour and size.

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