Coventry University

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.

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Coventry University art degree show preview – don’t miss this year’s exhibition

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It’s that time of the year when the studios and classrooms are thrown open, and Coventry University final year students welcome in their guests to see what they’ve created after several years of study.

This year I’ve had a sneak preview of what’s on offer ahead of the Friday opening night, and there’s some interesting stuff (in the top floor and basement anyway – I confined myself to just the two floors).

On the top floor a warning about content unsuitable for the young or easily offended is the first thing you see. The works nearby of Cheuk Man Li, from Hong Kong, are quite shocking and vivid in their depictions of strange human-like people contorting their naked bodies and interacting unpleasantly. Scenes of torture come to mind. For once the warning is valid!

Children may also need to be kept away from the collaborative works by Ryan Williams and Liam Pattison who are also showing individually in the basement. Described here as Pat and Willy, with the work called Ourinal, it features five urinals on the wall, with film of them together above. One holds a heavy tool over the other laying on the floor, they pass the tool to each other endlessly, they play a game in their underpants and more – it’s daft and fun.

Less shockingly, there are some good paintings. Emma Phillips’s acrylic paintings are all about atmosphere and show empty rooms and settings seemingly waiting for some action to appear.

Renata Juroszova’s work concentrates on femininity and domesticity, with scarcely-formed or glimpsed women dressing or bathing.

Decay features quite strongly, with Amelia Horton rescuing a rotting chair for part of her work, and designs on tiles coming away to add to the distraught look of the work. Natalie Seymour has created a digital photo collage of falling down and rotting buildings entwined in an attractive and impressive display which makes you want to keep looking deeper.

Cheuk Hin Li (brother of the first artist mentioned) has followed his sibling’s interest in political matters but less obviously shockingly, doing a number of attractive, sympathetic portraits of a young woman who is apparently a student leader in Hong Kong.

Rebecca Stansbie is from the Black Country and has created some small watercolour and fine liner works depicting buildings in Cradley Heath; some are homely but many are showing wear and tear, or outright dereliction. They’re very attractive works.

Daniel Smart’s large paintings show people, scenery and large areas of dense painting; they’re intriguing and make you want to linger. There’s one at the top of this blog, and one here.

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Zoe Harwood has termed herself a walking artist, and uses ‘socially engaged practice’ to explore areas with her father and record them in pictures and documents.

In the basement, the sight of the first work makes you think you’ve wandered into the wrong room. Rob Hamp’s massive installation, which you can walk around, is in some ways a woodworker’s studio, with benches, clamps and tools, but some boards are bent over in a very stress-inducing way. It’s called All He Wanted Was a Garden.

Ryan Williams has created another installation of a small child, his sides filled with home DIY filler, staring up at a climbing frame which is painted with anti-bill posting paint. Gillian Dixon’s work is a contrast, small ceramic forms hanging over a pattern in seeds.

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No one’s going to walk off with Liam Pattison’s work (above) easily. There are two walls, with hands reaching out from each to shake, and more filler, plus a model of himself naked entombed in a concrete block. I hope someone’s worked out how to lift it upright by Friday!

Bethany Jones has memorialised her grandmother with old photos and text, and a recreation of a comfy sitting room, with ceramic balls representing thoughts. Abigail Dixon has refashioned her room as a lot of metal frames, removing all the material in between to strip it down to basics.

I was privileged to have two expert guides on my quick sneak tour of the exhibition which might have enhanced my experience more than the plastic cup of wine I usually tour it with on opening nights, but these two floors anyway seemed to offer a really good mix of works, with lots of different and interesting ideas.

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

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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.

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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.

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Coventry University final year students’ work on show

Coventry University’s art and design final year students are holding their end-of-course shows across campus this week, with the chance for all to see what they’ve been working on.
The show opening is usually one of my Coventry are highlights of the year, but this year it felt quieter than usual, and the more muted tone – in the basement and top floor anyway – seemed to match the show.

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Coventry artist Jack Foster asks big questions in London exhibition

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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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Bark and Butterflies installation plays star role in Coventry Peace Festival

An installation telling a story of suffering and survival in Siberia is a fascinating piece of work, and a great part of this year’s Coventry Peace Festival.
As a child, if he didn’t eat his dinner Adrian Palka used to be told off by his father angrily saying that when he was young he’d had to survive on just bark and butterflies.
Many years later, Coventry University lecturer and artist Palka traced the terrifying route of his father and grandfather’s exile to Siberia and found himself in the hot summer surrounded by the swarms of butterflies his dad had talked about. The result is Bark and Butterflies, an audio visual installation on show in the foyer of Coventry University’s Alan Berry Building (opposite the cathedral steps) until Friday evening, and very much worth a visit.

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Coventry University art degree show is the annual must-see

It’s that time of year again – spot the art stars of the future out of the talent on show at Coventry University’s end-of-year art degree show.
The opening night on Friday was the usual hot and crowded tour around many floors, bumping into friends old and new, while making sure to grab a plastic cup of wine on the way.

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Coventry University graduates land starring role in West Midlands shows

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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.

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