Coventry

Nature Notes offer artists’ varying perspectives on the four seasons

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Michala Gyetvai’s work L’après midi d’une faune

An exhibition inspired by the diary of a well-known local writer aims to explore local wildlife but also has something to offer for the art lover.

Between the taxidermied birds and animals in Nature Notes at The Herbert are artworks, a mixture of new ones and others drawn from the gallery’s store rooms.

The exhibition is described as uncovering the natural world and investigating how wildlife adapts and changes throughout the seasons. There are things to touch and smell, with interactive activities, as well as lots of natural history specimens. The exhibition is split into the four seasons, and there are artworks along the way depicting nature throughout the year.

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Yellow Irises by Angela Brazil, © Independent Age and Women’s Careers Foundation

Angela Brazil, the writer of schoolgirl stories who spent most of her adult life in Coventry from 1911-1947, was also a keen watercolour painter of botanical subjects, and there are a number of her works in the exhibition. She also kept a nature diary, and it inspired the exhibition itself. Her works on show include detailed paintings of various types of fungi, wild strawberry plants, yellow iris, hawthorn, and closing with mistletoe and snowdrops.

Warwickshire-based textile artist Michala Gyetvai’s large thread and fibre on wool blanket work L’après midi d’une faune work was inspired by a walk in Hay Wood in Warwickshire, and also music by Debussy and a poem by Stéphane Mallamé. It is a swirl of greens, yellows, blues and purples and looks like nature at the midst of a weather storm.

Gillian Irving’s Summer 2 is a print with images on it including beetles, flies, wild and cultivated flowers laid out as on a specimen table. Margaret Taylor’s pencil drawings of buttercups and daisies are simple, clear and attractive.
Cora Perks’s Willowherb II from 1963 is an oil painting of this early-flowering plant, and a lively mix of red and white whisps.

Moving from summer to autumn, Chelsea Meadow’s lino printed paper from 2015 shows the clear lines of a fox, rabbit and mushrooms. Douglas Hatfield’s Duet or Duo is a dry point etching on paper of owls seeming to speak to each other. October in the Cotswolds is an oil painting by Wilfrid Hawthorn from 1949 of a girl walking down a village lane, with autumn rolling in as shown by some green trees and others where the leaves have already gone brown.

The Pike by Coventry-based Adie Blundell is a more recent work, involving marble, ink, and wood looking a bit like a traditional stuffed and framed fish, but with drawings on it.

For winter, the works include Snow in Tendring Park from 1958, a painting by Hugh Cronyn with the white snow contrasting with dark blue wintry trees and sky, painted with big splatters of colour.
Herbert Cox’s Snow Scene with Hedge is a small and pleasant 1910 painting, with cottages and trees.

In the centre of the gallery Orwell the Owl swoops, made by Chelsea Meadow with wings from old pieces of material, and the perch the base of a Christmas tree.

Whether you find the taxidermy attractive or not there are some interesting and detailed natural and botanical works in this exhibition to make it worth visiting anyway.

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Angela Brazil’s diary, which was the inspiration for the exhibition © The Herbert

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Sculpture in city church is a poignant return for Coventry artist George Wagstaffe

A Coventry artist has returned to a church where two pieces of his work already stand, to create a new sculpture which was blessed today.

George Wagstaffe has made a new water stoup for St Mary Magdalen Church in Chapelfields in Coventry, the ‘church with the blue roof’ on the corner of St Thomas Whites and Hearsall Lane.

An exhibition of his recent work including preliminary drawings for the design of the stoup, plus some older pieces, were put on show at a cheese and wine evening in the church’s Magdalen Centre, where George was also present to talk to parishioners about his work.

His works already in the church are a tall stand for the Paschal Candle, and a Mary Magdalen sculpture, which was dedicated on September 28 2003. George was working on this when the Twin Towers were attacked in New York on September 11 2001, and this influenced his work, with the bronze cast to reflect the light to appear as if she is weeping. A personal tragedy influenced his planning for the stoup, as during the 18 months he was working on it he was caring for his ill wife, and then mourning her loss.

Some of his paintings from this time reflect this, with previous motifs of a woman and horse returning, but now with the waters of separation flowing between them, and a trinity of trees on the hill, in one piece called Atonement.

George said the eventual design for the stoup, which is cast in bronze, represents the wood of the Cross, the sun and the moon which are a constant, and when worshippers dip their fingers in they are touching the thorns of the crown of thorns from the crucifixion. The design includes the constant flow of water, and laurel leaves.

The design is detailed and meaningful, and comes from deep personal feelings and a lifetime of work in Coventry, and fits in well with George’s two other sculptures in the church. It was blessed in a service at 10am today.

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.

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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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.

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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).

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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.

 

 

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.

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.

Coventry Peace Festival starts with fantastic event for lucky 24

If you were wandering through the City Arcade on Saturday evening you might have come across an unusual sight.

At the open end – near Argos – there was a long table, with people sitting it at it eating and talking. Music was being broadcast from City Arcadia (formerly the Coventry Blaze’s shop), and a bar was set up in there, courtesy of Inspire.

It was TABLE (their capitals), a project set up by Artspace who are curating the CIty Arcadia project until summer 2016, which is described as “exploring the past, present and imagined future of Coventry city centre”.

The event on Saturday was tied in with marking the beginning of Coventry Peace Festival, and bringing people together to eat, with the idea we’d talk about the future of community in Coventry city centre. The placemats also told us the location was due to be demolished and redeveloped in two years, which I didn’t know and which I wasn’t happy to hear about.
The actual table was designed by former Coventry University architecture student Yoana Krasteva, who I was lucky to end up sitting next to at the table, and enjoy a good conversation with.

Also nearby were Coventry council’s marketing chief Carl Bainbridge, the Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral (who has some interesting ideas re the future of art at the cathedral), Ryan Hughes, an artist who helped build the table, and Thia, whose name I fear I’ve spelled wrong but who has ended up in Coventry after growing up in Indonesia and who described herself as a “story seller”, and intrigued me all night with her stories and ideas.

I’m not sure we stuck to the planned theme all night, but discussion certainly centred around Coventry and our thoughts on it. And the food – wow. It was served by Coventry University students and cooked by Cleopatras – a new Egyptian restaurant due to open in the City Arcade shortly. If the dips and pittas, lentil soup and fantastic okra stew with rice are anything to go by,  I’ll certainly be visiting them when they open.

We’d been advised to dress up warm, and with my four layers on top, scarf, jeans, thick socks and boots I managed not to need the blankets we’d been provided with. But by the time it was time to leave our unusual eating place, by now with leaves swirling round us, I was full and excited after an evening of good food and even better conversation.

I’d been sceptical about the whole idea but it was a lot of fun. The TABLE apparently returns for another meal at the end of the Peace Festival and then moves on to Fargo – I hope its other events are as successful.

Private View II is fresh start for art blog

Welcome to Private View II !

All the articles on this blog from December 2010 to July 2014 have previously appeared on a Private View blog on Trinity Mirror’s Coventry Telegraph website. Trinity Mirror scrapped all their blogs and the copy, so it’s no longer available there – but can all be seen at this new site.

All the articles after July 2014 are new, and will be added to as I get to attend more fun exhibition openings, interview more artists, discover great places for days out and review books.

Julie Chamberlain, August 2014

Charity shop finds turned into Coventry city centre art exhibition

If you think you’ve seen a new charity shop open in Coventry city centre – you’re partly, artily, right.
The Charity Shop Tour Shop is open in an empty shop at 19 Hertford Street, just off Broadgate.
It consists of items from Coventry-based artist Lorsen Camps’s The Charity Shop Tour project, and responses to them by artists Dave Gray, Jamie Randall and Ben Rowe.
The tour took place in 2003 and involved Lorsen travelling around the country visiting 1,306 charity shops in six weeks, and then producing a book about the project. The exhibition marks the tenth anniversary of the tour, with the additional works added to it. The items have all been carefully documented and you can read what they all are, and which shop and town they were sourced from.

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