Lanchester Gallery

Biff and the dummies dominate third Yeadon retrospective exhibition

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What Are You Looking At?

The third in a series of exhibitions to celebrate artist John Yeadon reaching 70 features paintings of a manically grinning ventriloquist’s dummy and drawings of a strange creature called Biff.
These weird and wonderful creatures inhabit our world but through them we see it in a different and slightly unnerved way, one which is entrancing and repelling at the same time.
Over the years John has created different bodies of work in varying mediums. An exhibition in the former Coventry Telegraph building last year featured mostly large paintings from the 1980s, some of which had led to a scandalised and homophobic editorial in the paper at the time. There is also a decade of digital work which has not been featured in these exhibitions.
This show, at the Lanchester Research Gallery at Coventry University until February 22, is called Fearful Symmetry. It includes a large number of etchings and drawings of Blind Bifford Jelly, a grotesque character which is an amalgam of body parts; usually lacking one arm, and with his head in place of his torso.
Blind Biff Fucks a Pig
Blind Biff Fucks a Pig

The scene is set for the irreverence with which Biff sees the world in How Blind Biff Greets his Audience, showing our hero with his pants down, bottom and balls thrust towards us. In others he explains to animals “How the Big Ones Eat the Little Ones”. He breaks his journey to masturbate by the pathway, watched by a dog, and in the Houses of Parliament peopled by ape-like creatures he swings the mace.
In one of the drawings he visits Blackpool and gets his toe bitten by a crab, sees the Lady Godiva statue in Coventry, and Blind Biff Searches for God – with a torch, on the carpet.

How BB Jely Swung the Mace in Parliament
How BB Jelly Swung the Mace in Parliament

Biff also features in coloured works with a collage of images in each picture, including Biff exploring sneezing and enjoying a Christmas of drink and food.
In his introduction in the exhibition’s catalogue John said the character of Biff had been influenced by his mother’s ventriloquist dummy Tommy.

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He’s Back

The fascinating family history of performing with ventriloquist dummies features in the next part of the exhibition, including family photos and memorabilia, and the Tommy and Annie dummies themselves. There are unnerving portraits of the pair in Tommy (the Suit Case Act) and Annie (Ghost of my Grandmother), specially the latter looking like a stocky and slightly menacing little girl.
Other portraits of them and other dummies show them in different poses and taking on characters and thoughts, raising the question of who is manipulating who, and really speaking out.
In an excellent essay in the catalogue, George Shaw recounts how he first met John Yeadon in the 1980s after discovering an exhibition of his work at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry, and he discusses the significance of the Biff and ventriloquist dummy works. Don’t miss it, and as Yeadon now turns 71, make sure you also don’t miss this excellent addition to the retrospective year.

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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.

Coventry University gets prime spot for new Lanchester Gallery Projects venue

Coventry’s newest and very prominent art gallery has opened with a conceptual exhibition which makes a statement about how it plans to progress.
The Lanchester Gallery has moved from inside Coventry University’s Graham Sutherland building, which houses the School of Art and Design, to a space on the front of The Hub in Jordan Well. In such an obvious position the pressure was on, and before this first exhibition, ÉVASION, opened there had been a week of near all-night work to get everything ready.

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Just a week to see Coventry MA students’ varied artworks

Coventry University’s MA students are showing off their work in exhibitions at two venues this week.
The Lanchester Gallery at the School of Art and Design, and the fifth floor of the building, plus The Herbert art gallery up the road are both housing a collection of screenings, installations and performances.

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First glimpse at Coventry’s new art gallery – but it stays under wraps

THE wraps are finally off and Coventry University’s new Hub is open for students – but one part still being hidden from the world is the Lanchester Gallery.
Ironically the most prominent part of the building on a glass-walled corner is still a building site, with handover planned now for December.
But when it is open it will give a whole new focus to Lanchester Gallery Projects, which until now has held exhibitions in its much-smaller gallery in the university’s School of Art. There’s always been the problem there that although its exhibitions are officially open to the public it’s often hard to get into the building unless you have a university card to open the door – hopefully this new gallery won’t have that problem.

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