Private View II

Gosford Books is interesting venue for Sight Reading performance film installation


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.




Don’t miss University of Warwick’s art collection on show at Mead

An exhibition not to miss is on for only a couple more weeks in Coventry.

Imagining a University: Fifty Years of the University of Warwick Art Collection is on at the Mead Gallery at the university until June 20.

I have already written about it in the Coventry Telegraph, but it also seems worth mentioning again alongside the book produced to go with it, which is a delight in its own right.

The book contains pictures of the university when the site had just a few buildings in open green fields, and art works in position from the early days. There are also many beautiful photographs of the works of art discussed. The book contains a series of essays by experts in the field which add a lot to our understanding of the foundation of the collection and the Mead Gallery.

Simon Patterson, Cosmic Wallpaper, 2002, digital wa

Simon Patterson, Cosmic Wallpaper, 2002, digital wallpaper

Alan Powers writes what is logically the first chapter on The University of Warwick: the architect, the collector and the patron, which explains how it came to be built, the brutalist architecture and the founding of the collection.

The exhibition tells the story with Coventry Telegraph newspaper cuttings about the permission being given for the University of Warwick and six others to be established in the 1960s to provide higher education for a more socially diverse cohort of students.

Some of the first paintings are those discussed by Powers and by Beth Williamson in her chapter on Becoming a Collection. There are some of the nine huge, colourful abstract paintings given by Alistair McAlpine. Large abstracts dominate the first room, including two works by Patrick Heron, and one by John Hoyland, and one full of zig zag lines by Roger Barnard, who travelled from Japan to the exhibition opening, plus Terry Frost’s Red All Over.

Williamson discusses the difficulties that went with the decision for the collection to not be kept in a gallery or store room, but to be displayed around the place to add to everyone’s education. Along the way some pieces have regrettably been damaged, but others have become part of people’s daily lives.

Throughout this book, current and former member of staff and students explain the importance of individual pieces to them, sometimes as an irritant but more often something to gaze at for inspiration or to escape daily life.

In my own five years as a part-time Warwick student I remember several pieces in rooms in the humanities block, and when my mind wandered to them I knew it was time to concentrate harder on the seminar. Other works on library stairs had me causing a crush when I stopped to read the labels.

Later, as a part time university worker, I was delighted in my first office to have a Michael Rothenstein one side of the doorway and a Stanley Nolan the other; sadly an office move left me lacking that daily art. Visits to University House were a joy to see a Terry Frost, or Maggi Hambling’s portrait of a former VC on the way to a meeting room.

The exhibition gives a chance for everyone to see artworks from all over the University gathered together.

Screenprints and lithographs feature in one section, including Birmingham Race Riot by Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein’s red and blue Sandwich and Soda. There are 12 Paolozzi screenprints inspired by Wittgenstein.

The exhibition moves on to a wall of screenprints and etchings, including works by Paula Rego, Babe Rainbow by Peter Blake, a Kitaj collage, and two small works by Coventry artist George Shaw, showing desolate garages and fence posts by a hedge, lacking a fence.

There are some works donated by Cyril Barrett, a Jesuit Priest and Reader in Philosophy at Warwick, including two boxed mixed media works by Harry Thubron. Other works came into the collection with the merger with Coventry College of Education in 1984, whose principal Joan Browne had collected paintings and ceramics.

A collection of land art works include The Wet Road by Richard Long, and Hamish Fulton’s Callanish, A Five Day, One Hundred Mile Walk photograph, as well as Andy Goldsworthy’s Bullrush Debris, a photograph created on site when he was the university’s first artist in residence. In the catalogue, former registrar Michael Shattock writes of focusing on this work during many meetings, and being grateful for then discovering the artist.

Newer additions to the collection include Hannah Starkey’s posed photograph of a woman with leftover office flowers in a bag, Olga Ivanova’s two photographs of people in Russia from a 2014 exhibition, and the painting Scenes from the Passion: The Swing, a George Shaw work showing nearby Tile Hill.

Other essays in the book cover the forming of the Mead Gallery in the 1980s, the development of the collection and site-specific installations, and its future.

Wherever it goes in the future, don’t miss the chance before June 20 to see so many fantastic works brought together in one place.

*The book, Imagining a University: Fifty Years of the University of Warwick Art Collection, is £18 or £25 after June 21. The exhibition is free to visit.

Nevinson war art shows fascinating creations of a rebel which enraged censors

If, like me, you’ve stayed clear of most things to do with commemorating the start of the First World War, you might like to change your mind where a current exhibition is concerned.

There’s only three more weeks left to see Rebel Visions, The War Art of CRW Nevinson at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham.  Complementing it though very different is German Expressionist Prints from the Barber Collection, another fine set of works which were exhibited and held up to derision by the Nazis in the 1930s, frightened of their brutal honesty and power.

The Nevinson exhibition tells his story, from being alienated as pretty much the only British Futurist on the outbreak of war, to not being able to fight on health grounds to subsequently serving as a driver and caring for injured soldiers, experiences which soon put him off the futurists’ glorification of war. He returned to France to create art officially though as this exhibition explains, some of his works did not meet with full approval; an oil painting entitled A Group of Soldiers was not thought to be heroic enough, and other works were censored.

Another work was partly inspired by his work in France, finding a barn full of injured soldiers who had not been treated for three weeks; The Doctor shows an injured man being treated next to one already dead beside him.

The works combine futurist and cubist techniques; there are sharp angles and limbs, pointed weapons and a geometric neatness to images of loss, horror and futility. A couple of gentle landscapes appear too, a contrast to The Road From Arras to Bapaume, showing the road disappearing into the distance through empty fields, a few walkers and vehicles on it.

Those who profiteered from war were a target for Nevinson, and he painted a man sitting contemplatively in his living room, the photo of a soldier behind him; it’s called He Gained a Fortune But He Gave A Son. In another, War Profiteers, artificial lights turn the faces of women made rich by war a deathly pale colour. Women are also pictured working for the war effort at home.

The painting The Unending Cult of Human Sacrifice is the stand-out work for me, combining images of war with religious iconography, planes and modern war technology, painted in the early 1930s and depicting his fear that another war was coming which would destroy Europe.

It’s a powerful exhibition of works from an artist who was clearly an interesting and complex person.

In another gallery, a small display of German expressionist prints from the Barber’s collection includes works by Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Egon Schiele. Depicting war, emotion, loss and Jesus they were all considered un-German in the 1930s and exhibited in a bid to create nationalist fervour against them.

Happily for us they survived as a sobering reminder of what should never be allowed to happen again.

*The CWR Nevinson exhibition is on until January 25.

Arty-Folks stage Tibetan influenced exhibition


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 and Arty-Folks on facebook and twitter.

Leamington offers up nudity and vivid landscapes in night of two art show openings

What a fun night for the art show ligger in Leamington.

On Friday, Arts Trail Gallery in Regent Court, Livery Street, held a private view of a new exhibition entitled Le Maison Bleu, paintings by Bryan B Kelly, curated by Grazia Carano. I was invited to that so decided to visit. At the same time, Gallery 150, which has just moved across the street to different premises in Regent Court, held a opening night for its new exhibition, Human Spaces. I wasn’t invited to that, but as the galleries are only three doors apart, what the hell, I wasn’t going to miss it.

The exhibitions couldn’t be more different. Human Spaces, which I visited first, consists of works by seven artists, plus Kate Spence who gave a live performance in the window space at the opening. The exhibition was described as a figurative exhibition, which doesn’t have to mean naked, but that’s mainly what was on show.

Stand out works for me were Ray Spence’s series of photographs of life models, not in their ‘work’, but posing naked in more domestic situations. Alongside each was a question and answer session with the model. It’s refreshing to see the models have a voice, and also that they’re not all young and slight. Domenica, 58, lays back on a rooftop near a railway line, as the photo is taken from next door where a man cuddles his pet dog.

Anna, 45, lays on her kitchen worksurface, while Kadi, 28, is in two pictures while her partner and young child carry on with life oblivious. Cressida, 44, sits around while a man practises his French horn, and Arthur 79, poses imaginatively while a woman does the housework and makes a phone call around him. Only ‘H’, a heavily tattooed and, er, intimately pierced man doesn’t benefit us with his thoughts.

Ray’s works feel different for giving the models a voice, but there seems little new or different about many of the other works to show the theme of the nude has moved on at all, and some have odd overtones.

There are two paintings of Sophie, by Melvyn Warren-Smith, and the model tells, slightly worryingly, how she was persuaded to pose naked after visiting Melvyn and his wife at their home, but how liberating she found the experience ….

Neil Moore’s Release shows a naked woman with piles of ropes laying around her. It was a relief to see Emma Tooth’s paintings of a muscley breakdancer, complete with trousers.

By this time, at a packed opening, the gallery had run out of wine though there were still plenty of good-quality nibbles around. But there was more wine (and equally good nibbles) available at Arts Trail Gallery, though Gerry Smith who runs it suggested we visit his installation gallery first.

This is an empty shop within sight of the gallery where there’s a large window space. It’s been furnished brightly in a way which fits in with the paintings of Bryan B Kelly, which are all in very vivid colours. There were also some of Bryan’s accomplished pottery pieces on show there too, which were in more earthy colours and were rather stylish.

Paintings included The Little Red Butterfly, with the creature in the bottom left corner of the big, busy work showing purple and green fields. Four Sheep show the animals in one field, amidst a bigger landscape, and Herons Cove shows the bird on an island, again bottom left, on a huge expanse of aquamarine colour surrounded by fields.

The Little Red Butterfly by Bryan B Kelly

The Round Tower shows the uncharacteristically grey tower in a landscape, reminding me of a trip I made many years ago to Bryan’s home country of Ireland. Bryan studied textiles and garment design in the 1960s and has only begun painting in more recent years, and describes his paintings as “naïve with more than a hint of surrealism”. Some of the repetitive dots and patterns also suggest an interest in Aboriginal art too.

Anyway, wine drunk, nibbles eaten it was time to move on from Leamington’s busiest art quarter of the night after what had been an interesting, and certainly varied night.

Bryan and visitor in the installationPictures – The Little Red Butterfly, and Bryan with a visitor in the installation

Shed show for found art at The Herbert

Shed in the Herbert   Joanna Rucklidge's work

The Shed – Collect – Shed exhibition in The Herbert, and Joanna Rucklidge’s miscellaneous collection

Visitors to the Herbert might wonder why a rather basic-looking shed has suddenly appeared upstairs on the landing.

But it’s a well-travelled shed which has already had several lives as an art gallery, and has re-emerged from artist and curator Lorsen Camps’s Coventry garage for this outing.

The shed is officially known as the Coventry Centre for Contemporary Art, and was taken over by Lorsen after it was used in the Bob and Roberta Smith installation at the Mead Gallery in 2009. Its first appearance was then in the grounds of Earlsdon Primary School, showing an exhibition of found objects by Lorsen, plus Martin Green and Joanna Rucklidge. The three are reunited for this Herbert exhibition.

The show is called Shed – Collect – Shed, playing on the different means of the words, but Lorsen explained the idea is to explore the relationship between their own found objects, and the Herbert’s collection of Coventry-related pieces.

Lorsen said: “We are bringing found objects which are the collection of three artists into the museum setting and starting to play with ideas of what the Herbert specifically does. I met with the Herbert’s collections curator Paul Thompson and he was explaining the Herbert collects Coventry’s identity and that was quite interesting.

The idea is Martin and I collect in Coventry in a different way. Joanna has come down from Sheffield to do a different thing but it’s all related to Coventry.”

Martin and Lorsen also took a trip to one of Coventry’s twin cities, Cork, to create some of the works in the exhibition incorporating photographs and found items, Paradise Disregarded, Paradise Reclaimed, which also uses things found in the Paradise area of Coventry.

They include clips and tiny pens, plus against a Gothic-type image there’s a spooky white eyeless doll, plus a black plastic avenging angel.

Joanna visited Coventry in June and said she ended up with aching thighs after bending down at least 200 times to pick up circular items she wanted to use in this exhibition, noticing a theme from Coventry and its history.

She said: “I was inspired by trying to collect something from the streets of Coventry. The ring road dominates, and there’s the history of Coventry, of clock and watchmaking, cars and cycles and so I thought I’d use all sorts of circular pieces.”

She found all her pieces on four circular walks on one day in June, and has used them in various ways. They are displayed in similar groups, such as clear bottle lids, and metal bottle lids, some just shown and others in colourful screenprints on paper.

Lorsen said about his work: “What I am showing them is an extension of what we showed in the shed. I have played around with the ways the Herbert presents its objects.”

One item, My Fond Knotted Crisp Packet Collection (below), is deliberately like an old-fashioned display board of butterflies pinned to a cork board. A display of Mini Beasts includes plastic animals and toys, a special interest of Lorsen. Standard Triumph uses a row of matchboxes to show small plastic toys. A window frame has been turned into a modern-looking lightbox display with a sea horse air freshener and hairband around it.

My Found Knotted Crisp Packet Collection   Martin Green's City Boxes

Another item is an old found wooden door with small, colourful items stuck neatly to the back of it. Another consists of boxes with bits of jewellery and other sparkly items in them. A found fridge shelf is used to frame a collection of pens and pencils.

Easy to miss, over the door are some trophies, a swan statuette and a plastic flying bat, both in gold-sprayed frames which on closer inspection come from the polystyrene packaging from white goods.

Martin Green’s new work is called City Box (above), and there are 12 boxes, all arranged on some shelves. He said: “It’s based on using boxes as a sculptural form. I was trying to give some sort of personality to the piece so I have collected things to do with travel.”

Each box is held up by a shoe heel found by Martin, or a stand made by a cigarette packet, colourfully wrapped with material from a found umbrella. There are different things in each one. They include wheels from suitcases, zip ties, rucksack buckles, bits of lighters, wheel weights and sunglass lenses.

There is also a DVD slide show with images of 100 items in situ flashing up on the wall outside the shed.

Lorsen admitted he was quite pleased to have the shed out of his garage after three years, and this may be its last outing, at least with him: “We are thinking about what next and we are seeing if other people are interested in taking it over.”

* The exhibition is on until November 2.

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

Noémie plays with sense of time and space at The New Art Gallery, Walsall

Observatoire III

Measurements of time and space are played with to give an illusion of permanence in an exhibition by French artist Noémie Goudal.
The Geometrical Determination of the Sunrise at The New Art Gallery in Walsall comprises photographs, films and installations. In the work Goudal is described as exploring “the relationship between reality and artifice and the intersection between nature and the man made”.
In a series of black and white photographs, Observatoires 2013-14, the artist has taken her reference point from the astronomical observatories built by Maharajah Jai Singh II in Jaipur and Delhi, inspired by the sun, moon and stars and used as an astronomical observatory.


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.


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.