The Herbert

Serious start to new year with Coventry and Warwickshire exhibitions

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Begging near Covent Garden car park in Leamington by Josh King

For those prone to a bout of post-Christmas depression, the subject matter of several new exhibitions in Coventry and Warwickshire may not seem like the best antidote. However don’t be put off – the standard of work on show might actually cheer you up.

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Adie’s weird world of the imagination is transported to The Herbert

The Shaman Adie Blundell
Strange creatures and cabinets of curiosities dominate the first solo exhibition by Coventry-based artist Adie Blundell.
The exhibition, entitled His Dark Materials, at The Herbert fills a room and is a strange mix of things, feeling like a look into the mind and obsessions of its creator.

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Two Coventry galleries offer chance to see work of artists as they start careers

Miranda Miller
You can see lots of work by young and newly starting out artists in Coventry at the moment – and at one of the exhibitions you can sit down and talk to the artists as you admire their work.
Students who have just finished their MA in Contemporary Art Practice or Contemporary Craft are exhibiting in the studio at The Herbert in Coventry city centre. Part of it includes a table where visitors are invited to sit down and join some of the artists either in an art activity – I was invited to embroider but decided it wasn’t me – or just have a cup of tea and a chat.

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Coventry’s Henley College students put on a good end-of-year show

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You’ve only got tomorrow (Saturday June 16) left to see it, but artworks by Coventry’s Henley College students are on show at The Herbert in the city centre, and worth a visit.
Around 60 varied pieces by students from the media, photography and creative arts courses are on show upstairs in the studio. It’s the second year the college has had its annual final show in the Herbert, and it’s just a shame it’s not on a big longer to let more people see it.
They include an area where visitors can have a go on a new Playstation game created and designed by the Games Development students.
I’m more comfortable with the traditional art forms, but there’s still plenty of variety.

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Coventry and Warwickshire offer the best in big-name art shows

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Paula Rego, The Bride’s Secret Diary, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby Borough Council © Paula Rego
THIS spring the London art world features a host of big-name exhibitions – but you can avoid the crowds and still see some excellent works in the Coventry and Warwickshire area.
In London, you can be sure to be in a big crowd seeing exhibitions of works by David Hockney, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, and shortly the Bauhaus design exhibition.
But at Compton Verney there’s lesser-known Gainsborough landscapes on show, plus in Into the Light great works by Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley, Monet, Whistler, Pisarro and lots more great artists. And although you pay to get in, there’s also the great permanent collection, with the naïve art on the top floor offering lots of treats.
Rugby Art Gallery and Museum has all the fantastic Rugby Collection on show for the first time, 175 items, including a good selection of women artists – Paula Rego, Bridget Riley, Prunella Clough, Maggi Hambling – and other well-known names such as Leon Kossoff, Bryan Wynter, Graham Sutherland and Lucian Freud. It would be mad to miss it. (see a full review in the Coventry Telegraph on May 4)

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Coventry City’s day of glory lives on in The Herbert’s exhibition

SO today the Coventry City football season ended fairly ignominiously, but in The Herbert fans were still wandering around reliving the club’s most glorious day.
The largest exhibition on at the Coventry city centre gallery at the moment is From Highfield Road to Wembley Way, celebrating the Cup victory 25 years ago. There are pictures of all the team, as they are now, and a brief biog mostly stating what they’re now up to which is fascinating.
There’s the story of how Coventry reached the final, and lots of cabinets of memorabilia from the time, including the Coventry Evening Telegraph front page about the victory, and some bizarre items, such as a knitted set of all the players!
Fans are invited to write down their memories and put them up on the wall along with any pictures from the time. There’s some great reminiscences and some amusing 1980s looks in the photos. I wonder if the many fans for whom the day is a drunken blur now regret missing so much. For others it sounds like they had the time of their life.
Coventry City fans shouldn’t miss this one, and if some new visitors stop to have a look around the fantastic Coventry and Warwickshire watercolours exhibition, and the photos from Gaza in the Peace and Reconciliation Gallery that will be even better.

2011 was the year of George Shaw and galleries coming and going

A year ago Private View began, and before we launch ourselves into 2012 I want to look back at a year of the Coventry and Warwickshire art world, of Georges, and of galleries coming and going.
One of the early pieces I wrote on Private View focused on the find in an auction house catalogue by Coventry’s now former Conservation Officer George Demidowicz of a fantastic set of early 19th century watercolours of the city by William H Brooke, and The Herbert launched a £12,000 public appeal to buy them (George is pictured below right with Martin Roberts of The Herbert). Luckily it was a success. Sadly George is no longer with the council so one wonders if a similar set of works would be missed in future.

Martin Roberts and George Demidowicz at The Herbert

At the end of 2011, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about another George, George Shaw, who also paints Coventry, but in Humbrol paints and watercolours. His works focusing on Tile Hill featured in a major exhibition at the Baltic early in the year, and gained him a nomination for the Turner Prize. Staff at The Herbert must have been jumping for joy when they learned about this, as five years of work to stage an exhibition of his work at the gallery coincided with the prize announcement, which unfortunately he wasn’t successful in.
I make no apologies for writing so much about him when his work stands out so much, has gained national acclaim – and the opportunity to write about a local, internationally-recognised artist does not occur all that often!
The opening of an exhibition of lesser-known works by Graham Sutherland at Modern Art Oxford a few days after the Turner announcement, curated by George, was also a lucky coincidence and led to another enjoyable interview. He may be in need of a rest but I’m sure there will be much more that is entertaining, whether through paintings, writing or curating, to come from George in the future – and I’ll never forget some of the tales I heard over lunch at Oxford!
To look at galleries around the area, The Herbert staged Secret Egypt at the start of the year, which tried to cover a lot but only really managed to scratch the surface, and the summer was given over to a dinosaur exhibition aimed at the family market. Its smaller exhibitions caught my eye more – Stitch in Time, looking at the stories behind patchwork creations, the Coventry Consortium, and Lisa Gunn and Flora Parrott’s joint exhibition earlier in the year.
The Art Fund has held a number of interesting and varied fund-raising lectures in the area, which should be looked up by anyone interested in hearing about art and helping secure works for galleries.
At Rugby Art Gallery, Faye Claridge started 2011 with an exhibition inspired by Morris Dancing, and got local girls involved, which was great. The gallery’s 43 uses of drawing exhibition was also memorable.
The White Room gallery in Leamington continued to succeed with its eye for commercial exhibitions, mainly of prints, led by the enthusiasm of John and Heather Gilkes and their family. Their current exhibition of works by Specials’ bassist Horace Panter must surely be one of their most successful.
Compton Verney offered a mixed bag, starting with the wonderful Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson exhibition, continuing with Stanley Spencer landscapes, and ending with the damp squib of an exhibition about fireworks. Next year is looking promising though.
Often-overlooked Nuneaton Art Gallery and Museum put on several small but interesting exhibitions, including subjects as varied as black footballers, little fairly sculptures, lots of painters, and a tribute to local sculptor John Letts.
Leamington Art Gallery also put on several excellent exhibitions in its small temporary exhibition space, including Sir John Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland illustrations, an exhibition about the life and legacy of Robert Dudley, and the current James Edward Duggins watercolour and pastel exhibition. Its permanent collection is worth visiting for alone.
Hannah Starkey at the Mead exhibited her staged photographs of women in thoughtful situations and I was sorry flu kept me away from meeting her at the opening night. The photos tell stories and are more beautiful the more you return to them. Later in the year the Mead showed fascinating sculptures by Hupert Dalwood, and also photos by Tom Hunter, whose works were staged photos in Hackney, inspired by old masters, and also having a definite something about them.
Hunter’s work is also currently on show at the RSC in Stratford, a different set of photos showing some of Hackney’s more striking people in scenes from Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ll be writing about it in the paper soon, but it’s a captivating exhibition.
Unfortunately 2011 seems to have seen the end of some of the smaller galleries in the area. I only discovered Our White Room in Rugby had gone recently when I went to visit and found other businesses in its space. The Fishbone Gallery in Longford, Coventry, which opened with some entertaining exhibitions and even more fun opening nights, has gone all quiet, and after moving to more attractive premises in the Canal Basin the Lock Gallery hasn’t had so many exhibitions this year, though Emma O’Brien has secured more regular art fairs at the Canal Basin. The Forge at Stretton-under-Fosse succumbed to its rural location.
On a more positive note, the opening of two attractive new gallery spaces in the RSC in Stratford is a good move, and Gallery 150 continues to go from strength to strength with its excellent central location in Leamington. Its opening nights are always entertaining and it’s good to have a chat to the artists, who often have interesting stories to tell, but I do sometimes wish there was more quality control over what is staged there.
The Meter Room opened in unprepossessing premises in Coventry city centre, quickly filling its artists’ studios, and having several interesting early exhibitions. Let’s hope it can keep up its momentum. Dunchurch Art Gallery and Painting Studio is up against it, being based on a busy road in a small village, but has held a few exhibitions which have given good local artists a chance to show in the area, and I hope Mick McCormick continues with his venture.
Towards the end of the year, Matthew Macaulay exhibited in his studio space in Broadgate House in the city centre showing enterprise. Coventry Transport museum has also started showing more temporary exhibitions which is encouraging. The Association of Midland Artists held several exhibitions in Leamington of works by their many members, which were interesting to see.
BRINK, a new ‘not for profit’ arts organisation was also set up in Kenilworth and has also made some interesting first moves, though if they stage outdoor art at the Kenilworth Lions Show again in the summer I hope it’s a less windy day than this year!
And the new Lanchester Gallery Projects exhibition space in the new Coventry University building, the Hub, offers exciting opportunities. Apparently the prominent space became available out of the blue to the gallery, which has no collection of its own, so it will be interesting to see what is made of it.
All in all – it’s been lots of fun this year – and looking forward to lots more in 2012!
(You can follow me on Twitter at JulieinCov).

George Shaw exhibition opens with lots of champagne … and cider

Timing is everything, and you can’t predict the future.
So five years ago to the week when Rosie Addenbrooke, The Herbert’s Senior Events and Exhibitions Officer asked George Shaw about staging an exhibition in his home city she couldn’t have known the opening of the exhibition would coincide with his nomination for the Turner Prize.
So just 18 days before he finds out whether he has won or not, the exhibition finally opened tonight, with hundreds of people there to quaff champagne and celebrate.
George’s paintings focus on the Tile Hill estate where he grew up, and have been shown in London, hugely-successfully at the Baltic in Gateshead, and elsewhere – but never in such number in Coventry,

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EXCLUSIVE: Turner Prize nominee George Shaw talks about his first major Coventry exhibition

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IN The Herbert gallery in Coventry the paintings are on the wall, and the final preparations are being made for George Shaw: I woz ere to open to the public.
It’s the first big home-town exhibition for George, born in the city in 1966, and he’s here overseeing the work and admitting to feeling a little anxious about how it will be received.
“It’s all right doing this, thinking about it before I came to do it wasn’t. Without Rosie’s [Addenbrooke, senior exhibitions and events officer] enthusiasm and commitment it wouldn’t have happened. It was something I was avoiding. You are always afraid of doing something you haven’t done before.
“I was slightly anxious the reality of the situation would take over from the work. In many ways it has but not in a negative sense.”

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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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