The Mead

Kaleidoscope of colour or limited palette – exhibitions explore both

Two current Midlands exhibitions couldn’t be further apart in their titles. At the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre there is Kaleidoscope, Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art, and at The White Room Gallery in Leamington is Black and White.

The Mead’s exhibition is a touring exhibition from the Arts Council Collection, and exhibition info says it “brings into focus the relationship between colour and form, rationality and irrationality, order and waywardness in art of the 1960s.”

The point is also made that the featured artworks include bold, artificial colour, and capricious shapes, but also a lot of order, sequence and symmetry.

Walking into the exhibition and looking across at the works in one sweeping gaze, the colours and varied shapes leap out, and the first impression is of some sensory room aimed at stimulating the senses, or even a large play area for children.

Richard Smith’s Trio from 1963 is an orange, yellow, blue and white oil painting showing his influence by American abstract impressionism. There’s also an inevitable op-art black and white work, Movement in Squares, by Bridget Riley from 1961.

A small painted steel sculpture is Anthony Caro’s contribution, and Thebes is the work on show by William Tucker, consisting of three triangular shapes in red, yellow and blue reflecting his work in the 60s on repeated units which must all sit on the ground.

Robin Denny’s Over Reach is a canvas with large straight areas of colour, and John Hoyland’s 15.5.64, named for a date, features bright colours combined.

Tim Scott’s Quinquereme is a mix of geometrically-shaped pieces of acrylic, and Philip King’s Point X is a large structure using squares, circles and triangles to create a symmetrical but also oddly shaped design.

All together there are works by more than 20 artists in this exhibition, spanning, as the publicity says, Op Art, Pop, Constructivism and New Generation sculptures. It’s interesting to read in the excellent exhibition guide what they were exploring and trying to achieve and ponder 50 years on if they achieved it. The exhibition runs until December 9.

Meanwhile in Leamington Spa, the White Room Gallery is staging Black and White, an exhibition bringing together monochrome works by a range of artists from the local to internationally famous. The items featured cover a range of media including etchings, photographs, silk screens, oils and lithographs.

It features amongst others a diamond dust limited edition print of Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God, a large diamond-studded skull.

There’s also a print of Lamp and Lung Ch’uan Ware by Patrick Caulfield, an artist I always associate with bright colours and it’s hard to see this work of a lamp and vase in shades of white and grey.

Antoni Tàpies’s L’apocalisse del opera is a strange abstract in black and white, and there is a Picasso print of Henry VIII After Holbein, a startled looking image which is an unusual one to be associated with Picasso.

There’s a Rachel Whiteread work, Ringmarks, showing wine glass-type marks on laser-cut plywood.

Locally-based artists who feature include Horace Panter, with one of his Robot series in monochrome, and photographer Ray Spence’s Reflection of a woman reflected in glass. Tim Southall who has exhibited at the White Room before is showing a Venice sea and landscape with lots of detail.

It’s a show of some interesting works, though linked only by their use of black and white, and does rather leave the visitor crying out for more colour in the world outside.


Coventry and Warwickshire’s art world in 2014 – a quick look back

A tour with Jeremy Deller, an evening with a KLF star, a camp parade, champagne on the terrace – and an embarrassing slip into an art work. Some of my memories of 2014.

As most galleries stay closed today, it’s time to look back at some of the highlights of the last year in the local art world – or my take on them anyway.

I can’t believe it’s nearly a year since I set out on a horrible January night to see George Wagstaffe and Michala Gyetvai’s exhibition at the Michael Heseltine Gallery in Middleton Cheney, near Banbury.

Their combination of sculpture and textiles work well together and it was lovely to see how they’ve inspired and revitalised each other’s art careers.

I ran into them several more times during the year too, at Ragley Hall where artist Dawn Harris had a residency which produced some interesting exhibitions and some fun openings, and where Michala was one of several artists working from studios in the stable block.

Champagne on the terrace outside the Hall in the sun before a tour of the first (and now only) Open exhibition was particularly memorable. It’s a shame that with a year’s worth of events planned Dawn and the other artists were asked to leave a few weeks ago – I hope they find somewhere else soon, but I fear it won’t be so attractive.

As openings go, the best had to be Qasim Riza Shaheen’s exhibition The Last Known Post at the mac in Birmingham. Vodka and orange, live Sufi music, a highly glamorous and camp parade – what’s not to enjoy!

Walking art featured strongly at the start of the year, with exhibitions of various artists’ work at the Mead, the mac in Birmingham and a Richard Long exhibition at The New Art Gallery, Walsall. Long held an In Conversation in Walsall which showed his non-nonsense nature, and the thought of his long walks, carrying everything he needs with him, was very impressive. The New Art Gallery also held an exhibition dedicated to the history of its Garman Ryan Collection and it was great to see the influence of two women on Midlands art.

Nuneaton’s Museum & Art Gallery continued to offer up some little gems of exhibitions in its own quiet way. At the start of the year I enjoyed Shaun Morris’s exhibition of paintings mostly of the underneath of the M6, and later in the year explored the varied world of illustration and some expansive works by Paul Newman.

Romanian-born Coventry University graduate Mircea Teleaga exhibited his moody paintings influenced by his home country at the Lewis Gallery in Rugby School, an attractive gallery which often has interesting exhibitions but is unfortunately only open weekday afternoons.

Other Coventry University graduates were chosen to have their work exhibited as part of New Art West Midlands, and I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of Lucy Hutchinson’s work in future. Her striking golden wallpaper telling stories of family across the world was a highlight of the show at the Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum.

At Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, Professor David Carpanini brought Welsh valley life into focus in gritty paintings. The Compton Verney the season opened with Moore Rodin, including some striking large works in the grounds which made a great impression, and continued with the Folk Art exhibition which moved up from London later in the year.

At Rugby Art Gallery & Museum the annual show of the Rugby Collection was enlivened with a focus on conservation work, and the end of the year show It’s A Wrap looked at the tradition of wrapping in Japan, furoshiki.

In March, I saw Bill Drummond begin his 12-year world tour at Eastside Projects in Birmingham, which was a fun and predictably wacky occasion – let’s hope we’re both back there for the planned end of it in 2025.

At the Mead, a personal highlight was being shown around the All That is Solid Melts Into Air exhibition by its creator Jeremy Deller, while I interviewed him, then also hearing him talk about it at the Herbert, before being bussed back for the official opening. Very entertaining and interesting.

At the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, the interactive exhibition Is This A Dagger? Was a good idea for an exhibition, and a nice excuse to visit the theatre again. And at Packwood House in the summer, Hilary Jack created some great installations to enhance a tour of the lovely grounds.

Coventry Artspace launched a programme of exhibitions looking at Coventry in the former Coventry Blaze shop in the City Arcade in the autumn, and at one event there I stepped back to clap a speech and ingnominously stepped back into Kathryn Hawkins’s installation, river …. splashing water all up the wall. Sorry about that (again).

There were closures too; the Gallery Upstairs in Henley-in-Arden, run by brother and sister Carey and Paul Moon, and previously owned by their parents, closed with a final exhibition in May and the beautiful building was put up for sale.

In Coventry, a group of artists calling themselves Through the Wall Projects, including another New Art West Midlands artist James Birkin, who paints great paintings of mostly derelict buildings, set up shop in one of Coventry’s fairly derelict areas in Bishop Street. Matthew Macaulay of Pluspace got involved to hold a couple more exhibitions there, but unfortunately the threat of business rates saw them having to move out.

The Lanchester Gallery Projects project ended at the building in The Hub after a varied and often challenging series of exhibitions but the university has continued to run it as a gallery, ending the year with a bright exhibition of paintings by John Devane including some influenced by American movies. The American influence was also strong in the closing exhibition of the year at the White Room in Leamington, in which Horace Panter – day job: bassist with the Specials – showed is growing catalogue of paintings.

So that’s it for 2014 – an interesting, if not stand out year. Here’s looking forward to more in 2015 – preview in the Coventry Telegraph, January 2.

Jeremy Deller exhibition at Mead focuses on industrial and musical past to raise valid questions

It’s been D-day in Coventry- Jeremy Deller day. All That is Solid Melts Into Air is the title of the touring exhibition he has curated which is now showing at the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre, at the University of Warwick in Coventry.
On the opening day Deller was in Coventry to take part in an In Conversation with Mead curator Sarah Shalgosky held at The Herbert in Coventry and then there was the exhibition opening party at the Mead. I caught up with Deller in the morning as the final touches were put to the exhibition – including fixing the jukebox which takes central position in one room.

adrian street and his father 1973 photo dennis huthinson (c) dennis h    (2)Adrian Street and his father1973 photo Denis Huthinson (c) Denis Huthinson
The exhibition is described as “Jeremy Deller takes a personal look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British popular culture, and its persisting influence on our lives today”.
He told me that wasn’t what he had set out to do: “Originally it was to be a show much more about music culture and industry but when I started looking at the industrial revolution it became fascinating to me and I became more and more interested in it and the effect it had on people and urbanization and the show became less about music and more about the social and cultural aspect.”



Thanks for the memories – the year in art in Coventry and Warwickshire

So, time to raise a Private View glass of probably-questionable wine to the last days of 2013, and look back at another year.
To those who complain about Coventry in particular being a cultural desert it’s worth pointing out again that I’ve filled 52 weeks’ worth of columns with reviews of art exhibitions, plus short bits about art-related activities, and longer pieces and interviews on this blog. Yes, not all the exhibitions may have been world class but there’s a lot going on around here and new quality artists keep emerging.
One of the best bits about doing the column is going to many of the private views, or opening nights, and also experiencing some other whacky one-offs.



Work hard to make an exhibition of yourself at the Mead

Julie Chamberlain at Mead
Today I had fun making an exhibition of myself. Lots of friends may think there’s nothing new there, but this time it was for real.
Workplace is the title of a new exhibition at the Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre at the University of Warwick, featuring works by six artists or groups of artists, plus a few related photographic works, all related to the world of work.
As an extra feature, the Mead is inviting people to book in to use a desk space and computer for two-hour slots in the gallery, or book a space for a meeting, an offer I couldn’t refuse. Well how often do you get to be an actual part of an exhibition?!



More top exhibitions to view in Coventry, Leamington and Stratford


Douglas Gordon exhibition

Douglas Gordon & Philippe Parreno Zidane, A 21st-Century Portrait Courtesy Anne Lena Films and Naflastrengir 2006
I must be going soft in my old age, three more exhibitions seen in three days, and I liked all three.
They will be reviewed at a later date in the Coventry Telegraph, but I wanted to give you early notice they’re there and worth seeing.



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).