Two art galleries in one day - urban landscape in central Birmingham

February 21, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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After visiting the New Art West Midlands exhibition, we went along to another art exhibition. This time, at a much smaller gallery: the Reuben Colley Gallery on Colemore Row in Birmingham. I had heard about this exhibition through a friend of mine who is actually one of the exhibiting artists: Mark Lippett (see image below). This exhibition is also advertised on the AA2A website.

The exhibition consists of a collection of paintings and drawings by artists who were asked to respond to photographs by Phyllis Nicklin of urban life in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s.

There were many works to be inspired by. Second to still-life artists (in the broadest sense possible), artists who highligh the quirkyness of Britishness influence my practice (one of my favourite artists is George Shaw who is the master of depicting contemporary Englishness in urban baronness and my favourite photographer, Martin Parr, is another genius at capturing the essence of Britishness).

I had a few favourites from this exhibition, but I won't talk too much about what they were here as my response was very personal and there were a lot of works to admire there in terms of artistic skill, atmosphere, emotional reaction and capturing something about Birmingham. The exhibition as a whole was very moving and very evocative of the urban landscape of the Midlands and the people who occupy those spaces.

I want to recommend anyone reading this to pop into the gallery before the exhibition ends on 27th Feb. It is well worth a visit. Not much time left so do take a look!

New Art West Midlands - giant red spiders and how to make coffee with dew?

February 21, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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Yesterday I took the family on a trip to Birmingham to visit the New Art West Midlands exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. There was an interesting mix of work: video, sculpture, painting and drawing showcasing graduates from various art schools in the Midlands. I'd first heard about this exhibition last year when I stumbled across it by accident one day with an hour to spare in the middle of Birmingham. 

There didn't seem to be as much on display this year compared to what I remembered last year but the exhibition will be shown in various locations so I think that each will have different pieces. 

My favourite and for me the most memorable piece in this exhibition was a series of photographs by Laura Haycock. Her work consists of a series of large-scale photograph prints showing the artist, naked, and posing in various stances either looking directly at the camera (viewer) or indirectly via a mirror. It felt almost as if she was staring at the viewer challenging them to form an opinion about her based on her appearance and make a negative judgement. I felt almost embarrassed that she could somehow sense that. Even though I didn't want to make a negative judgement, the thought came into my head. It was if she was reading my mind. The series of images are extremely powerful and thought-provoking. They were crafted to reflect Renaissance nude paintings and they resemble giant oil paintings (I thought they were oil paintings at first glance).

I also admired the work of Ruth Morby and Esme Dallow, who both work in the still-life genre but in two slightly different ways. Ruth Morby's piece was a series of photographs of a chosen selection of objects accompanied by a plaque detailing an imagined narrative about the person who might own the objects in each image. There was something quite contrived about this but it made me think: are our assumptions about personal objects and the connection they have to a personal history naturally quite contrived? Esme Dallow's still-lifes consisted of small oil paintings depicting cakes and pastries, painted with a somber background. There was something traditional and old-masterly about these paintings, as if such cakes had been around for a couple of centuries when in reality are quite contemporary and they last just a small fraction of our lifetime. I liked the irony of this.

In addition there were a few videos that intrigued me including Some Bloke's installation piece recording his attempt to make coffee from dew and a collage-style video based on the Turkish attach on Cyprus in 1974 highlighting the effect of that event on the artist, a child at the time, living in a different location but with a connection to the region.

I'd highly recommend a visit to the exhibition. Overall, there was something quirky, almost humourous, about the works. I loved the large red spider with oozing red foam of Jack Marder and the simple, ironic, drawings and playful sculptures using ordinary objects of Hannah Honeywell.

All very inspiring indeed. It would be nice to be able to see my own work there one day. I can but dream.

Meeting Kathryn Sawbridge - AA2A artist-in-residence at University of Wolverhampton

February 11, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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Kathryn is the second AA2A artist-in-residence at Wolverhampton University that Pam Fletcher and I have met with. We interviewed her about her practice and her experiences working at the art school.

Kathryn’s background is interesting because despite being a practicing artist with a distinction at master’s level in Fine Art, she was advised by an art teacher at school not to pursue art. Recognising the importance of creativity to her life, she decided to ignore that advice. She started her formal art education in photography but turned to fine art as a post graduate. After her MA she took a year off to work at her own pace. However, she missed the structure that being a student had offered and took up the artist-in-residence post in order to work in a creative environment.

Kathryn interests lie in the relationship that colour, images and objects have with emotion and memory. Her personal response to her past is a constant theme in her work. Kathryn’s current project relates to her experiences with hearing loss and tinnitus. The project is about finding a way to express visually and creatively how her condition influences how she perceives the world, particularly it looks at her response to particular sounds.

Kathryn's current work

She cites as her influences Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois, as they are artists who both express something of themselves in their art whilst also leaving their work open to interpretation.

Her advice to current art students is to keep and maintain a visual journal to record ideas, thoughts, research, influences and in fact anything that is vaguely relevant. Her sketchbooks are clearly very important to her (she has a number of them on the go at any one time). She talks about the development of art as being an organic process where ideas lead to other ideas, which may be or may not be rejected, and which may lead to other ideas one of which ends up being a piece of work.

Kathryn would like to give a workshop on the use of sketchbooks in art practice.


Big Bang Data

February 1, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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Last week I had to travel to London for a work meeting and rather than rush back home I decided to make the most of being in the capital by finding a random art exhibition to go to once the meeting was over. So I did a bit of googling the night before and came across an exhibition at Somerset House called Big Bang Data. I was intrgued - an exhibition of various artist and thinkers exploring the impact of data on our lives - that sounded right up my street!

It didn't disappoint. It was fabulous. I highly recommend it to anyone who is reading this finds themselves in London with two hours to spare. Somerset House is easy to find (on the South Bank). The exhibition cost £12.50 but it was worth every penny. It was hugely diverse with exhibitions (as opposed to 'artists') ranging from single artists to collectives to organisations.

It was a very visual exhibition and extremely thought-provoking. I won't give too many spoilers so I'll stick to talking about my favourite piece, which was 'I know where you cat lives' by Owen Mundy. This was a project that looked at how obsessed we are with our cats, and more specifically, how obsessed we are with photographing them and sharing them on social media. For this project, Mundy tracked instagram uploads of cat pictures in Hackney over a given period of time. Although the project itself caught my attention (as I love cats and I am guilty of uploading my cat a lot) but it shows how diverse the term 'art' has become in the 21st century. This project crosses over from data mapping into art. It is geeky, yet it is art too. Mundy is not an 'artist' as such. He is described as a researcher and technologist. So was this an art exhibition? Yes, it was 100% art, but also it was not at all art.

The exhibition runs until 20th March. Go check it out!

Jewood Drawing Prize 2015

January 26, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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On Sunday I dragged my husband and three boys (persuaded, bribed) to Cheltenham to visit The Wilson which was hosting the Jewood Drawing Prize exhibition. This is a must-see exhibition for me. I've managed to go every year except one for the past four years. I only just managed to get to see it this year as we went on the last day before it moved to Falmouth, which is a little far away from Shrewsbury.

The Jerwood Drawing Competition showcases contemporary drawing. I love this exhibition because it stretches the definition of 'drawing' to all corners. This year was no exception with a huge variety of pieces and subject matter. My favourites included pieces by William Mackrell, Gabriela Schutz, Sue England and Daniel Crawshaw. I loved their work for their quirkiness and playfulness as well as intellegence.

I love drawing. I couldn't imagine not being able to draw. But I love the idea that drawing isn't just putting a pencil to paper. If you get the chance to see this exhibition then I urge you to go. It is only small but very much worth it. One day, I might even enter myself.