The third and final leg of MSB2015 took place last week and lasted for five days rather than the usual two. Forming a residency exchange between artist organisations in Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham, I formed one of eleven visual artists working in the gallery space at Stryx in Digbeth, Birmingham.
I spent a lot of the downtime between Sheffield and this residency thinking about how I’d like to further develop my work and make more connections with the urban landscape surrounding the gallery space and city centre. I came up with a few ideas before I went to explore with but as with anything they morphed into other ideas as I was ‘shaped’ by the landscape around me.
As I move forward with my installation practice I find it increasingly important to observe what’s actually around us and whilst painting offers up a new view onto this landscape, I want people to physically interact with the landscape. Therefore I challenged myself to think of ways I could use painting to ‘adjoin’ to the landscape surrounding the venue. After some initial paper improvisation providing a different outlook onto the views in front of me, I came up with three elements to depict this new ‘urban reflection’.
My first concept was to ‘construct’ a painting from nine small, individual canvases that would be held together using metal brackets. Signifying the metal fencing structures all over the local area. I created an abstract painting of the landscape and then cut out letters in the canvas. L-A-N-D-S-C-A-P-E. A tad obvious but as a metaphor for looking through the painting rather than just at a painting when there’s an actual landscape behind it seemed justified to me. Additionally, I used wire mesh behind and jutting out of the letters to add to the connections in and around Digbeth.
Following on from this concept of reflection and the urban landscape, I looked further afield to the city’s architecture to provide inspiration. The Library of Birmingham with its intertwining circular fascia was designed to reflect the city’s bijou past and industrial heritage. After exploring the building inside and out (particularly of interest too were their ‘secret gardens’ nestled at the top of the structure). It seemed natural to me to ‘sculpt’ my own representation of this using the wire mesh again. Combining several layers of wire which were painted to echo the colour scheme of the Library, at its heart was a cube of mirrors designed to reflect multiple views. Similarly in how the buildings around the Library reflect their surroundings onto themselves, by using this as inspiration I was able to bring it back to the Digbeth landscape through the mirrored cube and its position by the window.
This also allowed for further observation via the ‘BRUM’ vinyl lettering on the wall opposite to the hanging wire installation. Contemplation of the dynamic Digbeth landscape made room for my love of street art, bringing the outside in and incorporating the use of tagging. Each pink arrow conveyed a district of Birmingham and the lines indicated towards the multiple layers of roads, rail and canals coming in and out of the city.
Language was used more openly in this residency and I think its due to the originality and uniqueness of being a ‘Brummie’. There are no fixed boundaries anymore. With so many networks and communication systems in place it’s easy to lose sight of what makes us special in the first place. By utilising key words I was able to bring my work back to the area in which I was inspired.
Hopefully my work will keep making people aware of the environment and their connection to it. I plan to develop my work with added awareness of movement and light as I believe that this will reveal hidden and unexpected dimensions of space and place, giving us new insights and impressions of the landscape.
More images can be found at: