New Art West Midlands
Artists tour of the exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Friday 27th February 2015.
The tour was given by two of the participating artists Jade Simpson and Vicky Roden http://vickyroden.com/with curator Lisa Beauchamp.
I have followed New Art West Midlands since it began in 2013. NAWM showcases the work of selected graduates from degree and masters Fine Art courses in the region. I really wanted to get an insight into the kind of work on show and the ideas behind it.
The tour gave me the perfect opportunity to look at the work and meet some of the participating artists. All of the artists taking place have graduated in the last three years.
Jade Simpsons makes large sculptural assemblages that represent modifications of animals – they feel like fairy tale or imaginary creatures made real. Jade explained how these creatures are based on real, imagined, extinct and microscopic animals. She is interested in morphing different creatures together, in creating gigantic animals from insects and microscopic species.
Her work has a playful yet sinister feel and is created using found materials in a make shift way referencing the back rooms of galleries and museums where sleek display cases are replaced with rough wood and palettes.
Jade’s set of influences is very broad – from natural history to sci-fi, shamanism to anthropomorphism. But this broad base of ideas didn’t confuse or dilute her ideas or the finished work. I was struck by her ability to articulate a range of ideas in such a coherent way and her use and exploration of her chosen materials. I found her work very playful and engaging . Jade says that having seen her work in the large gallery space she hopes to make much larger work in the future.
Vicky Rodan’s work revolves round the child’s toy the ‘sock monkey’ remember them? She called her figures‘poppet simians’ – simians literally meaning relating to, or resembling monkeys or apes. Vicky articulates ideas about the human condition, her interest in literature, classic story telling and modern day stories through the creation and ‘activities’ of the simians. The simians vary in size and once she took two six foot tall creatures on the train – surprising the conductor as he lent over to ask for fares! Intervention is an important part of her work. The image she submitted with her application for NAWM showed a large black and white stripy simian in the Dhuvra Mistry’s fountain The River (1994) in Victoria Square (known locally as the ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’) and this is what attracted the selectors. As much as Vicky articulates ideas through these little figures so the audience responds to the environment in which the figures are placed in a new way. One of her large figures lies limply in the arms of Jacob Einsteins, Lucifer and causes visitors to stop and look and to compose their own narratives. Vicky explained how she was incredibly excited to be invited to make interventions with two works by Epstein in the museum. She had a particular interest in his work held at the New Art Gallery having been brought up in Walsall.
Both Vicky and Jades work is very strong and the insights they gave added greatly to my understanding and viewing experience .
In both cases the artists have clearly been given a fantastic opportunity to make and show their work with the involvement and support of the staff at the museum and NAWM. More of their work is on show at The Barber Institute and the works tours to other venues in the region until the end of May.
The exhibition showed a range of work-sculpture , video drawing and painting – the sculpture being linked predominantly with the use of found materials. Coming up to graduation myself it’s interesting and valuable to see the level and content of work by recent graduates in the region.
NAWM have a series of events including two further artist led tours on 20th March and 15th May. Tours cost £3 and there are plenty of opportunities to take photographs of the work and to ask questions!