Birmingham Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th of October
I had 2 days to wander round Birmingham and embrace the art scene. Although I managed to wander around quite well, I have learnt, never visit on a Monday as a lot are closed and go with a plan and be well prepared. Firstly, although I have been to Birmingham on a day trip before it was the first time I really began to get to grips with the city and its art scene. I had time to wander around and walk a great distance and drive around and it gave me a good insight into the art map of Birmingham. There is a lot going on and the graffiti around the Custard Factory (which hosts some exciting sculptures) and surrounding area announces to all, this is the art area and its edginess comes across. Next time, I would try and get into closed spaces by prior arrangements, to contact group artist studio spaces before going to see if I could gain access to the contemporary in Birmingham now and hopefully establish links.
Marcia Farquhar – Larger than Life (open until 7th November)
Firstly, thank you to the Grand Union for agreeing to open on a Monday in order for a number of us to visit at a time when it would ordinarily be closed. I was a little confused at first as I wandered around the space but as I progressed, I began to piece together the clues, the books left scattered on the tiny chairs, the dvd titles, the doorway that was so short that even I had to bend down to get into the next room, the video of a woman’s face so big that you could see every pour on her skin, inviting you into the world of sci-fi, somewhat reminiscent of King Kong staring in a window of a sky scrapper to a terrified occupant. The final part again plays with confusion of scale and disorientation where the head of an immensely tall lady is projected onto a solid body and spins slowly round in 260 degrees to play with our mind even further. You learn later on as you watch the opening night video which explains a lot of the reasoning behind the show that it is the artist herself. On the video she introduces herself which standing on a box, cleverly disguised as an extension of her body in order to reach giant proportions and play upon the local tale of the lady who grew to an immense height after having a bicycle accident in her childhood, damaging her pituitary gland.
The artist speaks with such confidence, wit and knowledge that you instantly applaud her intentions and you regret you were not there on the opening night to see the show opened in person.
BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM & ART GALLERY
Symmetry in Sculpture – Zarah Hussain
Sadly this show as spoilt by the location of an children’s arts and craft table in the centre of the room so it was a very rushed experience.
True to Life? New Photography from the Middle East
Personal and political stories from the middle east looking at the role of women in society and how they are portrayed in the real world in which they are part. Playful, joyful, honest and serious in equal measure.
Stephen Boyd – After The Gold Rush
Stephen Boyd is a lecturer at Staffordshire Uni and he has had the opportunity to be involved with the Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham MAG and this show is the culmination of his residency. Stephen has presented at university talks about this show and his reasoning behind it so it was a full stop to see the work in the flesh. To be given a full room in which to present his work is a great honour and as his students we are proud of his accomplishments having heard of his research throughout the project since I joined the university 2 years ago when he was my first year lecturer.
The show encompasses painting, sculpture in the shape of a pin ball machine, printmaking and a cabinet of curiosities displaying his diversity as an artist and his response to the residency.
West Midlands Open
The show opened this weekend and features 67 artists, predominately of a painting or photographic medium. I understand the winners are decided at a prize giving this evening so I await with interest the result. Some of my favourites are:
So good to see Corry Whyte as a Stafforshire University Fine Art student who graduated last year doing do well. From visiting his studios on Friday to seeing his work in the Open on Monday.
Paul Newman – Elephant Man
It was his playful use of canvas which I enjoyed most of all and the paintings refusal to stay within the picture plane but continue out and expand beyond the confines of the ready-made frame and as such adding a disorientating 3d movement-effect to the work.
Emily Sparkes – Untitled (I am still training) deals with queer studies in this large scale oil painting which stares out at the viewer demanding their attention, asking questions about society and contemporary issues of social compliance and difference.
Louise Blakeway – Self (watercolour)
Reminiscent of Marcel Dumas the scream with emotion and painterly execution.
The artist has asked that no photographs taken be used on the internet.
I have to come clean and admit I do not normally have the patience for video art but there was something about the work by Qasim Riza Shareen with his exhibition The Last Known Pose that I really responded it. It could be accused of being self-indulgent in theme but there was an emersion that takes place when you enter the space that cocoons you within his thoughts and experiences. It was perhaps that there was sound, there were physical dresses and clothing displayed, there were videos and photographs but the key element on which it all linked was a series of love letters that have been written to the artist that have been appropriated and rewritten as the key to the whole exhibition. This exhibition is as a direct result of the artist’s residency at the MAC and at the same time, there is also a concurrent exhibition running at the Cornerhouse in Manchester which, I understand from a colleague is along a similar vein. I need to write a review of an exhibition next month as part of a project and it strikes me to also visit Manchester and write a combined review after some more research may be an interesting concept. I was also struck by the idea of relationships, gender, roles and society in cultures that are not westernised and how they are received by others. I know my research into this will make me understand the work presented more.
RBSA GALLERY (Royal Birmingham Society of Artists)
It was great to visit the RBSA so I know where it was and what they were about but in terms of contemporary art, this was not quite the mix required. That said, the works on display give a great round up of the artistic skill and capture the moment of the times in many Birmingham landmarks and local artists throughout the long standing membership of the RBSA should be honoured.