New Art West Midlands features work by 43 graduates at BA, MA and PhD levels who studied at the five university art schools based in the West Midlands: Birmingham City, Coventry, Staffordshire, Wolverhampton and Worcester.
The New Art West Midlands 2016 exhibition was selected by Sonia Boyce, John Stezaker and Katharine Stout. The exhibition takes place simultaneously across four venues across the region – Waterhall Gallery, mac Birmingham, The Herbert Gallery in Coventry and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
These are the artists who caught my eye:
Ally Standing uses photography to set up dialogues between art and architecture and explores the urban environment around her. The artwork pictured is called Untitled (2015) and shows a concrete pillar with a wood grain texture. I liked the contrast with the block of grey paint which covered up graffiti and the blob of blue paint above it. I particularly liked that you couldn’t identify what the subject was at first glance. With Birmingham slowly ridding itself of its modernist legacy such a John Madin’s Central Library it’s great to see that Ally Standing is documenting what remains.
I loved the simplicity of this work which was called Sun / Stone (2014). I liked the use of the two abstract shapes and the use of colour on a white background.
This work was a black and white triptych entitled Untold Situations (2015). I enjoyed how the artist used found objects to create stories using still life photographs. When looking at these groups of possessions it made me think who was the owner, what were they like and what sort of life did they have.
I was impressed with this sculpture installation in the form of a mushroom cloud which was created from weaves. The shape of it references nuclear explosions. This piece accompanied a video entitled Afro Politics (2015). Both artworks explored the political and cultural significance of hair to black identity.
Ali Gibson’s installation Vomit in Pink (2015) is constructed over a number of paintings which question a woman’s aspirations and place. One of the pieces that illustrates this is a receipt of the costs of being a wife and mother. The itemised list of duties such as children, orgasm and marriage spell out the word compliance. By using neon/hot pink as the main colour which is traditionally seen as a feminine, fluffy colour it lends an almost playful air to the work contrasting with the feminist message.
These two paintings The King (2015) and Doubt Adorns The Head That Wore The Crown The Night Before (2015) are of featureless heads which according to notes on the exhibition that I read reference the artist’s youth in Stoke on Trent. I didn’t pick up the on the elements of growing up in a post industrial city from looking at these paintings but the use of colour and faceless heads did make me think of issues of identity, the heads kind of reminded of avatars on social media where you don’t see the real person’s photo. Kyle Cartlidge was of the five prize winners of New Art West Midlands.
The Afternoon of Life (2015) is a life-size cast of the artist’s body made from polystyrene which has been precariously placed on the plinth. I believe the title of the work references Jung who described the years from 56-83 as the afternoon of life. The sculpture is an evocative representation of older people in society who are often overlooked.
Rosa (2015) is a self-portrait that has been deliberately scratched and damaged which makes me think it is a representation of self destruction. The use of the colour blue would suggest anxiety or depression. I found this to be quite a powerful image.
Review on Thursday (2015) was one of the stand out pieces for me at the BCU School of Art graduate exhibition back in June. I was particularly interested in she created an image of her grandfather lying in a hospital bed by using a large installation made up of 74 photographic prints encased in 3mm clear cast acrylic sheeting giving it a 3D, almost sculptural effect. I’m not sure if the work had more room to be displayed at this venue but it seemed to make more of a visual impact this time round.
Wolverhampton Art Gallery
On display was a quartet of photos which formed a series called Out of Time (2015). The individual pieces were called Over (2015), No Way Home (2015), True North (2015) and Semi-Detached (2015). Each image showed a solitary figure in desolate rural and urban settings. I thought there was perhaps a reference to cinematography in these photos.I liked the sense of mystery and ambiguity about them. I liked that they raised lots of questions such as who is the person, what are they doing there, where are they? Aaron Sehmar was another of the five New Art West Midlands prize winners.
The photo above is a close up of a much larger piece of work but I couldn’t fit it all in! The installation consisted of lots of tiny line drawings, photos, notes and textiles. I liked looking at this and spotting buildings that I recognised such as Curzon Street Station. I also enjoyed reading the notes as there was a sense of nostalgia about them an example being “I found you in the typical Birmingham meeting spot. Its the only reason behind my fondness for that damn bull.”
I liked the use of coloured squares in the artwork entitled Water Lillies # 2 (2015). This piece was a representation of Monet’s work in pixellated form. Personally I just enjoyed the aesthetics of the use of multicoloured squares over the abstract background.
I found it quite interesting that the majority of works I was drawn to centred around issues of identity.
Have you been to see this exhibition? Which artist/ works would you recommend and why?
New Art West Midlands 2016 dates and venues:
Waterhall Gallery, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Friday 12 February to Sunday 15 May 2016
Saturday 13 February to Sunday 10 April 2016
The Herbert Gallery & Museum, Coventry
Friday 26 February to Sunday 24 April 2016
Wolverhampton Art Gallery
Saturday 12 March to Saturday 14 May 2016