This year’s New Art West Midlands opened with a bang last week at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, with 28 exhibitors being handpicked from art schools at some of the counties six universities; Birmingham City University, Coventry University, University of Wolverhampton, University of Worcester, Staffordshire University, and Hereford College of Arts.
The residency prizes this year were provided by the National Trust’s new programme Trust New Art, encouraging visual discourse in response to National Trust properties. Kate Stoddart, curator, expanded upon Trust New Art: “The short residency format is designed to encourage experimentation and foster innovation. These residences offer new ways of working, allowing artists to engage with a place and develop site-specific responses to the stories, collections and landscapes of the National Trust.” (Quote provided to NAWM)
I visited the second instalment of this year’s New Art West Midlands at Airspace Gallery in the Potteries (less whimsically known as Stoke-on-Trent).
This whimsicality was resuscitated when you entered the Airspace Gallery, housed – well – in an old house. This space is beautifully stripped back, echoing the white cube but still retaining beautiful iron ceiling detail, absorbed in to the white of the gallery.
The show is made up of a number of different styles and approaches to making, which proved to be a truly eclectic showcase of the talent that the west midlands art school can incubate. Work ranged from Lily Wales Radioactive Rhonda! (pictured above) to the otherworldly beauty of Tony McClure’s AV dreams; with ‘its operation resting with the cumulative experience of the viewer’. McClure re-frames these visual operations with great care, capturing so well the ethereal beauty of nature within the crisp geometric lines of his frame. What McClure does so well is the alternative viewing of AV art through the simplest mechanisms of line and form, whilst also allowing enough space for the audience’s interpretation.
A full list of the airspace gallery artists displaying is as follows:
Although different, these approaches to making cumulated in a thrilling show by the Margaret street artist cohort, with each work carrying the thread of a coherent discourse. The most striking thing from this common thread is the expertise that each artist has handled their materials and processes of choice which is expertly demonstrated by Darren Withey’s Contested IV (2017). Whitney’s work explores the state of mind in relation to the nation state, this is all tied in to his contention that “our mental well-being often depends upon how successful we are at rationalising distorted, anamorphic thinking. The mind is in a constant state of flux and reconfiguration as we respond and react to our physical environment, as well as to the cultural, social and political terrains in which we find ourselves.” This multitude of narratives is extended through his use of materials, combining a number of traditional and contemporary print making methods – displaying the final prints and the plates in an excavation of the territory of the mind and its relation to politicised space.
This handling of materials extends to George Caswell’s practice of the everyday assemblage, every piece of his current work was found in the attic of Airspace Gallery, which adds an extra depth to the work when we consider authorship circulating around making. Caswell has an eye for raw materials and their potential to operate outside of their norms, simultaneously acknowledging and dismissing these archival hierarchies of classifying objects in relation to their status as so.
The second instalment of NAWM18 further exemplifies the talent that is prevalent throughout the West Midlands. With 28 artists showing at three different venues and prizes awarded to artists to further their professional development within the region, New Art West Midlands provides such a valuable source of growth for arts practitioners, and we look forward to what comes next.
New Art West Midlands is on show across three venues, with the following closing dates;
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 16 February – 6 May 2018.
AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, 23 February – 31 March 2018.
The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, 24 February – 13 May 2018.
For more information about New Art West midlands, please follow the link provided below: