AIR @ IPS, Birmingham School of Art

_L0B3390-1The night school programme at Birmingham School of Art came back with a bang this month with a debut from the Artist in Residency programme. This programme runs across all Birmingham City University creative campuses, and is available to those who have graduated within the past 5 years. This programme is a wonderful resource for recently graduated practitioners, as making facilities and space can be a harsh, expensive reality after university.

This year’s showcase included works from Nuala Clooney, Suzie Hunt, Maral Mamaghani, Tony McClure, Jodie Wingham, Larissa Shaw, Leanne O’Connor and David Poole. Maral, Larissa and David are currently Grand Union Studio Holders, who are facilitated and supported by the University and the Grand Union Curatorial team. These studios are open to graduates from creative courses, predominantly targeted at our visual arts and design course. Suzie and Tony have just completed the Whitworth Wallis residency at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Leanne O’Connor (currently writing this blog) is leading a project with second year around the disappearance of the THS Slide collection, works for Parkside Gallery as a graduate exhibitions intern and is sharing her knowledge and skills with students as an artist in residence, alongside Jodie Wingham.

Night school commenced with a talk from Duncan Whitely, who works primarily through self-initiated projects, commissions and residencies to produce sound and moving image work, site-specific projects and multi-media archives. The talk was accompanies by a live performance of one of his new works, which detailed his artists MO.

The show itself proved to be a truly eclectic mix of practices and ways of making. It was fantastic to artists and jewellers work within the same space, as this made for a show that translated to the simultaneous ideas of tactility and transience.


Party Cones (work in progress) Larissa Shaw, 2018

As you entered the space you become immersed by Larissa Shaw’s latest work – Party Cones. In her own words, the work Party Cones explores the articulation of moving sound through tactile materials. This work explores its own impact on the skin as a haptic receptor through activating constructed textiles with specific sound frequencies (work in progress).

The undulations of the soft and pliable material (seemingly a cousin to the woodland mushroom, Calvatia Excipuliformis) caused by the subwoofer vibrations interrupts the preconceived notions of gallery etiquette – with every person wanting to touch and hold the pieces. These works invite you in without words but through an extension of senses, which is wonderfully contrasted against the metal tranquillity of Jodie Wingham’s intimate series unbuttoned’ (2016).

This metal tranquillity is further emphasised with a new AV dream from Tony McClure, titled ‘… and to just be’, of falling rose petals, projected on to a warped metal sheet. The bend in the sheet effortlessly cuts up the frame of this projection – filtered on to the surrounding surfaces. The ephemerality of this work is defined by the silence it produces, a skill which extends throughout McClure’s practice.


… and to just be Tony McClure, 2018

The skill of the artists exhibiting is shown potently through the ability of the vastly different works being able to operate as one uniformed output within the space. With the pieces with quieter tones still being able to stand their ground and to occupy their space, with AV projection works complimenting the static works. These cross discipline complementariness is evident in David Poole’s new work Vision (2018), and Leanne O’Connor’s first instalment of her Magpie Series – Caitlin’s Favourite Spring (2018).

The organic soundscapes of Poole’s Vision contrast against the inorganic forms of found metal artefacts in O’Connor’s devotional display. Both have a strong narrative, with Poole’s taking a more narrated approach in ‘the form of an unseen writer struggling with crippling doubt writing his latest script. Crafted from appropriated material, the piece parallels the divergent cinematic processes of scripting and editing. As manipulation and control become apparent, it forces the viewer to question the veracity of everything they witness in the era of “fake news.”’ (David Poole, 2018)

‘Caitlin’s Favourite Spring’ (2018) First Instalment of Leanne O’Connors ‘Magpie’ Series

The narration within O’Connor’s piece lies within the artefacts themselves, with the sensation of touch and inquisitive gazing forming the mouthpiece of this work – and story. The narration also has a different tone, a quieter one that encourages you to make your own mind up about what these 41 pieces of metal could mean and to who. The steel acts as a frame for this work to be received, with devotional overtones to heighten the importance of the artefacts. This also interrupted preconceived notions of the gallery, with the audience wanting to touch the fragments, with some even wanting to feel the temperature of the artefacts – from the ground that they came.

This quiet narrator levitates and resides also over Nuala Clooney’s work. Simply explained by the following:


Biting in Circles.








The trace of this gesture or act is evidenced in the delicate curves of teeth engrained in Clooney’s glass objects – with the artist expressing that her current interest is the external and internal connotations of the mouth when considering its connection to the body. As a jeweller Clooney’s practice turns performative as she uses her own body to make, this gesturing is carried through from other works with the body being used as a tool for producing and receiving the work. Clooney is also exhibiting in a show at our sister gallery at Vittoria Street – named Subterranea, which is on show until the 12th April.

Amongst other achievements, Suzie Hunt has just finished a successful micro residency at the University of Worcester and is set to adorn an 8ft giraffe for Worcester’s sculpture trail this summer. Maral Mamaghanizadeh has recently shown one of her new works Tails of Tresses at Munich Jewellery week, for the prestigious talente2018 awards.

All artists are to be congratulated for a truly wonderful display of graduate talent, we look forward to seeing what shape these young graduates’ careers begin to take in the near future.

By Leanne O’Connor

Photography by Zunaira Muzaffar, who is a Final year Art and Design Student at Birmingham School of Art

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