Top tips for an arty Christmas

Between visiting distant relatives and feasting on mince pies, you may get a few days to relax and enjoy some arty events this festive season. This December, there’s plenty going on around Birmingham so you can indulge your creative side with a host of exhibitions, live events and performances.

We’ve picked our top 6 tips that we promise will be more exciting than battling your way through Boxing Day sales or watching Home Alone 4 for the tenth year running.

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Christmas Carol Concert at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

11th December 2017, 12.10 – 1.00 pm

There’s nothing like Christmas carols to get you in the mood for Christmas and the Conservatoire’s Christmas Carol Concert promises to do just that.

Featuring some of the best talent from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the performance is set to be a spectacularly festive treat.

Craft and art fairs at the MAC and Grand Union

Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be all about fighting your way through Primark or trawling the internet for the latest deals. Birmingham has some fantastic craft and art fairs where you can scout out unique and quirky gifts.

For some original pieces of art by the region’s most exciting contemporary artists we’d recommend the Grand Union Studios and Modern Clay Christmas Sale (1st December) which is set to be filled with original gifts for the dedicated art lover.

If you’re after something a bit more crafty then the Midland Art Centre’s annual Christmas Art Market is the one for you. With over 75 stands, the fair has a variety of stalls selling work by artists, designers and makers from across the midlands.

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Steen, J (1668-70) ‘The Marriage of Sarah and Tobias’

Pride and Persecution at Barber Institute of Fine Art

27th October 2017 – 21st January 2018

Pride and Persecution offers a unique insight into the paintings of Jan Steen, one of the masters of the Dutch Golden Age. Iconic works are exhibited alongside drawings and prints that tell the story of Jan Steen and the Old Testament scenes that he depicts.

If you’re after a bit of art history this Christmas, this is definitely the exhibition for you.

Theatre at one of Birmingham’s smaller venues

If you’re fancying a bit of theatre this festive season then there is plenty to see in  Birmingham.

Of course, the Birmingham Hippodrome has its annual pantomime (this year Suzanne Shaw plays the title role in Cinderella) but there are some other gems hidden in theatres all over the city. Birmingham’s smaller theatres have fantastic programmes planned with a range of professional and “amateur” plays, musicals and comedies.

If you’re after something to get you in the festive mood then we’d recommend The lion, the witch and the wardrobe at The Crescent Theatre (3rd – 16th December) or A Christmas Carol at The Blue Orange Theatre (16th – 30th December). If you’re up for something a little more avant-garde then check out the Skellig, based on the classic children’s novel, at The Old Joint Stock (20th – 30th December).

Image courtesy of Ambiguous Implements (1)

Ambiguous Implements at Vittoria Street Gallery

27th November 2017 – 15th December 2017

Vittoria Street Gallery is on a mission to prove that contemporary jewellery design is pushing the boundaries of artistic practice. Its current exhibition, Ambiguous Implements, will make you look at objects and jewellery design in a completely new light.

Featuring artists and designers from across the UK, the exhibition includes collected, manipulated and redesigned items that ‘playfully reconsider the familiar objects of our day to day life’.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at Compton Verney Art Gallery

20th October 2017 – 17th December 2017

If you fancy a trip out of the city this winter then we suggest Compton Verney Art Gallery.

The gallery occupies an 18th century Palladian house which sits in acres of “Capability” Brown landscape – the perfect backdrop for a crisp winter walk. Inside there’s a permanent collection of Neapolitan baroque art and British portraits and a series of temporary exhibitions.

The gallery’s winter exhibition, Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, takes the viewer on a journey through their childhood.

Having illustrated books by Roald Dahl and David Walliams, Quentin Blake is one of the most recognisable illustrators of his generation. Featuring original drawings and unseen sketches, the exhibition offers a unique insight into the illustrator’s long career and the chance to relive fond childhood memories.

Brummagem: Lost City Found tours to Oxford

Brummagem: Lost City Found has moved to the Mary Ogilvie Gallery in Oxford following its popular run at Parkside Gallery.

The exhibition, featuring work by Birmingham City University professor Andrew Kulman and Sara Kulman, will be open at the Oxford gallery for three weeks from 14th November. This follows a seven week run at Parkside Gallery where it is was one of the most visited exhibitions in the gallery’s history.

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Foreground: Kulman, A (2017) ‘St Martin’s Circus, Rotunda’

An ideal location

Brummagem: Lost City Found charts the history of Birmingham’s rapidly changing landscape and pays homage to the brutalist architecture that used to dominate the city. Through a series of prints and paper sculptures, Andrew Kulman and Sara Kulman offer personal reflections of the city and its current state of redevelopment.

The Mary Ogilvie Gallery is owned and managed by St Anne’s College, one of the newest and most welcoming Oxford University colleges. Undergoing rapid expansion in the 1960s, the college landscape is characterised by iconic brutalist buildings similar to those in Birmingham.

Chris Ansell, exhibitions assistant manager at Birmingham City University said:

“We’re really excited to take this exhibition to the Mary Ogilvie Gallery. The college’s architecture makes it the ideal location to show the work which is heavily inspired by brutalist design.

“It’s a much different gallery space to Parkside Gallery which gave us the opportunity to develop the exhibition in different ways. Hopefully, we’ll be able to show people something a little different this time around.”

As one of the most creative colleges in Oxford, St Anne’s College has a notable permanent collection and a history of temporary exhibitions. Within the permanent collection is a set of prints by Barbara Hepworth which offers interesting parallels to the prints and sculptures in Brummagem: Lost City Found. 

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Left: Kulman, S (2017) ‘Savoy Buildings 01’ Right: Kulman, S (2017) ‘Savoy Buildings 02’

Brummagem: Lost City Found reaches new audience

The exhibition will be open to Oxford University staff and students as well as the general public. With the festive season being one of the college’s busiest periods for events and conferences, the exhibition is set to be seen by a host of international delegates.

Lukas Beck, Middle Common Room president at St Anne’s College, said:

“College students and staff really enjoy having exhibitions on site as they make it a vibrant place to live and study.

“We’re proud of our architectural history and the brutalist buildings that we have. It’s great to see an exhibition that focuses on this style and gives it a new lease of life.”

Brummagem: Lost City Found runs until 3rd December at the Mary Ogilvie Gallery. Click here for more information.

Related story: Spotlight: Sara Kulman.

High-end fashion catwalk at Birmingham train station

Birmingham City university Fashion Catwalk at Birmingham New Street Station

Birmingham City university Fashion Catwalk at Birmingham New Street Station

Birmingham City University took to the runway with a fashion catwalk in Birmingham New Street Station on 14th October.

The best high-end fashion

12 graduates from the university’s BA Fashion Design programme showcased their work on 18 professional models in the Birmingham City University Fashion Catwalk. The collections, which made their debut at Graduate Fashion Week in London, presented the best high-end fashion being produced in the city.

Crowds gathered around the purpose-built stage to watch the fashion catwalk which ran four times during the afternoon. As the models walked the catwalk many visitors stopped, and even sat down, to watch the extravagant collections on show.

The event included work by graduate Yinan Wu whose elegant collection of pleated designs glided along the runway.

Meanwhile, Monika Jauneikaite took knitwear to new heights in her striking collection of wool and cropped trousers and Georgina Jenkins’ combination of bright orange wool and pinstripes bought new dimensions to the office wardrobe.

Georgina Jenkins’ collection at the Birmingham City University Fashion Catwalk

Georgina Jenkins’ collection at the Birmingham City University Fashion Catwalk

A venue at the heart of the city

The catwalk was developed by artistic director and Birmingham City University alumnus Lee Lapthorne who has previously worked with the likes of Calvin Klein and Gucci. His creative flare turned the station concourse into the perfect location to showcase cutting-edge high-end fashion.

Being at the heart of the city, Birmingham New Street Station provides an ideal venue for art and creative events. With over one million travellers every week and a selection of shops and eateries it creates a fantastic platform to showcase the best creative work being produced in the city.

Here at Parkside Gallery, we hope that the occasion can inspire many more events in the station. Birmingham is a vibrant and creative city and it’s about time we told the world that.

Watch this space.

Top 6 things to see at Fierce Festival

Fierce Festival is the Midland’s biggest live art festival. For one week every year the festival fills the city’s galleries, theatres and unusual spaces with the very best contemporary performances and live events.

Often presenting challenging works in unexpected places, Fierce Festival is an event like no other. It brings the city to life as the leading performers and artists arrive from across the globe.

Looking ahead to this year’s festival, Parkside Gallery has chosen its top six picks.

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Rev Billy & Choir will be performing at ‘Be The Change.’ Image courtesy of Fierce Festival and the artist.

Be The Change: An Edwardian Tearoom Late @ Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

21 October 2017, 18.30 – 22.00, free

The city’s Victorian baroque museum will host a night of live art and activism as politics and art collide.

With a Protest-Playlist and activist speed-dating, Be The Change, is set to be an extravaganza of political allying and lively debate.

Fame Prayer/EATING @ the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

22 October 2017, 17.30, £8/£6

The brand new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire will play host to Andrew Tay, Franscois Lalumiere and Katrzyna Szugajew and their interdisciplinary performance.

Through an immersive, group performance the trio will transport the audience into a world of ritual and spiritualism.

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‘Multiverse’ (2017) Louis Vanhaverbeke. Image courtesy of Fierce Festival and the artist.

Louis Vanhaverbeke: Multiverse @ the MAC Birmingham

21 October 2017 – 22 October 2017, 14.00, £10/£8

Belgian artist Louis Vanhaverbeke will create a sound spectacular that combines rap with unimaginable percussion instruments.

In his stripped-back performances, Vanhaverbeke converts everyday objects into unusual instruments. In this UK premiere, who knows what we can expect from the Belgian artist and his kinetic sound installation.

Artist Talk: Rocio Boliver @ the Birmingham School of Art

20 October 2017, 17.30, free

As an introduction to her performance at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 22 October, Rocio Boliver will be giving an illustrated and interactive talk at the Birmingham School of Art.

Mexican artist Boliver is one of the most celebrated performance artists of her generation. Her provocative performances offer a blunt, and very personal, perspective on the representation of women in South American countries.

Join the artist at the Birmingham School of Art for a unique, and often hilarious, insight into her colourful life.

Hotline #1 @ Fierce Festival Hub

20 October 2017, 13.00 – 16.00, free

A space for discussion and debate on all things live.

Fierce Festival’s series of Hotline events brings together artists, performers, visitors and anyone interested for an open discussion on live art and performance.

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Demonstrating the World (2014 – 2017) Aaron Williamson. Image courtesy of Fierce Festival and the artist.

Aaron Williamson: Demonstrating the World @ Victoria Square

21 October 2017, 12.00 – 18.00, free

Fierce Festival takes to the streets with this performance by one of the legends of British performance art.

Aaron Williamson’s bizarre performance reinterprets Youtube ‘how-to’ videos that attempt to explain every aspect of our lives. Set on a purpose-build stage, Demonstrating the World displaces regular household objects that become part of this curious reflection on day-to-day life.

Pop by to see Victoria Square as you have never seen it before.

 

Fierce Festival runs from 16 October 2017 until 22nd October 2017.

For more information please visit https://wearefierce.org/

Spotlight: Sara Kulman

Parkside Gallery talks to Sara Kulman about making, materials, working with her husband and her current exhibition.

Artist Sara Kulman makes up one half of the team behind Brummagem: Lost City Found. Her unconventional route to becoming an artist (is there ever a conventional route?) brings a refreshing take on processes and materials.

I caught up with Sara to discuss her exhibition and fascinating approach to making objects.

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Kulman, S (2017) Beneath the Interchange

Chris Ansell: Your exhibition, Brummagem: Lost City Found, draws on Birmingham and its brutalist architecture. Have you always felt a connection to the city?

Sara Kulman: I grew up in the suburbs in the 60s and 70s so Birmingham was always an exciting place to visit. I would go to the eye hospital, go shopping in Lewis’s then be driven through the Queensway to visit relatives. I always loved the journey.

When I got home I’d use my brother’s construction toys to recreate and reinvent my own functional but fun buildings and structures, my own city.

Recently, I’ve been discovering more about Birmingham and its architectural history but it will always be my memories and my love of the shapes, colours and textures of the city that inspire me.

CA: You have a specific pallet of materials and manage to transform simple pieces of paper into striking 2D and 3D works. How do you choose the materials that you use?

SK: I’ve always loved making things and always loved paper.

As a child paper was cheap and always to hand. I had an elderly neighbour who made paper sculpture for the WI. I think that she inspired me from early age to I think about the possibilities that paper holds. My parents were always very encouraging too.

I worked as a paper conservator at the British Library, conserving and binding books and manuscripts. Papers hold their own histories. Each paper would come with a unique set of skills that was used to create them. This inspired me to start learning about these processes.

I also started collecting paper at this point, back in the 80s, so I have a large stock now to select from. Though, increasingly, it is becoming more difficult to find different papers on the high street and this limits my choices.

Paper is a fascinating material, and the more time I spend with it the more addictive it becomes. Sometimes, I choose the materials based on the desired outcomes. Sometimes, they choose me, their colours, textures and properties challenging me to think of a purpose.

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Image courtesy of Sara Kulman

CA: How do you approach making a piece of work? Are there any techniques or processes that you use?

SK: It always starts as an idea in my head – I rarely draw or sketch an idea.

Then the work is in the hands of the paper that I’m using. Some ideas are difficult to realise and you really have to work with the material. Paper can be frustrating, it doesn’t always perform; it might fold one way but not another, it might cut cleanly but equally it might pull and tear.

A lot of papers I use are one-offs so I make a lot of maquettes using rough scraps before starting the final piece. I spend a long time fine turning and I’m quite precise. It takes courage to commit to cutting and folding when it’s your only sheet.

The paper also affects the scale of the work. My work is normally quite small, partly due to the size of the chosen paper. Vintage papers, for example, tend to be small in size. But also, I don’t have a studio, just my living room, so I can’t make work that’s too big.

When attaching paper I try not to use glue, it can be hard to use and the final effect can be disappointing. I prefer to use other methods, like sewing, a throwback to my bookbinding days at the British Library, and weaving, which gives the paper a fabric like quality.

Well thought out folds and origami are good ways of producing structures that need no glue and that can support themselves.

CA: This is a joint show where you and your husband [Professor Andrew Kulman] are both exhibiting work. How did the show come about?

SK: We last did a show together 33 years ago at the Solihull Library Theatre [now The Core] after we both graduated.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Andrew working in Birmingham, and we’ve just moved to the city centre, so it felt like the perfect opportunity to collaborate and celebrate with an exhibition.

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Kulman, S (2017) Smallbrook Queensway Mosaic

CA: The exhibition also includes work by your son: is art in the family?

SK: Yes, it is really. We have three children, one works in the film and TV industry and another is in fashion marketing. Noah, our youngest is studying art at college and has a few pieces in the show. We always thought he’d be the doctor of the family [chuckles].

Noah helps Andrew make prints and he’s really taken to it and shows a real talent. I think he sees it as the avenue that he’d like to pursue.

Both lads [Noah Kulman and Lewis Moulton who also has a piece in the exhibition] had made excellent work that related to the theme of the exhibition and it seemed right to include them. It’s nice to show how brutalist architecture and the city is inspiring a younger generation.

Brummagem: Lost City Found is open until 27 October 2017 at Parkside Gallery. For more information please visit http://www.bcu.ac.uk/parkside-gallery/exhibitions.

 

Spotlight: Tamadher Al Fahal

Tamadher Al Fahal is a co-founder of Bahraini art collective Ulafa’a Initiative and curator of I am ‘Khaleeji’, a programme of events at the International Project Space that aims introduce western culture to contemporary art in the Gulf.

An artist, curator, TEDx speaker and PhD candidate, Tamadher splits her time between Birmingham, Bahrain and a host of international cities. Her current project, I am ‘Khaleeji’ features an exhibition of contemporary Bahraini art and events that give a true insight into the breadth of contemporary art practices that are flourishing in the Gulf.

Parkside Gallery caught up with Tamadher to discuss the international project and the exciting relationship between British and Bahraini art.

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Chris Ansell: A major part of I am ‘Khaleeji’ is by the book, an exhibition that features 13 artists from Bahrain. This must be one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary Bahraini art to take place in the UK. How did you approach selecting the artists that you wanted to work with?

Tamadher Al Fahal: I’ve been working and exhibiting with Ulafa’a Initiative since 2012. by the book includes work by current members of the initiative and artists who I invited because their work responds to similar topics.

In the initiative we normally come up with a concept as a group – something that seems relevant to us at the time – and then each artist in the initiative responds to that theme.

More recently we’ve started inviting artists that we identify with to submit works.

We normally accept all submissions and allow everyone to exhibit their work alongside each other. In our last exhibition we had everything ranging from work by established artists to a piece by a four year old child.

This time we have been a little more selective and created something a bit different.

CA: And have any themes arisen that you weren’t expecting? Things that you only noticed now you’ve bought the work together.

TAF: We haven’t been able to install the exhibition just yet so I’m just as excited as you are to see what happens when we bring all the work together in one space.

All the work shares its relation to the social and cultural aspects of Bahrain but it comes from different perspectives, different people’s perspectives. It is always interesting to see what comes of putting two different views side by side.

A lot of the artists are from different regions and this brings different views, and different views on religion.

Religion plays a big part in the exhibition. Religion, particularly in the Gulf, is influential in how culture is constructed. It forms the spoken, and unspoken, rulebook. A lot of the exhibition focusses on the boundary between religion and the conventions that are often disguised as religion.

CA: It’s important for you to provide a true reflection of the contemporary art scene in Bahrain. What do you hope to teach people about contemporary Bahraini art in the exhibition?

TAF: It’s diversity. There’s such a range of contemporary art in Bahrain and I want to give people an insight into this. It’s important that people are aware that this is only a glimpse into a niche type of contemporary art in Bahrain and that there is so much more out there.

Art in the Gulf is normally characterised under one umbrella and this is how it’s normally perceived, especially in western countries. But there is so much variation. Different countries in the Gulf are taking different directions and even in each country there are so many different takes and approaches.

The Bahraini art scene is still shaping and morphing. This state of flux makes it really exciting and produces some extremely interesting outcomes. The movement is in its infancy so it’s really youthful, colourful and different. Art in Bahrain has a complexity that is underexplored and dimensions that are unexpected.

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CA: Do you see many similarities between contemporary art in the Gulf and western countries?

TAF: Yes – experimentation. In both regions experimentation is at the heart of most people’s practices. And they share the understanding that often the attempts that are “incomplete” are the most successful.

But they differ a lot in the processes and materials that are used. Each place has their own cultural history and own material history so different techniques have been inherited. This informs the way that contemporary artists work and how they think about different materials.

The relationship between the art and the audience also differs. This may have something to do with the difference in exhibition spaces – in Bahrain we don’t have as many whitewall galleries.

For Ulafa’a Initiative community engagement and the audience is always at its heart of every project that we work on and this influences how we make art.

We try to create a social space, a space for interaction. At each exhibition that the initiative curates every artists brings their favourite chair and puts it in the gallery space for the private view. It helps create a lively, relaxed atmosphere that allows for conversation. Everyone normally ends up sitting and talking late into the night.

Obviously, this is specific to our group but there is a connection between art and the community that runs through a lot of contemporary Bahraini art. The creative process and the audience tends to be much more integrated than you see in most western art practices.

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CA: In a time when foreign relations all over the world are precariously balanced, what part do you think art and exhibitions can play?

TAF: I think that both curating and creating are political acts.

One piece in the exhibition is very political but as a collective we always try to express our individual opinions without hurting others.

As we are constantly talking to each other about our work we tend to produce pieces that have subtle references which are open to interpretation.

The group was formed on ideas of reconciliation and we always try to remember this. We each have strong opinions but we do not want to upset anyone just prompt questions and discussion.

CA: And what do you hope the exhibition programme will bring to Birmingham?

TAF: I want to help connect with Bahraini people living in the UK. Since I’ve been living in Birmingham, I’ve seen an increase in the number of Bahraini people living in the area and I hope that this exhibition helps connect an international community.

But then I think that the themes of the exhibition can talk to people from all cultures. It talks about belonging, or not belonging, and how people live in relation to a community’s set of rules. And this is a universal feeling.

I am ‘Khaleeji’ runs from 9th October – 23rd October 2017. Please visit http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/parksidegallery/2017/09/15/by-the-book-at-international-project-space/ for more information.

Interview date: 21 September 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘by the book’ at International Project Space

Pioneered by artist, lecturer and gallery director Stuart Whipps, the International Project Space is a new exhibition venue at the Birmingham School of Art.

As is hinted by the name, the International Project Space hosts a programme of exhibitions that bring together international artists, local practitioners and the school’s fine art students.

Now entering its second year, the gallery has a packed programme of exhibitions, dinners, participatory events and lectures that explore what it means to be an artist in an international age.

Curated by international researcher Tamadher Alfahal, by the book launches the gallery’s 17-18 season.

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Still from ‘Bahrain Poems’ (2017) Muhammed Almubarak. Edited by Hajer Ghareeb

by the book

9 October – 23 October 2017

ULAFA’A INITIATIVE is pleased to present by the book, a group show at the International Project Space.

By the book highlights structures that dictate everyday issues; the written or implied rulebooks of social behaviour. Individuals are cultivated through the way their immediate environment functions, and through the rulebooks given to them. These two frameworks tell us what is acceptable and what is not, ideally to create some sense of order. If one were to break away from the collective pattern; act differently, think differently, it creates resistance. Singular subjectivity steps out of a collective symbolic order and refuses to fit into a composed whole. These artists critically analyse the rulebooks of their societies, and where the line is drawn between benefit and regulation; control and conformity; traditions and misconceptions.

By the book questions the things we should and shouldn’t do.
The spaces we should or shouldn’t occupy.
What to destroy, and what to preserve.
The way we should and shouldn’t dress.
When we should speak, when to hold our tongues.
When to be part of a society, and when to be an individual.
We question the books we choose to go by.

Ulafa’a Initiative was founded in 2012 by Tamadher Ali and Nada Alaradi, who brought together a group of diverse Bahraini youth with various artistic skills who use art as a tool to narrate, change, and heal. It is an ongoing project that creates platforms for individuals to express themselves, and to strengthen relationships of respect and understanding among the different communities of Bahrain.

www.projectulafaa.com

Contact Us

ulafaainitiative@gmail.com

Instagram and Twitter: @ulafaa