BIRMINGHAM, U.K. For years London has been viewed as the cultural centre of the UK, but New Art West Midlands aims to change that. Supported by Turning Point West Midlands, a network set up in 2010 to strengthen arts and culture in the area, this three-month exhibition showcases innovative artwork from a variety of emerging artists.
In the aim to recognize high quality artwork and the process behind it, the New Art West Midlands initiative calls for BA, MA and PhD graduates to bring their talent and contextual knowledge to the fore. Birmingham has gradually transformed from an industrial society to a cultural hub, with an influential grass roots music and art scene, and New Art West Midlands is an example of its rich artistic offerings.
The twenty four artists selected to participate are recent graduates from a combination of Birmingham City University, Coventry University, the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Worchester. The work is spread across four prominent Midland-based galleries, including Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG), Grand Union, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. The exhibition is partnered with a range of dominant institutions, including the Arts Council of England.
Leah Carless, 22, a Birmingham City University graduate, applied to New Art West Midlands because she wanted to display her work outside an educational setting and hopes this exhibition will help her work to reach a new crowd.
“Applying for New Art West Midlands seemed like a great opportunity to show my work to a wider audience. You work really hard at Uni so it’s nice to see how your work fits into a wider context.”
Carless explores the connections between the body and architecture, using silicone and human hair – controversial materials for a show at the Barber Institute- in her new work, Bare Wood Hare.
“I have a very strong interest in materials and their inherent qualities,” Carless said. “The work I make references architectural features and furniture in the scale, forms and the materials I use to make them”.
Each year New Art West Midlands has a different theme. Last year it was memory and cultural representation, and included everything from Herdi Ali’s graphic photographs of war torn Kurdistan to Chris Clinton’s deconstructed dartboards. This year the subject matter is even more varied. Wolverhampton Art Gallery is running a bad girl feminist theme, The Barber Institute is experimenting with intervention, and there is a general mix at BMAG.
Hannah Sutherland, 23, a graduate from Coventry University, applied after witnessing the success of the previous show.
“The opportunity to be have my work shown in some of Birmingham’s best art institutions was too good to be missed,” Sutherland said.
New Art West Midlands is not just an opportunity for emerging artists of all ages to showcase their talents; it is also a chance for them to learn valuable career skills. One artist from each university has been selected to take part in a bursary award at the Grand Union, with supportive group criticism sessions and money to help them make new work for the exhibition.
“I feel it has given me more creditability as an artist” said Anna Smith, 38, a sculptor in the bursary scheme and recent graduate from the University of Wolverhampton.
Anna’s work explores human bodies using sculptural materials such as wood and clay. She will be showing in both BMAG and the Wolverhampton art gallery and one day wishes to own her own gallery space. She fully believes that taking part in the exhibition will forward her career.
“I think this is an amazing opportunity to meet people, including curators and other artists, and is a great networking opportunity to expand the local art scene in the midlands,” she said.
Free Entry at the following locations:
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3DH
14th February to 18th May
Grand Union, Minerva Works, Fazeley Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 5RS
14th February to 15th March
Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, WV1 1DU
15th February to 10th May
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, B15 2TS
14th February to 27th April.