Emerging artists highlight vibrant art scene of West Midlands

Four galleries join together for New Art West Midlands 2014.

RLRBirmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Grand Union and Wolverhampton Art Gallery are working in partnership to present New Art West Midlands, an exhibition across four art institutions showcasing the creative talent and new work of emerging artists in the West Midlands region.

A Turning Point West Midlands initiative, New Art West Midlands exhibits the work of 24 artists, all of whom have graduated from one of the region’s undergraduate and postgraduate fine art degree courses in the past three years: Birmingham City University, Coventry University, Staffordshire University, University of Wolverhampton and University of Worcester.  Encompassing four nationally important galleries plus five universities, it is the largest partnership of its kind in England.

Wendy Law of Turning Point West Midlands commented “Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region has one of the most vibrant and authentic art scenes in the country. New Art West Midlands is a unique project, with nationally renowned galleries and our universities in the region working in collaboration. Together, we can draw attention to the talent of our emerging artists and offer exciting fresh new voices for our audiences while offering support to artist graduates at a crucial time in their career.”

The featured artists have been selected by the artist Mel Brimfield; the curator, lecturer and urban theorist Paul Goodwin, formerly Curator of Cross Cultural Programmes at Tate Britain; and David Harding OBE, Founder and Head of Environmental Art Department at Glasgow School of Art.

Five artist prizewinners will win the opportunity to undertake an exhibition, residency or project at a West Midlands gallery, including New Art Gallery Walsall, mac birmingham, Library of Birmingham, Airspace Gallery in Stoke and A3 Project Space in Digbeth, Birmingham.

The exhibiting 24 artists – of whom 20 are female – work across media, with painting, installation, film, printing, photography, sculpture and performance all represented.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery devotes two major galleries to New Art West Midlands. Of the 13 artists exhibiting there, work displayed includes that of Lucy Hutchinson, whose chinoiserie wallpaper and self-portrait photography examines class stereotypes in the UK and Hong Kong, and Gregory Dunn, whose piece Better than sex uses an embellished Ordnance Survey map to reflect on human responses to the natural landscape.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts will present a number of interventions amongst its permanent collection as well as a stand-alone exhibition. Sade Buckle takes inspiration from 18th century anatomical drawings to create perspex sculptural pieces, whilst James Birkin’s paintings of an abandoned Coventry nightclub takes a temporary position amidst the oil works of old masters.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery presents 8 artists, including vivid paintings by Sharon Farrelly inspired by popular culture, sit-coms and Hollywood movies. Amelia Greville presents performative photographs, self-portraits of the artists dressed in a number of guises inspired by the Frank Sinatra song That’s Life.

Five bursary artists have been selected to create new work, which will fill Grand Union’s entire space. These include Sarah Sehra, who references Shamanic themes and the natural landscape in her performative works, whilst Leah Carless uses her interest in materials, including human hair and silicon, to create sculptural pieces. Glen Stoker walks the cities of the UK, mapping his experiences of the urban space with photography, film and installation.

The inaugural New Art West Midlands showcase took place in 2012/2013, with work by 22 emerging artists attracting some 50,000 visitors. Many of the participants have gone on to forge careers within the art world, both in the West Midlands region and beyond, boosted by their experience in this exhibition.

Photo – Re-living Room (Glen Stoker).