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Meet Betsy Bradley: Forward Artist

Ikon talks to artist Betsy Bradley, who participates in Forward: New Art from Birmingham, to hear more about her investigative painting, her work included in the exhibition, and her thoughts on being an artist in Birmingham.

Follow this series of blog posts to hear more from artists exhibiting work in Forward. Ikon has also produced interviews, filmed at the artists’ studios, which will be released over the course of the exhibition. You can find them on our YouTube channel here.

Can you introduce yourself and give us an overview of your practice at the moment?

 I’m Betsy, I’m a current graduate in residence at Grand Union, and a participant in the Turps Art School Correspondence Course. My practice is based in painting but I am working increasingly in the expanded field, exploring more sculptural and installation-based work. At the moment I am interested in my practice as a fluid entity, experimenting with painting-sculptures that evoke gesture and transition. I am investigating playful interactions between loose canvas and found materials in order to project painting into new realms, and challenge its traditional notions. My practice is concerned with creating a direct experience with the viewer; I consider gesture in my painting not as subjective expression but as objective direct action on a surface, communicating spontaneity and providing an escape from thought into the present moment.

Betsy Bradley, Lyrical Tropes (2018), Super Noodle (2018). Photo courtesy Stuart Whipps.

What have you chosen to exhibit and why?

 The first work I have exhibited is a large-scale painting called Lyrical Tropes, made with acrylic and household paints on dust sheet. This painting encapsulates a new boldness I discovered in the application of paint, from a series of experimentation with large-scale installation painting and the use of unconventional mark making tools. The work embodies the strength of gesture and conviction in paint handling that I want to achieve in my practice. I also enjoy the irony and playfulness of the use of dust sheet- a material associated with spillage/protecting objects from paint and is rather cheap- but fools some viewers into being expensive linen. This work began my interest in the questioning of value and hierarchical nature of material quality in painting.

The second work is a painting-sculpture, Super Noodle. It’s acrylic on canvas draped over a foam swimming noodle. I exhibited this work, as it was the first to involve a more experimental and sculptural hanging mechanism, which is where my work is developing on from now. This piece has an element of humour and whimsicality, as well as emulating the gesturing figure. This sculptural extension of painting is something I intend to build on in my practice.

Studio views, photo courtesy the artist.

What’s it like being an artist in Birmingham, and how do you see art changing or moving forward here?

Being an artist in Birmingham has been great (so far!). I am fairly new to the city, having come here to study my Masters nearly 2 years ago. I find the art community here welcoming and accessible; there are some brilliant organisations that provide great opportunities for artists to develop as well giving spaces for art communities to gather. The city is constantly under development, which I think is both good and bad for artists. Although the future is uncertain with some large developments coming into Birmingham, which will inevitably affect the accommodating of artists, I feel positive that the resilience and passion of the creative community here will be able to adapt and move forward in exciting ways.

Studio views, photo courtesy the artist.

See more of Betsy Bradley’s work at betsy-bradley.co.uk

Forward: New Art from Birmingham is a group exhibition, including work by approximately twenty five artists, living and working in this city, to highlight the depth and vitality of a wide range of practices. Taking place in Medicine, the old gallery space of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, from which sprang the young generation that founded Ikon more than 50 years ago, it couldn’t be more in keeping with their progressive ethos, still informing our artistic programme to this day.

Open 23 January — 24 March 2019. Entry is free, open daily 10am-5pm, at Medicine Bakery and Gallery. 69 New Street, Birmingham B2 4DU. Please note Medicine Bakery is only accessible via a steep staircase.

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