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Internship at Ikon: Behind Hew Locke’s exhibition installation

By Andrea Hricikova, Experience Arts Intern 

Back in December last year on the run towards Christmas, I received a phone call from one of my most admired places in Birmingham – Ikon Gallery. As a part of Experience Arts Internship Programme collaborating with the University of Birmingham, I was fortunate enough to secure a placement with the Communications and Development team at the gallery.

With its internationally acclaimed exhibitions, Ikon Gallery has been one of my favourite places to visit in Birmingham since I was introduced to it by my university. Its vast contribution to developments of contemporary art and culture in the art world is exceptional, but unfortunately sometimes overlooked. Being introduced to the department, I was keen to help and further promote the gallery’s esteemed work, alongside helping to reach a more diverse audience of students to visit the gallery. On my first day I was nervous coming into the role but I soon learned that I had all the support I needed from the amazing staff at Ikon to visualise my ideas and to learn inside knowledge of arts marketing.

So far, besides learning about what my role entails, I had the pleasure to witness the changeover between two exhibitions, and the installation of the Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing exhibition. It was amazing to see how the space was converted, the walls knocked down and new walls built. Only within a week the whole two floors were completely transformed into a subtle critique of governmental authority and symbols evoking the past and present whilst highlighting the issues still facing the world today.

I was able to be part of the private exhibition tour by Hew Locke and learn about his inspirations and interpretation of his work. Locke explained his creative process and how his work comes together from different ideas and aspects of his past, childhood and popular culture. I was able to talk to the artist on our exhibition opening night, and discuss how during his youth the issues of migration which are so deeply integrated in his work were raised by the Vietnam War and now his work can be interpreted in relation to the war happening in the East and the transportation of refugees from Syria. We also discussed how during his creative process he often forgets where his initial symbolism arrives from, as I mentioned that some of his iconography can be interpreted from the late-medieval tradition of danse macarbe, he soon remembered his familiarity with prints of Hans Holbein and how his work can evoke a similar concept – subtle satirical critique of the hierarchy and the humble acceptance that death equalizes everyone – all this is very much present during the risky journey migrants have to undertake when crossing the sea. Locke’s work is perpetual and incredibly important in highlighting the issues of migration that sadly reoccur in our history and will reoccur in our future.

Witnessing what happens behind the scenes in an art gallery and having direct contact with the artist is something that not many get a chance to do. I now have a better idea of how much preparation and hard work goes into the organisation, installation and promotion of exhibitions, and I feel privileged to be a part of and to see the incredible amount of hard work of a small and dedicated team at the Ikon Gallery. I look forward to be spending more time at Ikon, gaining more knowledge of what it is like to be working in an art gallery and working on further exciting projects.

Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing is the most comprehensive exhibition to date of work by British artist Hew Locke, involving a wide range of media – painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and installation. Taking place on both floors of our gallery, Locke explores the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, and the symbols through which different cultures assume and assert identity. Exhibition continues until 2 June 2019, entry is free* and the gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday 11am-5pm.

*Please consider making a donation, Ikon is a registered charity and your support helps us with everything we do.

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