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This showcase offers an accessible alternative to Forward: New Art from Birmingham, an offsite exhibition presented earlier this year at Medicine Bakery and Gallery. The artists showcased – Mark Essen, Fred Hubble, Farwa Moledina, Larissa Shaw, Emily Sparkes and Katharine Wade – live and work in this city.
The work on display here gives an indication of the depth and vitality of a range of practices and has been selected in dialogue with artist Susan Kruse:
Birmingham is an incredibly diverse city, a metropolis that has been built on technology and industry and innovative thinking. Despite being Britain’s second city it sometimes feels weirdly isolated, insular, a little separated from everywhere despite sitting right in the heart of this island.
Birmingham artists are not isolated, they are making work that is intelligently informed by the art being made nationally and internationally. Many Birmingham artists are exhibiting on the international stage too. And yet, at its heart, the Birmingham art scene is quite intimate. The various art hubs across the city are almost like small villages. There is a lot of peer to peer support which I think is a reflection of the Birmingham personality; Brummies are down to earth kind people, really funny and a little bit glum.
The handmade bricks in display here take their name ‘utopia’ from a brick made by the Aldridge brick and tile company, Walsall, during the 19th century. The clay used in these bricks comes from the same quarry. Bricks are used in hundreds of ways but in this work they are arranged to make a chimney – an architectural structure in which controlled combustion could be seen to represent the end of an object.
This work explores our understanding of ‘seasons’ in the context of climate change. Snō fôl (2017) takes its name from the pronunciation of ‘snowfall’ in English. The phonetic title gives the work an otherness associated with various languages. Snow becomes a way to play with the temporality of performance and seasonality within arts practice. In this film we see the seemingly futile act of trying to save a tree weighed down by snow.
Not Your Fantasy (2018) is a series of textile prints concerned with re-appropriating and reclaiming imagery of Muslim women. The aim of the work is to unveil the voyeuristic tradition of Western male painters, whilst inviting viewers to question the prevalence of Orientalism in current society. It is embroidered with the words “Not Your Fantasy” and patterned with fragments of Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque, which has been criticised for its appropriation and sexualisation of Eastern culture.
Larissa E Shaw
Soundtrack for Dancing Vibrissae and Other Soft Shore Things (2019)
I Run to You (2019) considers painting in relation to the internet by utilising images, gestures, and text and allowing them to coexist as they might appear on a screen. What is the potential of painting in an era defined by memes? Kermit the Frog might offer a response in declaring, “but that’s none of my business”.
Katharine Wade is a graphic designer and creative producer. Through illustration and design, Wade has helped deliver artistic projects such as Minervala Market (2016) and Coventry City’s first Biennial of Contemporary Art (2017). Here, Wade has designed the Forward coat of arms, a playful image that captures the spirit of Birmingham’s artists, for whom hands-on creativity and collaboration abounds. Wade’s work is inclusive, always working with other makers and producers and thriving on communicating with as wide an audience as possible.
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