Wondering what to do in Brum over Easter? Or looking for some great art to enjoy outside of London? You could do worse than come and explore some of the work being shown in the city at the moment. I Want! I Want! Art & Technology is on at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 1st October, New Art West Midlands is displaying work around the West Midlands at the moment including in the Waterhall Gallery, (also part of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) until 14th May. Then finally, with a shorter run, Eddie Aigbe’s Beyond the Depths of Skin is in the Church at Carrs Lane until 19th April. Yesterday I explored all three, including the opening of the third, (and Eddie was kind enough to say I could photo and include some of the images from that exhibition in this post).
The Aigbe exhibition may be being held in a church and be part of their Easter worship, but it has challenging content, much of which comes from the artists experience working and having a studio in one of the more deprived parts of Birmingham. The paintings are in a variety of mediums and styles. There are pencil drawings which appeal to the more traditional tastes, pop art style portraits and more abstract collage styles amongst the work. The theme of the silencing of certain groups is subtly included in a number of works. There is a striking self-portrait included within the exhibition which Gillian Houghton has reflected on in the Holiness Journal.
The poet Bob Cooper, (Birmingham Methodist Circuit’s poet in residence), has a number of works in his most recent collection Everybody Turns which relate directly to his interpretation of Aigbe’s work. He read a couple of these at the preview last night where local singer and community artist David Benjamin Blower also played a number from his The Book of Jonah Album which was very reminiscent of Billy Bragg’s A13 in it’s acoustic punk style. I really enjoyed the exhibition because it wasn’t “twee”, “safe” or “nice”; it is edgy and if one has a knowledge of different types of head injury potentially disturbing. As the artist said last night “the exhibition is best enjoyed when you’ve got the chance to peel back beliefs and soul search and search Beyond the Depths ofSkin.”
The blurb for the Waterhall Exhibition says, “it’s showcasing a series of works of a neo-surrealist or other-worldly nature.” When you walk in you see Lisa Nash’s The Circle of Nature which has a giant rabbit behind a young woman cradling a young rabbit. For me it evoked the spirit of Mary Tofts the woman who lived in Leicester Square in 1726 and persuaded the great and good of the time she was giving birth to rabbits. Now admittedly that association may have been because I’ve just been reminded of her story in Tim Moore’s book Do Not Pass Go: From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair, (which I’m currently enjoying), but I think it is the way that the baby rabbit is being cradled.
Natalie Seymour’s work takes a look at a disused college which look amazing and is part of a wider collection of hers called "the college". My husband’s favorite work was a fractal based digital billboard by Jess Maxfield. It was one of a range of works we enjoyed in this exhibition which was probably the easiest to engage with and would be a really good introduction to modern art for the uninitiated.
Then there’s I Want! I Want! This is the highest profile exhibition in the city at the moment being an Arts Council Collection being put on in partnership with the museum and art gallery. I have to say it was my least favorite of the three exhibitions. There were some clever pieces of work in there and the one where you obliterated text using original space invader gaming was brilliant. However, there were too many images floating around at once for a brain which developed before life seemed like one long Saturday night in a noisy pub where screens dominate in an environment which is far more sterile than it used to be.