Last year James Lomax was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to undertake a research trip to Madrid. He reports back: 

I was very fortunate to be awarded one of the Engine Bursaries last year which I used for a research trip to Madrid. I had not visited Madrid before. The trip had two purposes; to visit museums and galleries (in particular the Museo del Prado), and to also make new connections in the city.

Madrid is rich with museums and galleries, and the Museo del Prado is at the centre of this. It was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. It is the main Spanish national art museum and is renowned for having one of the finest collections of European Art in the world. It houses work from the 12th to 20th Century, based upon the Spanish Royal collection, and includes both painting and sculpture. Artists in the collection include Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Diego Velásquez.

My practice is largely installation based, with a focus on print and sculpture, and is often influenced by and in dialogue with painting. I particularly wished to visit the Museo del Prado to experience Francisco Goya’s Pinturas Negras or Black Paintings and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Early Delights triptych. Goya’s Pinturas Negras consists of fourteen deeply moving paintings which the artist painted in oils directly onto the walls of his Madrid home in the latter years of his life. Not only dark in tone, the paintings are of far darker content, reflecting Goya’s bleak outlook on life – not only his own, but also reflecting the political climate at the time.

Hieronymus Bosch’s collection of paintings in the Prado combine works on board and larger panel works which are two sided, hinged, triptychs. The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych is a three part painting depicting the spherical earth when closed. Upon opening, the panels depict the fall of humanity, starting with Adam and Eve on the left and a descent to hell on the right. The colour and exquisite detail in the painting, undertaken in the late 1400s, is immense and overbearing. The experience of the Prado itself is one that reflect upon often. It was great to be able to witness these paintings in the flesh and to allow them to make their mark upon my own work.

During the course of my four day visit I was able to visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to see Dorothea Tannning’s exhibitions, Behind the Door, Another Invisible Door as well as the museum’s incredible collection. I also made a trip to Factum Arte, a specialist in art conservation and fabrication. Factum Arte seeks to construct a bridge between new technologies and craft skills in the conservation of cultural heritage and in contemporary art. They use their technologies to create identical replicas as well as recordings so that these works could be recreated in the event of being destroyed by a natural disaster etc. As well as this I attended a number of openings over the course of the visit and was able to meet with Madrid based curators and artists.

Last year James Lomax was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to undertake a research trip to Madrid. He reports back.

Riverhouse: Kingston, Jamaica 2017 © Andrew Jackson

Following the success of last year’s Accelerator talks, we are pleased to three offer further opportunities to find out about what the West Midlands has to offer to art students and early career artists and to learn from artists practicing in the region and beyond.

Hardeep Pandhal, Pool Party Pilot Episode, 2018, 4K animation, 8 mins 15 seconds, digital still

 

Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions at The New Art Gallery Walsall (lead partner, Engine) and Anneka French, Project Coordinator of New Art West Midlands, will outline the programme and opportunities offered by Engine, New Art Midlands’ professional development programme for artists and curators. We will also hear from artists and curators at different stages of their careers about the development of their practice across all three Accelerator talks.

 

Following our first session at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, on 8 March with Andrew Jackson, Leah Carless and They Are Here, a collaborative practice steered by Helen Walker & Harun Morrison, we are delighted to announce the speakers at the next two sessions to discuss their practice:

 

The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum
Wednesday 25 April, 2-5pm

Faye Claridge
Keith Harrison
James Lomax

 

Staffordshire University
Friday 27 April, 2-5pm

Hardeep Pandhal
Sarah Taylor Silverwood
Grace A. Williams

 

Through case studies from these fantastic speakers, we will explore a range of topics such as initiating projects, finding funding, the importance of networking and sustaining your practice. We will also explore collaboration, residency and international working. There will be opportunities for questions and further discussion.

 

This event is targeted at art students and early career artists.

 

Please book your free place by emailing Anneka French at info@newartwestmidlands.co.uk by Wednesday 18 April.

 

Keith Harrison. Commissioned for Jerwood Open Forest, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Forestry Commission England and Arts Council England

 

 

Read more about our next series of Accelerator talks taking place in March and April at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and Staffordshire University.

Job Centre Junior, Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Photograph by Greg Millner

In autumn 2017 we offered artists and curators living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply to receive a studio visit from an arts professional. Nine artists from across the region have been selected and will have the opportunity to discuss work and to seek feedback and practical advice on their practice.

Job Centre Junior, Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Photograph by Greg Millner

Artists Amelia Beavis-Harrison, Anna Katarzyna Domejko, Ian Giles, Andrew Gillespie, Kate Green, Kurt Hickson, James Lomax, Mark Murphy and Corinne Perry based have been selected from Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Birmingham. These nine ambitious artists were selected from a pool of strong applications thought sought to develop new connections and new conversations about their practice.

These artists will be visited in the coming months by arts professionals working both inside the region, nationally and internationally: Irene Aristizábal, Nottingham Contemporary; Lana Churchill, Bosse & Baum; Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts; Seán Elder, Grand Union; Ryan Hughes, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art / Office for Art, Design and Technology; Milika Muritu, Cell Project Space.

Applications were shortlisted by a panel including Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Zoe Lippett, Exhibitions and Artists’ Projects Curator, The New Art Gallery Walsall and Anneka French, Project Coordinator, New Art West Midlands.

The successful artists are announced for the most recent phase of our Engine studio visits.

Studio work by James Lomax

Earlier in the summer we spoke with the first three artist residents of Glasshouse, a group residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall and Eastside Projects – Alice Gale-FeenyJoe Fletcher Orr and Bryony Gillard 

Since 4 July, artists Tom Verity, based in Stoke-on-Trent and James Lomax, based in Birmingham, have been undertaking the second part of this residency programme in The New Art Gallery Walsall’s Artists’ Studio. Anneka French found out more.

Studio work by James Lomax

 

Anneka French: So, you are roughly half way through your residency …

James Lomax: I think we are both beginning to get to the direction we want to take things.

AF: Before you came, did you have specific aims or strategies in mind or were things more open?

Tom Verity: I had the materials planned but left it quite open. I think you’ve got to with a residency.

JL:  I applied with something quite prescribed ideas – looking at two specific motifs in my work – reflections of water which I’d been screen printing on glass and Perspex, and Venetian blinds which have been coming up a lot in my work. I was interested to find out why I’m using these motifs and materials. I think it was 4-5 months between applying for the residency and coming here but through doing a couple of shows in the meantime, I actually worked quite a lot of that stuff out and I’ve decided that these things were isolated to individual works. It’s important to try and find the next motifs that might carry through. My work is specific to a memory, place or situation.

AF: How have you responded to place and context here? Previous works have had a lot of quite domestic reference points.

JL: I haven’t based work specifically on the galleries but I’ve done a lot of walking around outside and inside and spent time talking to people. The way I start research is by walking around a town. I’ve taken lots of photographs but haven’t had any of them developed yet. I have those images in my memory. The mundane experiences become a research tool. I’ve been looking a lot at history books in the shop on Walsall. These kinds of books are written by someone who has ties to the area and they are quite personal things. I will often draw on something within those as a starting point. That has taken me to making these large concertina screens though I’ve decided it wasn’t working.

AF: Tom, tell me about the materials you’ve been using.

TV: Ropes and weights. It’s strange when you invite people to the studio because none of the pieces are finished and I don’t really like any of them. You have to take forward the bits that are working.

AF: It’s a visible context for making. How have you worked with the context of the gallery?

TV: I have previously worked quite directly with that kind of information but I thought this time it might be better to go with the flow. I thought it might be quite boring for audiences otherwise so I’ve left the influences to happen more naturally. It’s probably slightly too early to say how.

JL: I think you have to be quite careful coming into a residency and making work about a place. Someone asked me about the use of leather and of course Walsall has a leather making industry and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind. I’ve been buying chamois leathers from Poundland because it’s right outside the gallery.

Studio work by James Lomax

AF: So the materials are as much about that proximity as history then?

JL: It’s as much about that and about my own personal experiences and also just working with a different material. I made these angular formal structures using leatherette and I really didn’t like them and now I’m using a way more natural material to make something more irregular and organic and hopefully more anthropomorphic. I don’t know how the material is going to react. I’m stitching together these structures and filling them with expanding foam and they do their own thing.

AF: Can you tell me more about how you are selecting materials, James? There are lots of art technician and DIY-related materials.

JL: All these things are bodging materials, I would say. They are quick fixes and I’ve never used them in an art gallery environment. Part of the reason why I want to use them is because I’m intrigued by them and I don’t know how they are going to behave. These adhesives are new to me. They come out of the tubes in these colours. I try and keep away from art materials because of the language that goes with them. I want the materials to have a domestic reference.

AF: The adhesive pieces have a definite baking reference to them.

JL: Yeah, they are delicate structures and precarious. I made some from a solvent free version and they were hanging from the ceiling. The next day they’d fallen and shattered so it is a learning curve with materials.

Studio work by Tom Verity

AF: Can we talk about colour within both of your works? James, you’ve used things as they come and Tom you have made some more specific decisions on colour?

TV: I’ve selected things like the ropes from the colour options available. I wouldn’t say these colours are fully finished as they are test works. But going back to references, this piece on the wall has a reference to the thing on the back of train seats where you can store objects – I’ve been travelling on the train every day. I’ve been thinking about geometric structures of painting and more historical still life paintings of letters and other objects trapped on noticeboards. The framework allows you to play and swap objects in and out.

JL: Although I’ve been working with things that come in their natural colour, colour is important to the work and I select materials according to their colouring. These pieces could all be pink but I want them to be pink and green, kind of like Drumstick lollipops. The material has a skin and you can press it in with your thumb, a little bit like chewing gum. In the last show I did, I was working with cyanotype processes which were connected to what the work was about.

TV: The materials are representing themselves in my work. Similarly, all the fixings are on the front – there is nothing hidden away, which shows an honesty to the materials and the making processes.

JL: Do you think it’s important to reference the fact that you studied painting? I always frame your work within painting.

TV: Not really but those things come into my thinking. Jeremy Moon’s abstract paintings are influences. I like the lines I’m using to have a use, in that they are holding things to the wall and a use in their visual aspect. They are doing something.

AF: How much have you been here together? Do you think that your works are speaking to each other or being influenced by each other?

TV: We’ve been in at least 2 days a week together.

JL: We cross over quite a lot. I wouldn’t say Tom’s work has fed into mine but I think the way we have used the space has. Tom was using the walls so I decided to do something in the middle of the room. I’m jealous of your speed of working because I have to really build up.

TV: I can work quickly but a lot of it is bad. This is useful because you move quickly through ideas but they are not made as well as they could be and might not have chance to express themselves. I’m looking for the core ideas to be solid before I develop them into something well made. The screen you made had a high production value.

JL: I think that’s the thing I didn’t like about it. Sometimes I make something that I’m not fully happy with. I knew what that screen was going to do before I made it but these other materials are much more unpredictable. I put the adhesive chain together this morning and I didn’t know how it was going to work as a thing. The production value and preciseness of the screen and the fact that I’ve worked as a fabricator mean that I know how those things work and there is no intrigue there. The problem with my way of working is it takes me 2 or 3 weeks to know I’ve got it wrong.

AF: Both works have an obvious tension – things being suspended, objects piercing others – could you say something about that?

TV: I like the work to be physically active. Tension is a by-product of that. Chance and precariousness bring something else to the work.

JL: I’m trying to bring different objects together to create a kind of character around a piece of work. I feel like I am constructing a kind of character through the different materials. I build a picture in my mind of an individual and scenarios that are sometimes based on a specific happening or place. I’m interested in organic forms and a lot of my work is figure-like when I look back at it – more like portraiture. Something more angular is more like a still life, if that makes sense.

AF: Is it important that the person or story is kept secret?

JL: Yeah it is. It’s something I’ve been battling for a while. I just don’t think it’s important for the viewer to know that. I hint at these things through materials and titles. I think it’s more interesting to allow interpretation of the work on their own terms rather than force mine upon a viewer.

AF: Can we talk about your plans for the remainder of your time here and your show within this space. Presumably the door will remain shut during that time…

TV: Yeah, some parts of the room won’t be visible. You can quite precisely set up an exhibition.

JL: The single viewpoint is something I’m interested in. I’ve often made works for shows so that they are directly obstructive of other of my works. I like choosing the way my works are seen. I made work in 2015 that split the space in half and meant you couldn’t see the whole show in one go. There is a curatorial element of my practice from that point of view. I’m still working on the chamois structures.

AF: Will they be hung or on the floor?

JL: I don’t know yet. I could have 10 different configurations. The installation part of it will be the making of the work. I’ve also been using the sun to bleach wood, wallpaper and paper towels. I accidently did some a while ago but the process intrigued me. I haven’t yet worked out what they are yet but they might come into it. The residency has been a great opportunity and it’s been great to be so public facing.

TV: Everything has been more performative with people watching. It’s like being in a zoo a little bit.

JL: I have quite enjoyed that aspect. It’s funny with a group of kids looking in. We’ve had some nice conversations. We’d both like to thank Walsall – they’ve been wonderful.

A public presentation of work made during the residency will be on display in the studio from 23 August – 29 September 2017.

Since 4 July, artists Tom Verity and James Lomax have been undertaking the second part of the Glasshouse residency programme in The New Art Gallery Walsall’s Artists’ Studio. Anneka French found out more.

Room7 curators

Room7 is a new curatorial collective that has arisen from the MA in Art History and Curating at the University of Birmingham. Its members come from Staffordshire and the Black Country, as well as Leicester, London, Peterborough, Denmark and Latvia.

FLUX, their first exhibition together, opens on 2 June at Centrala and features work by artists from across the region: Mark Houghton, James Lomax, Anna Parker and Zoe Robertson. The exhibition runs until 10 June. The exhibition has been developed in partnership with the University of Birmingham and Grand Union.

We spoke to Room7 to find out more about their aspirations for the project.

 

 

Room7 curators

 

 

Can you tell me about the process of developing the exhibition, both logistically and thematically?

An open call was sent out by Grand Union in the summer of 2016, asking for submissions of art works made in any media that was to be exhibited as part of a new collaboration between Grand Union and the University of Birmingham.

We began developing the exhibition by creating a long-list of submissions that we felt would complement and respond each other, in relation to multidisciplinary practices. Alongside this, the themes of body and its relationship to space and tactility manifested as the key themes of the exhibition. Even though the call out was for West Midlands artists we had submissions from most parts of the UK, making the selection process about logistics as well as artistic practice.

We are proud to say that we supported artists in the production of new work for FLUX.

How did you select the artists and what are the relationships between their different practices?

We went on studio visits that helped us to narrow down our selection and find out more about physical and practical aspects of the artworks, as well as meeting artists to develop relationships. We found fascinating the fact that our short listed artists all worked in different media and professions, which would make for an interesting dialogue within the gallery space. For example, this is the first time Intervention Architecture has been a part of an art exhibition.

You are producing a publication for the exhibition. What are your aspirations for this text?

We worked with Rope Press to develop a handout and poster for the exhibition. The handout offers a short introduction to each artist along with an exhibition statement. In producing written material about the artists it has been important to us to merge the artists’ own conceptions with our interpretations as a curatorial collective. This relationship has created opportunities for learning and an exploration of individual practices, and it is our hope that the handout will reflect this process.

We are currently also working with graphic designer Mollie Wade to produce a catalogue; the catalogue is thought of as an ‘echo’ of the whole project, and will be published shortly after the exhibition closes.
It is thought to be an extension of the visual and written interpretation of the exhibition and the work we have been doing with the artists. A big part of our ethos as a collective is to offer opportunities to young artists and professionals. Mollie has recently graduated from the University of Lincoln, and it is therefore a great pleasure for us to work with her and help her develop her portfolio as well.

Tell me more about the symposium you have planned on the final day of the exhibition.

The idea of hosting a symposium came quite naturally to us. Forming our collective we had to think about how we wanted to define our practice and an important part of that was to make the art available on multiple platforms. Thanks to generous funding from the University of Birmingham we were able to realise this idea.

Hosting a symposium has made us able to invite interesting speakers and of course present a platform for our four artists to express their ideas and thoughts on the project, and thereby the symposium will acts as an extension of the dialogue presented in FLUX. We will aim for an informal atmosphere where everyone can participate in discussions and debates about the contemporary art scene in the West
Midlands.

The symposium is hosted in Centrala on the 10 June and will start at 5pm. The programme includes a workshop and talks by Cheryl Jones, Director at Grand Union, and Craig Ashley, Director of New Art West Midlands. Tickets are sold via Eventbrite.

Room7 are:
Aelita Galevska: Liepaja, Latvia
Bethany Williams: Peterborough, UK
Jessica Pollington: London, UK
Katrine Stenum: Aarhus, Denmark
Laura Bishop: Staffordshire, UK
Stephen Kirk: The Black Country, UK
Olivia Myatt: Leicester, UK

 

Room7 is a new curatorial collective that has arisen from the MA in Art History and Curating at the University of Birmingham. We speak to Room7 to find out more about their aspirations for their first exhibition FLUX.