Lily Wales, Mr owl ate my metal worm, Handmade photomontage

Lily Wales, Mr owl ate my metal worm, Handmade photomontage

Lily Wales’ work has previously explored the effect of language on the public perception of nuclear weapons through the names they have been allocated. This was the subject of the work shown in New Art West Midlands 2018 at AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.

Lily’s new body of work aims to critique the presence that underwater nuclear weaponry has on our natural and political climate. The title ‘Mr owl ate my metal worm’ is a palindrome. The work refers to the sinking of HMS Coventry, a destroyer in the Royal Navy that was part of a pairing, unofficially termed Type 64, with the warship Broadsword. After being struck by Argentine bombs from a second wave of A-4 Skyhawks in 1982, HMS Coventry was sunk to the sea floor, taking its on-board weaponry and nineteen crew members with it.

www.lilywales.co.uk

Lily is a graduate of Birmingham City University. Her work is shown at The Lanchester Gallery and The Row, as part of New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial.

Lily Wales is today’s artist spotlight. Her work is shown at The Lanchester Gallery and The Row, as part of New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial. Her new body of work aims to critique the presence that underwater nuclear weaponry has on our natural and political climate.

Farwa Moledina, ‘Interwoven’, 2018, Ways of Belonging, Ort Gallery at Midlands Art Centre

We are excited to announce the New Art West Midlands 2019 artists, selected by International Curators Forum:

Betsy Bradley, Hira Butt, Sarah Byrne, Gemma Costin, Anna Katarzyna Domejko, Andreana Fatta, Matt Gale, Amy Guo, Ewan Johnston, Navi Kaur, Shiyi Li, Mengxia Liu, Farwa Moledina, Tayyibah Mota, Laura Onions, Ameera Sadiq, Matías Serra Delmar, Rosie Piercy, Georgia Tucker and Lily Wales.

Farwa Moledina, ‘Interwoven’, 2018, Ways of Belonging, Ort Gallery at Midlands Art Centre 

  • New Art West Midlands returns for 2019 with a new cohort of 20 artists, recent graduates from the region’s art schools and creative Higher Education courses.
  • In collaboration with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, a new exhibition model introduces artists in arts venues and historic sites across Coventry.
  • Selected by International Curators Forum, a new programme supports creative practice development for the region’s brightest new talent.
  • New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art runs 4 October – 24 November 2019

This autumn New Art West Midlands returns with a new model, working in collaboration with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art to introduce an exciting group of artists across the city.  From traditional arts venues to unexpected spaces and public places, the exhibition aims to reach new audiences and show the value of creativity as Coventry moves closer to its tenure as UK City of Culture in 2021.

Selected by International Curators Forum, the artists are recent graduates from the West Midlands’ art schools and creative Higher Education programmes. The region has a rich offer and heritage when it comes to art education; New Art West Midlands is a partnership with the leading institutions to celebrate the talented individuals emerging from undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programmes.

Applications were received from over one hundred artists, representing recent graduates from Birmingham City University, Coventry University, University of Wolverhampton, University of Worcester, Staffordshire University and Hereford College of Arts.

The selection panel included a delegation from International Curators Forum, including Adelaide Bannerman, Cindy Sissokho and Jessica Taylor alongside Ryan Hughes, the founder and director of Coventry Biennial. International Curators Forum’s highly acclaimed Diaspora Pavilion featured as part of the Venice Biennale in 2017, and has informed the direction of New Art West Midlands 2019 as a professional development programme.

In addition to participation in Coventry Biennial, a smaller cohort from these 20 artists will be selected to work with an appointed curator on a yearlong professional development programme. This intensive period will support practice-based skills toward the development of new work for a further curated exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery (Culture Coventry) in autumn 2020. Speaking about the selection and quality of submissions, Jessica Taylor commented: “International Curators Forum is thrilled to be partnering with New Art West Midlands, Coventry Biennial and Herbert Art Gallery on this important opportunity to support a cohort of recently-graduated emerging artists and a curator from the West Midlands.

“We are excited that the Diaspora Pavilion model has influenced the development of this programme, which champions diversity and the professional development of emerging practitioners in the region. The connections made and exposure gained by the 20 selected artists as a result of their inclusion in this Biennial stands to be of great importance during this moment of transition in their careers, and we look forward to working closely with some of the artists as they continue on in the programme alongside a selected curator in 2020.”

Highlights include new large-scale installations, sculpture, photography, video, paintings, drawings and digital artworks, exploring themes of cultural identity, technologies and the environment among others. Sarah Byrne’s (University of Wolverhampton) work reflects on experiences growing up in England as British girl with an Asian mother. Her projections use imagery from her mother’s old photo albums of childhood trips to the Philippines to question the events and exchanges that have contributed to a separation in her two national identities.

“I am a renegade botanist” declares Gemma Costin (Hereford College of Arts). Her travelling seedpod is a repurposed caravan that used to be called home, now transformed into a space to interrogate ideas of nature and biophilia.

Amy Guo (Staffordshire University) investigates the relationship between human and digital technologies. Works consider the ways in which our social interactions with others are mediated through technology and the visibility of our digital selves.

Farwa Moledina’s (Birmingham City University) series of prints on paper and textile are concerned with re-appropriating and reclaiming Orientalist imagery of Muslim Women. In today’s postcolonial, globalised world, refugees, immigrants and persons of dual culture often find themselves caught between tradition, integration and redefinition of their complex identities.

Through film, photography and mixed media, Tayyibah Mota (Coventry University) considers the Hijab. Her work seeks to display the tradition within and opposition to this Muslim practice, whilst sharing personal experiences of some of the British Muslim women who wear them.

Rosie Piercy (University of Worcester) deals with the very current issue of tuition fees and the cost of education in Britain. Her sculpture ‘Forever in Debt’ consists of helium filled balloons highlighting the exact balance of her student loan as they slowly deflate.

Ryan Hughes, director of Coventry Biennial, commented: “We are really delighted by the work we have selected and are looking forward to bringing it to Coventry to share with audiences. The professional development focus of New Art West Midlands aligns strongly with our vision for a social and critically engaged biennial for the region. The unique and inclusive new model they have built will create deeply meaningful opportunities for these artists in the West Midlands and beyond.”

Now in its seventh year, the New Art West Midlands exhibition programme is established as an important aid in developing the careers of artists. With 200 artists involved since 2013, previous exhibitors have seen their work purchased for the national Arts Council Collection and have gone on to achieve solo exhibitions in respected galleries.

New Art West Midlands 2019

Various venues across Coventry, 4 October – 24 November 2019.

 www.newartwestmidlands.co.uk

 

 

Notes for editors:

The New Art West Midlands 2019 exhibition is supported by Arts Council England, Birmingham City University, Coventry University, University of Worcester, University of Wolverhampton, Hereford College of the Arts and Staffordshire University, developed in partnership with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, Culture Coventry and International Curators’ Forum.

 

Partners New Art West Midlands 2019:

About Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art:

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art brings critically engaged, high quality contemporary visual art to the city and surrounding area. Celebrating and promoting contemporary art and artists, the festival is equally rooted in the city of Coventry, its history and its future. The first Biennial took place 6 – 22 October 2017 in venues across the city, the centre-piece being the sprawling CET Building, now under redevelopment. 2019 is the Biennial’s second iteration, with the third taking place in 2021 as part of Coventry’s UK City of Culture year.

About International Curators Forum: 

International Curators Forum develops and offers professional development opportunities for artists and curators, which include curating exhibitions and events that address diasporic culture in a global context; connecting professionals around the world through organised international networking trips and residencies. Past projects include the 2016-2017 international knowledge-sharing platform ‘Curating the International Diaspora,’ and the 2016-2018 professional development programmes ‘Diaspora Pavilion’ and ‘Beyond the Frame.’

About Culture Coventry:
Culture Coventry
is the trust that manages three of Coventry’s finest visitor attractions: Coventry Transport Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of British road transport, including the two fastest cars in the world; the award-winning Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, which celebrates the city’s culture, history and arts; and the Lunt Roman Fort, a fully excavated and partially reconstructed turf and timber fort, including the only gyrus in the Roman Empire. Between them, the attractions proudly tell stories of Coventry’s unique history to over 800,000 visitors per year from around the world.

  About New Art West Midlands:
New Art West Midlands is the contemporary visual arts network for the region. The network plays a leading role in bringing people together to support, promote and develop the region’s contemporary visual arts sector, both within the region and at a national level. They create defining opportunities for artists and arts professionals to develop their practices through a distinctive, critically-engaged programme, including the New Art West Midlands exhibition for recent graduates, and Engine, a region-wide professional development programme for artists and curators. New Art West Midlands is part of the national Contemporary Visual Arts Network. They are supported by Arts Council England and the lead partners are Birmingham City University and The New Art Gallery Walsall. Further support is provided by their partners Coventry University, Hereford College of Arts, University of Wolverhampton and University of Worcester, as well as Staffordshire University.

We are excited to announce the New Art West Midlands 2019 artists, selected by International Curators Forum:

Betsy Bradley, Hira Butt, Sarah Byrne, Gemma Costin, Anna Katarzyna Domejko, Andreana Fatta, Matt Gale, Amy Guo, Ewan Johnston, Navi Kaur, Shiyi Li, Mengxia Liu, Farwa Moledina, Tayyibah Mota, Laura Onions, Ameera Sadiq, Matías Serra Delmar, Rosie Piercy, Georgia Tucker and Lily Wales.

Lily Wales, Radioactive Rhonda. installation view, AirSpace Gallery. Image Glen Stoker

Birmingham Art School Masters graduate Lily Wales is one of 28 selected artists exhibiting across the region as part of the sixth edition of New Art West Midlands. Much of Wales’ work addresses the visual language and childish rhetoric associated with nuclear weaponry. Her piece, Radioactive Rhonda, recreated and on display at AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, until 31 March, seeks to mock the U.S. government’s atomic bomb history and its civil defence campaigns through a giant sphere pasted with a plethora of brash imagery. In these photomontages, Wales renders visible the grotesque characters of former a-bombs, Atomic Annie and Mr Plumbob, in a bid to question the ways in which language and aesthetics can dislocate public perceptions of nuclear warfare.

 

Lily Wales, Radioactive Rhonda, installation view, AirSpace Gallery. Image Selina Oakes

 

Selina Oakes: Your work explores the language associated with nuclear weaponry, particularly the childish nicknames given to atomic bombs by the U.S. government. What first drew you to work with this subject matter?

Lily Wales: I’m a huge fan of the theorist Marshall McLuhan and I read his work frequently to drum up thought. As a starting point, I followed his notions of electricity being an extension of the nervous system and guns as an extension of the eye and teeth. In his books, which are typographically stunning, he goes on to talk about technology causing an amputation of the self. When thinking about the most extreme version of this self-annihilation, nuclear warfare naturally became an obvious choice. Once I started digging around it didn’t take long to find the bizarre usage of language, which felt like a joke and had me completely fascinated as I’ve always been drawn to humour within my practice.

 

SO: Atomic Annie, Mr Plumbob, Romeo, Smokey and George are all names of a-bombs from the mid-late 20th century. What makes Radioactive Rhonda relevant to today’s society?

LW: Rhonda’s relevance lies in her social reality: this year the Doomsday Clock was moved from two and a half minutes to midnight to two, amidst recent nuclear risk. I recently watched the 1984 documentary style film Threads, which follows nuclear holocaust with a focus on Sheffield as a city hit by the atomic bomb. It’s a startling contrast to the U.S. civil defence videos that managed to anaesthetise the public’s perception of such weapons. Despite an awareness of the mushroom cloud footage being archived material I’d seen on YouTube, I still found the film to be a traumatic watch. 34 years later, that film is still shockingly relevant and quite frankly makes Rhonda look like a pussycat. While it may sound ridiculous for a bomb to be called Radioactive Rhonda, is it any worse than one being called the Mother Of All Bombs?

 

SO: Radioactive Rhonda is covered with a brightly grotesque photomontage. Where do these images come from and why is their source important?

LW: All the imagery on Rhonda is sourced online, predominantly through Google Images. When making the work there isn’t much importance placed on where the imagery is sourced, just more so around the quality of the content itself. That being said it does demonstrate the power of information and how easily accessible it is due to the Internet. When I was first researching nuclear warfare, I was cautious to rely on online sources too much for authenticity, however bizarrely enough it has proved to be more reliable than official sources. With a subject matter consisting of mostly classified information and officials being able to nether confirm or deny information, who knows what’s false? Maybe Rhonda is real after all.

 

Lily Wales, Radioactive Rhonda, installation view, AirSpace Gallery. (Background, Olivia Peake, Semblance). Image Selina Oakes

 

SO: This is the second time that you have constructed Radioactive Rhonda – the first being for your Masters show at Birmingham School of Art. Has your relationship with the piece changed and how might you progress with new works in the future?

LW: It’s a labour intensive piece, so each time I’ve completed her there’s always a sense of achievement but it’s important not be a one trick pony. Moving on from Rhonda, I’ll still be applying photomontage to the realm of sculpture. There’ll be more of a focus on creating an environment and atmosphere rather than just a static object. I’ll be introducing the use of code and lighting within my practice, creating work in reaction to a recent trip to the Nevada Test Site in Las Vegas, funded by the Engine and Grain bursary. And you never know, there could be the comeback of the century with Rhonda II.

 

SO: What does it mean for you to exhibit in New Art West Midlands’ 2018 showcase at AirSpace Gallery?

LW: Well it was a great opportunity for Rhonda to be seen on a more public level with a much longer duration. With the piece being site specific it also meant I had a great connection with both the show and the gallery itself. I was able to have critical conversations about the work and to talk about future directions. Getting to know other artists at a similar point in their career was also a bonus.

New Art West Midlands exhibitor Lily Wales speaks to Selina Oakes about her experiences of re-making her sculpture Radioactive Rhonda at AirSpace Gallery and the context for its production.

Lily Wales - Operation Plumbob, 2017. Work in progress.

Engine and GRAIN are delighted to announce that Lily Wales has been awarded our £1000 bursary. The bursary was for an artist living and working in the West Midlands region who uses photography as an integral element of their practice.

Specialising in handmade photomontage, Lily is currently exploring themes around nuclear warfare with an interest in its language and how it anesthetises the audiences’ perception of the subject (i.e. atomic bombs personified by being given human names, and the absurd language used in films demonstrating how to survive a nuclear attack). She will use the bursary to undertake a research trip to the Nevada Testing Site and Atomic Testing Museum near Las Vegas.

The trip will offer her an opportunity to make new work, take first hand images in Nevada, and gather resources from the Atomic Testing Museum archive that she would not have otherwise had access to.

Lily said:

‘The trip undertaken through the bursary will provide an authentic insight into the colossal scale of the iconic mushroom, allowing me to expand on my photographic archive and consider new notions of scale within my own practice.’

We will report back later in the year on her progress.

 

 

 

Engine and GRAIN are delighted to announce that Lily Wales has been awarded our £1000 bursary. The bursary was for an artist living and working in the West Midlands region who uses photography as an integral element of their practice.