Cash aims to revive struggling sector, but smaller venues that support vulnerable people fear they will have to shut anyway. A focus on The Hive in Shrewsbury as well as the sadly now closed Artrix in Bromsgrove – via The Guardian.

Julian Opie, City.

Meadow Arts‘ latest exhibition Synthetic Landscapes explores our relationship to the land. Taking place at both Weston Park in Shifnal and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, the exhibition features a number of new commissions and works by both emerging artists and some of the most prominent British artists working today. Anneka French spoke to Meadow Arts’ Director Anne de Charmant to find out more.


Julian Opie, City. Synthetic Landscapes, Weston Park

How has the theme of Synthetic Landscapes arisen?

The overriding curatorial line that Meadow Arts explores is our relationship to the land we inhabit, whether social, cultural or even emotional: the notion of landscape is very important. We are blessed in this region with some of the most beautiful landscapes in Britain and the area has inspired many artists, writers and designers. For example, the Picturesque movement was born in Herefordshire at the end of the 18tth Century. As Curator, I also have a personal advantage; as a foreigner, firmly established in Britain, I can observe certain traits that might seem obvious to many but are well worth exploring. The relationship to landscape is one of those; there is such a strong bond to the landscape in this country, much more so than in the rest of Europe.

The case of ‘Capability’ Brown and his peers is a high point in this relationship because he offered such a strong ideal. It certainly answered something quite deep in the collective psyche. A point of balance maybe between nature and culture, an enhanced but secure place for man to situate himself in the environment. It has become a reference point but there is nothing truly natural in Brown’s designs and it’s fascinating to see how this works.

Most of the artists in this show wrestle with the landscape being overloaded with cultural and social references and respond in different ways. Ged Quinn, in his magnificent large paintings, literally offers the viewer the clues to the cultural construct that lies behind a landscape proposition. In his film, The Arrival, Salvatore Arancio goes beyond the point of equilibrium and opens the door to otherworldly interpretations. Edward Chell finds pockets of truly modern landscapes on motorway verges, then studies and champions them.

How does this theme interact with the physical landscapes and contexts at Weston Park and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery?

While at Weston Park the vast Pleasure Grounds were being carved out, over the hills and only a few dozen miles away at Coalbrookdale, near Ironbridge, the instigators of the Industrial Revolution were looking at transforming the landscape too, but with an eye for engineering and productivity. For them, the densely-wooded valley constituted a system to be improved upon and exploited. The natural environment needed to be surveyed, gauged for all its possible uses. Soon brand new enterprises would flourish, such as the first ever iron bridge and key individuals come to the fore such as Thomas Telford.

How is the exhibition being divided across sites and what drew you to these sites?

These two essential models, the idle/idyllic one, epitomised by Brown at Weston Park and the working/economic one, represented by Telford stand in perfect opposition in this corner of Shropshire, so it felt right to have two separate shows with some connection between them.

We asked emerging West Midlands artist David Bethell to select works from the Museum’s collection and respond with his own work. Bethell has built an ambitious and slightly haphazard contraption which is meant to accomplish all sorts of tasks: it is a carriage and a plough but also a surveying machine and a humble cart. It will be displayed at Shrewsbury Museum and support a film of the contraption moving through the landscape at Weston. In the Walled Garden, Bethell has built half a bridge that disappears into the wall, only to reappear as the other half in the museum in Shrewsbury.

Synthetic Landscapes, Granary Art Gallery, Weston Park

Can you tell me more about the works on show and the newly commissioned pieces?

Pablo Bronstein’s Chinese Bridges in the Landscape is a truly stunning piece that is hard to describe but really has an impact. It was always going to be a large outdoor piece, that much I had agreed with Bronstein but it took a while for the right shape to emerge. He had done large scale works but mostly indoors and is at the moment working for the Rambert Ballet on a huge set. So the outdoor/landscape proposition interested him. The two bridges stand in one half of the Walled Garden and they are made of printed and laser cut wood. Treated like billboards, these Chinese Bridges in the Landscape offer a brilliant deconstruction of the artifice of landscape designs. The installation plays tricks with visitors but is also shown not to work.

In the same way Heather & Ivan Morison’s piece is not what is seems and is deliberately strange and slightly unsettling. It is made of scagliola, a sort of fake marble favoured by the Georgians for its opulence. The sculpture is housed in one of the pavilion bothies, lolling on the stone floor. It is an amorphous, but not entirely abstract shape, that both invites and rejects readings.

The third commission is Bethell’s but other artists have modified or adapted their work for Weston. Helen Maurer has used the gardener’s bothy to amazing effect, using the fabric of the place, like water troughs or cavities and shelves to create a suite of little installations that glow like precious jewels in the darkened spaces.

The list of artists include some of the most significant British artists working today alongside some earlier on in their career. How have these artists been drawn together?

At Meadow Arts, we always try to show the work of well recognised artists which are not so easy to see outside the traditional big centres. ‘Big name’ artists are often very happy to escape their usual haunts and are interested in testing out new ideas in interesting new contexts such as the great places where we work. For Synthetic Landscapes I asked artists like Julian Opie, Ryan Gander, Quinn and Bronstein to participate along with other established artists.

For emerging artists, it’s a great opportunity to show their work alongside these established artists. As one of the only contemporary visual arts NPOs working in the region we feel it is part of our role to create these opportunities. In this show we have commissioned Bethell for the first time although he has worked in the region before. Jasleen Kaur is a fascinating young artist. We also work internationally by showing the work of French artist Hélène Muheim for the first time in the UK, and the very gifted Italian artist Salvatore Arancio with whom we hope to work with again next year.

Has the Weston Park location been challenging to work with?

Weston Park is a huge place and we have chosen to work only in the gallery and in the Walled Garden, which gives us a sense of containment like an open-air gallery. The gardeners’ bothies have offered us great opportunities: Maurer has interacted with the ruined space beautifully, she used discarded objects such as an old tin bucket or a watering trough to create amazing incidents. Arancio’s film is being presented in a space that could have been one of the locations of his work.

What can visitors expect?

They will see wonderful work, from very large, stunning interventions in the landscape, such as Opie’s sculpture City, a 3m tall model of a group of skyscrapers, to intimate and stunning little drawings made with eye shadow by Muheim.

What are your hopes for the exhibition?

I’ve been told the exhibition is really enjoyable which is certainly one of our goals! I also hope that it will give rise to new conversations and maybe new perspectives. As well as an arts audience, Meadow Arts invites new audiences to encounter contemporary arts, sometimes for the first time. We hope that by presenting the works in a different context and by creating connections that are clear to follow, we make the experience pleasurable for the audience.

4 June to 3 September 2017 – Weston Park
24 June to 3 September 2017 – Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery

Meadow Arts’ exhibition Synthetic Landscapes explores our relationship to the land and takes place at Weston Park in Shifnal and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. Anneka French spoke to Director Anne de Charmant to find out more.

Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.

Evolution Explored was an ambitious outdoor exhibition of work from the Magnum Photos archive that took place in Shrewsbury town centre and closed just last month. Anneka French caught up with one of the exhibition’s partners, Salla Virman, former CEO of The Hive Arts Centre, to find out more about her motivations for this project.


Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.

Passionate about presenting great art to those outside of large cities, Salla Virman was determined to bring a high-quality project to Shrewsbury in Shropshire. “Just because you’re rural doesn’t mean quality should suffer” she notes.

Evolution Explored, an exhibition of Magnum Photos including pioneering practitioners such as Robert Capa and the much-loved British artist Martin Parr, took inspiration from both Shrewsbury’s association with evolution as the town of Charles Darwin’s birth and from the 70th Anniversary of the photographic archive. Shown outdoors in both St. Mary’s Square and The Square, the project was a collaboration with Grain Projects, Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID) and The Hive Arts Centre, and was supported by contributions from Arts Council EnglandRedrow HomesShrewsbury Shopping and Shrewsbury Colleges Group.

On the exhibition’s theme, Virman explains “Magnum Photos recorded some of the most amazing and heart breaking moments of our time. This is not just about the evolution of species but about the evolution of everything within the world around us. The exhibition has a key link with its locality and a much wider relevance too.”

“I hope that the photographs within the exhibition have challenged viewers emotionally and intellectually, allowing new discoveries on art, the natural environment, technology and the changes we are experiencing within society. There is, of course, also something about the evolution of the medium of photography that has been explored through this special presentation.”

Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.


Accompanied by a programme of engagement activities for schools and families delivered by Grain Photography Hub  in collaboration with The Hive, the exhibition offered opportunities to find out more about the photographs and photographers shown as well as offering chances for the general public to get into photography themselves. Partnerships with a variety of organisations have, for Virman, enabled new mutual relationships, perhaps most importantly attracting visitors to the town, improving connections with business, as well as enriching the lives of local people within Shrewsbury.

“The exhibition has been cohesive and visually stunning. I want Shrewsbury to have more events like this. It has really brought the community together.”

Evolution Explored ran from 9 February to 20 April 2017.

We speak to Salla Virman, former CEO of The Hive Arts Centre in Shrewsbury, about her motivations for the Magnum Photos public realm exhibition Evolution Explored.