The CAS acquires 106 works by 16 artists for museums and communities across the UK through its Rapid Response Fund

The Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund has bought 106 works of art for 16 museums across the UK, financially supporting artists and helping museums reach out to new audiences as they beginning their re-opening programmes as coronavirus-based restrictions ease. This includes acquisitions for The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and The New Art Gallery Walsall.

Artist Sarah Byrne exhibited in New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial 2019. Having recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Wolverhampton, she has gone on to undertake a residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall. We caught up with her to find out more about her practice, and her approaches to the residency on site and during lockdown.

Clean your hands, 2020, print on A4 paper

How have you approached the residency? What have been your starting points?

The residency largely offered me a space to play, and to try things without too much planning or thought. Something I began to value during my Masters was what I called ‘mindless’ work. It’s like the opposite of being mindfull, which is associated with having to be very present and aware – something which honestly just freaked me out because there are times I didn’t want to be so aware, I just wanted to shut off and let things happen. One of my favourite chefs, Jack Monroe (2019) wrote in the method for her Self Love Stew, that:

“Stirring is key. It is soothing. It is mindless, not mindful. Sod mindful. My mind is full enough. It is a minefield. Sometimes I want to stir some stuff and stare at my hands or into nothing”.

I find it’s a great metaphor for how I try to approach my work now – mindless stirring. Just using the right ingredients, and then letting the flavours come together themselves.

So how I started was by bringing a bunch of materials into the studio without any solid plan, just some notes I’d made on my phone during the months leading up to it. I already understood where my work stood conceptually from recently finishing my Masters, so it was a great opportunity to let the materials take the lead and see what I could allow them to do.

First day in the Artist’s Studio at The New Art Gallery Walsall

Can you tell me more about your work in the lead up to the residency, specifically that as part of your MA and shown during New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial?

My practice explores the relationship that I have with my dual nationality, and explores imagery and thoughts relating to my mixed race heritage.

I began with an interest in the photographs and photo albums my mum curated of me growing up. She still keeps and displays them, in leather-bound chronological order on the bookshelf. I began a material exploration of these photographs, viewing myself and my narrative with a different, analytical eye to how I would normally view them. I looked at them at this point as if I were an anthropologist, rather than a family member. The impulsive family snapshot became important, as did the consideration of how I’d grown up with value placed on my race as an identifier, with muddled memories of feeling tokenised by both sides.

As I repeatedly used and re-used the photographs, remembering stories, smells, sounds and emotions, I began to question the reliability of my own narrative voice, becoming aware that I was attempting to recall a period of my childhood which is commonly misremembered by many. I was already going through a process of comparing digital and human memory, and doubts around my attempts to recall events were making me question a degree of computer-like overwriting and corruption within memories. At the time of the New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial, the visuals I was creating would explore the ideas of glitching, malfunctioning and faultiness in relation to human memory. The approach of collage on an overhead projector allowed for an ambiguous and infinite number of possible scenarios using a decided collection of existing objects, environments and disruptions.

In the lead up to the end of my MA and my gallery residency, my work had also developed to consider trends relating to skin whitening in South East Asia.  A strong memory I hold from my trips to the Philippines is the overbearing presence of skin whitening treatments. I remember on one trip to the Philippines, after using up all the sun protection cream we’d brought with us from home, my dad and I were searching for more in the local Boots pharmacy equivalent. I remember picking up and examining each of the bottles and being unable to find a product that wasn’t selling itself on its whitening or bleaching properties. The metaphor of fading and bleaching began to be included in the discussion around distortion and concealing in relation to memory.

Me circa 1996, Umingan, Pangasinan, Philippines

How have you utilised materials and motifs?

In the Philippines there is a huge value placed on Westernism. Historically, the Philippines have been owned by both Spain and America, making it a cultural hybrid of these places as well as its geographical location in Asia. Something I observed (and became very uncomfortable with) even as a young child, was that my dad and I were revered for visiting there as white people. People in the markets would stop, stare and point, people would approach us for money, sometimes begging, sometimes threatening. Conversations would revolve around my appearance, with huge worth placed on my “lovely light skin”.

Growing up, this gave me whiplash as I compared it to the treatment I received for being Asian when back home in England. At school, it was a running joke for many that I looked Chinese … My nationality was my identifier, and the way people would introduce me. “This is Sarah – she’s Filipino”, they’d say, pre-empting that the other person would be wondering that already. My descriptors would shift to “lovely olive skin”. Which was I, then? And why did it matter so much?

The bleaching soap was one of the ideas leading the work at the start of the residency as I saw it as an object which could speak of lots of different metaphors and dialogues. My parents had recently been on a visit there, so I asked them to pick me up some of the boxes they saw in the supermarkets!

There’s something to note in that many of the whitening properties lie in women’s cleaning products. I don’t notice the same sort of marketing in the men’s variety of soaps and deodorants. I thought then about the cleaning products themselves, and their purpose. Cleaning. Whitening. Like the intention is to wash your skin colour away. The same language wouldn’t seem out of place on a bottle of Cillit Bang. I started to consider this in parallel with the disintegration and fade treatment in my work.

In addition, another motif which has been important throughout the residency, has been the colour yellow. I did a series of Instagram posts about this, discussing how my instinctual relation of the colour to the Filipino landscape was what initially drew me to the colour, but then how it developed to become something important to continue with. There’s a broad consideration of the colour yellow in reference to Asian countries. It became quickly established in the world that there were black people and there were white people. More recently brown, too, has become a common descriptor. But where did Filipino people belong in these categories? Reclaiming and taking possession of Yellow outside of its former derogatory context gives us a “little flag to fly” (Chok, V. (2016) ‘Yellow’, in The Good Immigrant. London: Unbound, pp.33–44.)

Texture study (detail), 2020, water and soap on acetate, overhead projector

You have shared some really interesting content on Instagram during your residency so far. Given the Covid-19 situation and the residency pause, how do you hope to continue to use digital platforms to share your thinking and research moving forward?

Thank you! The staff at the gallery have been incredibly supportive during this time. I have been continuing my Instagram takeovers on the gallery account, and have been very grateful for the responses I receive on that platform.

With so many of us now staying at home, an at-home art practice is something that I think is important not just on an individual basis, but in terms of sharing and contributing to an online community that others can view or feel involved in. A lockdown practice doesn’t have to be that productive or important, but the act of setting a goal for yourself or having something enjoyable to be working on, can be so important for wellbeing in this weird limbo. I’ve found that since the lockdown has been enforced, the viewing numbers on my Instagram stories have shot up, and the number of responses have increased, as more people are turning to their phones and social media with their extra time.

I’ve found social media, and particularly Instagram stories, to be really positive in encouraging me to write in a voice like I’d write to a mate. It’s not my ‘academic’ voice, or the one that would maybe be present in an artist statement. I don’t do any planning for them, and I barely proofread them. I try to engage my stream of consciousness, and not put pressure on myself to sound a certain way. I’ve personally found this to be very freeing, and based on the responses I’ve had, it has allowed others to get a good insight into how I think through and make decisions around my work as it happens.

On a personal level, documenting this stream of consciousness is also great for me to formalise the ‘bitty’ thoughts that might otherwise be lost and overwritten by the next idea as I potter about with my materials. It leaves more for me to reflect on after the fact, and can be more beneficial in developing those threads further as I progress. It’s definitely something I’ll adopt to featuring more on my personal page after this residency is finished.

Clean your face, 2020, print on A4 paper

What’s next?

I wrote my MA thesis in the style of a book, titled Chinese Burn. It’s in some ways similar to how I voiced my Instagram stories, I aimed to write it in a language that straddled conversational and academic. I didn’t want it to be a book that only my supervisor would read, and would be impenetrable and/or useless to anyone else.

On completion of the book, I had a small handful of copies printed and was pleased that Deborah Robinson at the gallery decided to curate one of the books into the MA show beside my work.  Since giving sneak peaks of it online, I’ve had queries from people wanting to know where they can purchase a copy! I’d love to be able to self-publish it properly, and I’m currently looking into options which I hope to be able to pursue relatively soon.

As my work develops I would be interested in exploring the possibility of more books, perhaps exploring the work I’ve been able to play with during this residency and documenting the thinking and process.

Ultimately, I’ve been saying that the end of my Masters does not equal the end of this body of work. It’s still very much something that’s developing and spitting out new outcomes as it goes. It will be great to return to my studio space at Eagle Works in future when this current dystopian reality is lifted, but for now I’m very grateful for my dining table studio space, and I hope for more sunny Spring weather so I can use my garden to explore sun-bleaching and drawing possibilities.


Artist Sarah Byrne exhibited in New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial 2019. Having recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Wolverhampton, she has gone on to undertake a residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall. We caught up with her to find out more about her practice, and her approaches to the residency on site and during lockdown.

Engine, a professional development programme run by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall, is pleased to be partnering with Outside In to offer artists living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards professional development activities of your choice. Two artists will be awarded a bursary of £500 each.

The Outside In Engine Micro Bursaries are aimed at covering the costs of, for example, research visits to exhibitions, festivals or sites of interest, attendance at seminars, workshops and conferences, travel and accommodation. (Please note that this fund is not designed for the production or the exhibition of work.)


Work made by Thomas Wynne as part of a period of research supported by an Engine Micro Bursary, 2018.



These Outside In Engine Micro Bursaries are specifically for artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation.

You can apply for the Outside In Engine Micro Bursary if you are an Outside In artist and live in the West Midlands region. The bursaries mark the development of the organisation’s programme launching shortly at their Midlands hub at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.

(A further series of £250 New Art West Midlands / Engine Micro Bursaries open to all artists within the region will be launched in March 2020.)

Artist Support Day

If you would like help with applying for this opportunity or help signing up to Outside In you can book onto an Artist Support Day. We will be running this at The New Art Gallery Walsall on Tuesday 25 February, 10.30am – 5pm.

Please contact José Forrest-Tennant, Outside In Midlands Regional Coordinator, to book on to this.


How to apply

You should complete the application form which can be downloaded here:
Outside In Engine Micro Bursary application form.

An easy read version of this information can be downloaded here:
Easy-read-Engine Micro Bursary information

In your application form, please send a link to your Outside In online gallery with the text from your artist statement, 3 images of your work as jpegs, video links or other digital formats which can include audio files. We will also need up to 250 words from you telling us what you propose to use the bursary for, why this is important for your work and a budget detailing your activity.

Please email applications to with ‘Micro Bursary’ in the subject line.

Application deadline: 12 noon, Wednesday 18 March 2020.


If you require this information in alternative formats or any additional information regarding this opportunity, please contact José Forrest-Tennant on 07496 997 333 or  



About Outside In 

Outside In, founded in 2006 at Pallant House, Chichester, aims to provide artists with the support and confidence they need to enter the art world. The organisation’s work covers three main areas: artist development, exhibitions and training. These activities, supported by fundraising and communications, all aim to create a fairer art world by supporting artists, creating opportunities and educating organisations.

Since its inception, the organisation has engaged with more than 5,000 artists traditionally excluded from the mainstream art world, reached a quarter of a million audience members and gained more than 80 partner organisations nationally. It has held more than 50 exhibitions to date and now provides opportunities and support for more than 2,600 artists. In the next three years the charity will work to create a national platform to support the delivery of its programmes. It will do this through working in partnership with key strategic arts organisations across the UK to act as hubs of activity and support.



Outside In, New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall are committed to widening access to our opportunities. Audio or video recorded applications may be submitted via Vimeo or YouTube by those facing barriers in applying. 

If you have any support requirements or would like to discuss this further, please do get in touch with Anneka French, New Art West Midlands Co-ordinator on or 0121 300 4309. 


José Forrest-Tennant, Outside In Midlands Regional Coordinator on or 07496 997 333


Engine is pleased to be partnering with Outside In to offer artists living in the West Midlands region the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards professional development activities of your choice. Two artists will be awarded a bursary of £500 each.

Grazia Toderi, Orbite Rosse, 2009, installation at The New Art Gallery Walsall. Presented by the Art Fund under Art Fund International for joint ownership by The New Art Gallery Walsall and Birmingham Museums Trust, 2010. Photo: Jonathan Shaw.

Grazia Toderi, Orbite Rosse, 2009, installation at The New Art Gallery Walsall. Presented by the Art Fund under Art Fund International for joint ownership by The New Art Gallery Walsall and Birmingham Museums Trust, 2010. Photo: Jonathan Shaw.

In February The New Art Gallery Walsall celebrates its 20th birthday with a series of exhibitions and celebratory events. Since opening on 20 February 2000 (and officially opened by The Queen on 5 May 2000), the Gallery has welcomed over 3.5 million visitors. 

To mark this special occasion, the Gallery will bring together works of contemporary art collected over the last 20 years, from artists who have featured in their exhibitions and Studio programmes. 20:20 – Twenty Years of Collecting Contemporary Art will reflect overlapping themes such as the changing urban landscape, the Black Country, the impact of globalisation and people and places, and will feature work from a selection of international artists as well as those closer to home. Artists include Mohamed Bourouissa, Romuald Hazoumè, Juneau Projects, Hew Locke, Yinka Shonibare, Dayanita Singh, Bob and Roberta Smith, Soheila Sokhanvari and many others across Floor 3 and throughout the building.

The exhibition will acknowledge significant gifts and schemes such as the Contemporary Art Society’s Special Collection Scheme and Art Fund International as well as the Clive Beardsmore Gift, a collection of 200 modern and contemporary works generously donated to the Gallery in 2014.

Soheila Sokhanvari, Two Serious Ladies, 2015, egg tempera on vellum. The New Art Gallery Walsall Permanent Collection.

Gallery Director Stephen Snoddy has selected a series of works for a special exhibition in the ground floor Community Gallery, representing each individual year of the Gallery’s 20 year history. 20 for 2020 will include works by Gavin Turk, Christopher Le Brun, Soheila Sokhanvari and Jane and Louise Wilson.

The much-loved Garman Ryan Collection will be displayed (almost) in its entirety, complemented by a series of works focusing on the women behind the Collection, Kathleen Garman (widow of Sir Jacob Epstein) and Sally Ryan, created during a residency at the Gallery in 2014 by Birmingham artist Sarah Taylor Silverwood.

20:20 – Twenty Years of Collecting Contemporary Art opens on Thursday 20 February from 6-9pm as part of a special celebratory event with a guest DJ set from Bob and Roberta Smith. This will be followed on Saturday 22 February with Arty Party for all the family featuring music, free workshops, games and of course, birthday cake. Both events are free with no booking required.

20:20 – Twenty Years of Collecting Contemporary Art runs from 21 February – 14 June 2020.

20 for 2020 runs from 25 January – 5 July 2020.



Next month The New Art Gallery Walsall celebrates its 20th birthday with a series of exhibitions and celebratory events.

Image: Shiyi Li, ‘Minister of Loneliness’, 2018

New Art West Midlands invites you to the launch of No Limits, the visual arts strategy for the West Midlands, devised following consultation events across the region.

The launch will be followed by a very special performance by artist Shiyi Li of her percussion and live collage work ‘Minister of Loneliness’.

No Limits
Friday 15 November 2019
6 — 8pm

The Studio
The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum
Register for the event here.

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Additional support from Coventry Biennial, Birmingham City University, Coventry University, Hereford College of Arts, Staffordshire University, University of Wolverhampton, University of Worcester, International Curators Forum, The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and The New Art Gallery Walsall.


(Image: Shiyi Li, Minister of Loneliness, a collaborative performance involving chamber music, animation and live art performances made in conjunction with international percussionist Gloria Yehilevsky and originally performed by Aisling Reilly).

New Art West Midlands invites you to the launch of No Limits, the visual arts strategy for the West Midlands, devised following consultation events across the region.

The launch will be followed by a very special performance by artist Shiyi Li of her percussion and live collage work ‘Minister of Loneliness’.

Emily Hale reviews Amalia Pica: Private & Confidential at The New Art Gallery Walsall – via this is tomorrow

By embracing the heaviness in Birmingham’s heritage, and adding a strong dose of eccentricity, Supersonic is world-class. Review by Ben Beaumont-Thomas – via The Guardian

Vanessa Thorpe reports on Home of Metal, a series of exhibitions and events taking place across multiple West Midlands galleries – via The Observer

Installation view, Sarah Taylor Silverwood: Daphne at The New Art Gallery Walsall

There is a mysterious twilight in the gallery.  In pools of light, cut-out wooden shapes, painted in hazy patterns of pink and blue and yellow, carry the drawn outlines of feet or breasts or faces.  These cutouts are arranged to suggest stepping stones, or are fixed at intervals sometimes high up on the walls, or assembled to form the housing for three video screens.

Installation view, Sarah Taylor Silverwood: Daphne at The New Art Gallery Walsall

The drawn animation that plays in a loop on these screens depicts things such as swaying tree branches and a woman’s lower legs as she casts off her shoes and dips her toes in water.  Then we see the same legs, but this time running around a rock.  A little later, there is a sequence in which the woman’s arm is clawed at and pinched. Due to the rawness of the animation it all happens precariously, as if newly rendered in each repetition of the loop.

The sounds of tweeting birds and a murmuring stream, together with the melancholic strains of violin and piano, reverberate in the gloaming.

This is ‘Daphne’, an art installation by Sarah Taylor Silverwood at The New Art Gallery Walsall. It was inspired by the Greek myth about the beautiful Daphne, who is chased by the god Apollo; but as he’s about to seize and rape her, she is magically transformed into a tree.

Installation view, Sarah Taylor Silverwood: Daphne at The New Art Gallery Walsall

When she first read the story, Taylor Silverwood explains when we meet, she was held spellbound by these two sentences in the opening paragraph:

Over hill and dale she roamed, free and light as the breeze of spring. Other maidens round her spoke each of her love, but Daphne cared not to listen to the voice of man, though many a one sought her to be his wife.1

In the weeks and months during which she made this artwork, Taylor Silverwood found herself focussing ever more intently on Daphne’s ‘free and light’ and ‘roaming’ state, and her breezy independence. It is this moment of the story that her art installation suspends in time, presenting us with the fantasy that Daphne can forever remain within, or forever return to, this first, footloose state.

It is perfectly in keeping with myths to alter or extract from them in this way. Like fairy tales, fables and folk tales, myths are part of the oral tradition of story-telling and so it is in their very nature to be mutable, with elements from one story sometimes straying into another or taking on a life of their own.2 Perhaps we all know how a single, fleeting passage – in this case, about Daphne’s freewheeling spirit – will entirely captivate us, for reasons we might struggle to understand? From somewhere in the soft colours and patterns and repetitions of ‘Daphne’, feelings of intense absorption and pleasure emanate.

Myths and fairy stories are passed down from generation to generation, most often within the context of the family. Part of their function, it’s been argued, is to express something of the particular emotions of families, over time.3 In Taylor Silverwood’s case, she explains, she first read the story of Daphne ten years ago when she was about twenty, in a book of Greek myths originally owned by her grandmother who had recently died. The book was given to Taylor Silverwood by her mother, who like her grandmother had read this book as a child. Cherished by three generations of women who were and are very close, the book and its stories are singularly charged.

When Taylor Silverwood asked her mother to act as the model for her drawings of the youthful Daphne, she bridged the generations. As the artist herself suggests, there are connections throughout with how her place in her family is changing. Her installation ‘Daphne’ explores, she explains, ‘the way that patterns and structures of myths pass through time in parallel to a sort of shifting familial lineage or loop’.

The animation loops and Daphne’s moment of freedom is replayed, over and over. The grandmother’s storybook is now in the granddaughter’s hands, as life continues on.

Yet we are reminded of the menace of Apollo, in the sequences of Daphne running and having her arm pinched, and in the soundtrack’s darkening tones. I experience all this as an undercurrent, and as a reminder of how women deal with the daily threat of danger from men, yet live happily for much of the time. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters all fear at some level for each other, generation after generation – but still, Daphne casts off her shoes once again and is free.

Angela Kingston, February 2019

Angela Kingston is a freelance curator and writer

The exhibition ‘Daphne’ by Sarah Taylor Silverwood is at The New Art Gallery Walsall from 19 January – 12 May 2019

1.  The First Stories, Grecian Gods and Heroes, collected and edited by J.L. Gunn, published by Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd. The first edition was published in July 1927.

2.  For a discussion on this subject, see for example, Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, part one, 1975. In an acknowledgement of how myths etc are subject to different kinds of re-tellings, Taylor Silverwood based the patterns on the wooden cut-outs on textile designs by Duncan Grant that were inspired by the story of Daphne.

3.  Bettelheim, a psychoanalyst, gives a wonderful account of this in the aforementioned book.

Freelance curator and writer Angela Kingston reflects on Sarah Taylor Silverwood’s solo exhibition Daphne, on display at The New Art Gallery Walsall until 12 May.

Mike Nelson sets up camp in Walsall

Will Martin reviews Mike Nelson’s Lionheart exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall for Apollo Magazine.

Join us at our six ‘expedition’ events to explore the extremities of artistic practice in the region.

Led by New Art West Midlands, The Outer Limits programme for artists explores the extremities of artistic practice – seeking out the far and distant places that make visual art in the midlands distinct and encouraging peer interaction.

Our six ‘expeditions’ will cover topics ranging from new artist opportunities all the way through to the cult of biennials. They will ask what is needed to safeguard the future of artists in the region, drawing upon national and regional speakers, key venues around the West Midlands and most importantly open minds.

All of these events are an opportunity for you to engage with us at New Art West Midlands, to moonshot our future work and boldly go beyond the current limits. The conversations we have will inform the West Midlands visual arts strategy and become the blueprint for our future programmes and advocacy work.

Keynote speakers at each of the events will catalyse the debate before we hand over to the people in the room to respond. Benefits to you as an artist include direct engagement with and impact on New Art West Midlands’ future programme, meeting other artists and discussing your work, and finding out about current opportunities. Plus, we will be issuing a New Art West Midlands limited edition badge (yes, seriously).

Leading us through The Outer Limits is artist Simon Poulter who will facilitate each session with Director of New Art West Midlands, Craig Ashley. New Art West Midlands’ Advisory and Executive Group members will also be in attendance. If you have to something to say, we want to hear it.


Event #1 ‘Setting the scene’ at AirSpace Gallery (Stoke on Trent)
Tuesday 19 September, 2 – 4pm

How to be successful as an artist. Sign up to join this event which will focus on the raw materials and engine of being ‘successful’ in your practice. We will be looking at core concerns for artists at all career stages, including insights by practising artists. What does a good gig look like? How do we Play Nicely in the art world and get proper reward and contracting for what we do? What rates of pay are current and workable for artists in the market place in 2017? We will be joined by Ryan Hughes (Director, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art) and Dan Thompson (artist, writer, speaker) to discuss these matters. The session will be an opportunity to gain valuable insights into how other artists work and input your own experiences.

Book here


Event #2 ‘F@ck this Sh/t’ at The Hive (Shrewsbury)
Wednesday 20 September, 11am – 1pm

How to take on the universe and make it listen. Sign up to connect with us and make some change happen within the grand new abnormal. We will be exploring the context of how artists respond to fundamental shifts in the political space, examples of disobedience and the fakery of the ‘disruptive’ economy. This session is about marginality, voices of otherness and a real opportunity to contextualise artistic practice as a response. We invite artists to debate and devise beyond the social media silos, with the intention of informing New Art West Midlands’ future programme. This session will include opening talks by prominent artists Noëmi Lakmaier and Ann Whitehurst, as well as the stuff you bring with you. Presented in partnership with DASH.

Book here

Event #3 ‘Out there’ at Vivid Projects (Birmingham)
Friday 6 October, 2 – 4pm

We explore the Outer Limits of digital space and the current thinking in digital culture. What mixed reality methods lie in wait for the artists of the new millennium? How can we bust through barriers to make new tools have some meaning? This session explores next generation ‘radical’ art, physical and digital realities – what is out there to be explored? Artists discuss tape machines, VR as painting, sci-art, bio-art, coding, experience design and user interaction. We will have two speakers on board for this mission – Gina Czarnecki and Laurie Ramsell.

Book here


Event #4 ‘Bring it on’ at Worcester Arts Workshop
Thursday 12 October, 11am – 1pm

You live in the West Midlands, you want to stay but what opportunities are there? In this session we invite artists and arts educators to explore the elephant in the room – retention of talent. This is a rapid build satellite session discussing recent development initiatives, new commissions, access to technical resources and partnerships across business, the funded sector and arts education. We will be hearing opening talks by self-organisers Emma Chetcutti and Lara Ratnaraja who will frame the discussion on how to sustain practice where you are. We also want to hear your ideas on the problems you face in working in the region.

Book here


Event #5 ‘Far Out-ness’ at The New Art Gallery Walsall
Friday 13 October, 11am – 1pm

‘Far out-ness’ is commonly associated with the post WW2 avant garde and jazz movements. Within this session we invite you to join us to discuss the position of art-making in the brave new world. This event is all about practice, presentation and making. Hosted at The New Art Gallery Walsall, we contextualise how West Midlands-based artists can shape and form their practice and process. What contexts are now available to artists? Gallery, web or public space? Our two speakers – Ruth Catlow and Gavin Wade – focus vanguard debates and we then connect in the talent in the room. This is suitable for early career, emerging and hybrid practitioners (artist curators for example). This event will be live streamed.

Book here


Event #6 ‘Cut and paste’ at the Coventry Evening Telegraph Building
Friday 20 October, 11am – 1pm

Biennial art has become synonymous with internationalism, neo-liberalism and globalisation. Would it be cool to rock up with a smart phone and shoot a new film in each major city you visit with some locals and then get on the next plane? What makes a new biennial – responsive, embedded and tailored to its locality? Or is this the wrong question? Located within the Coventry Biennial events and exhibitions programme, we invite artists from across the West Midlands (and beyond) to conduct a debate on art, instrumentalism and next-generation biennials. We will be assisted in this session by Roney Fraser Munroe and Mike Stubbs, who will give us reality checks on the cult of the biennial and more. Book early for this session.

Book here





Led by New Art West Midlands, The Outer Limits programme for artists explores the extremities of artistic practice – seeking out the far and distant places that make visual art in the midlands distinct and encouraging peer interaction through 6 events across the region.

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.

The New Art Gallery Walsall, which has been under threat of deep public funding cuts, has been saved by a four-year £3.5m grant from Arts Council England. The gallery is also considering a partnership with the University of Wolverhampton to secure its long-term future.

Lucy McLauchlan, Birmingham Bt Pass showing at Centrala Art Gallery 8 July. Image credit Matt Watkins.

New Art West Midlands’ director Craig Ashley reflects on yesterday’s announcement from Arts Council England about investment to the region’s visual arts organisations through their National Portfolio for 2018-22.

Lucy McLauchlan, Birmingham By Pass showing at Centrala until 8 July. Image credit Matt Watkins.

Arts Council England’s National Portfolio for 2018-2022 will include thirteen West Midlands’ Visual Arts organisations, up from the current number of seven. This almost doubling of the visual arts contingent is great news for the region, and the sector is strengthened further through the inclusion of more organisations working under the categories of Museums and Combined Arts where there is increasing work in the widening realm of visual arts, and exploration of the innovative spaces between art forms.

With the exception of Birmingham’s The Drum, which closed last year due to a number of challenges and was consequently not in the running for this next round of funding, the current cohort of West Midlands-based National Portfolio Organisations working across Museums, Visual and Combined Arts remains unchanged and will continue to receive investment.

This is an active and positive endorsement of the great work being done in the region, and Arts Council’s decision provides a degree of certainty in uncertain times. Investment from other sources of income must continue to be a priority over the next four years, and the impact of this stabilising fund will allow the time to further develop and grow the opportunities for a wider and more diverse funding mix.

It is important of course that, within the context of some much needed good news for the arts, there is a balanced view. Where other areas of public funding for culture have been consistently cut in recent years, particularly the investment from our challenged local authorities, the National Portfolio money awarded through Arts Council demonstrates the absolute necessity of public money to secure and strengthen our creative output.

As recognised by the Creative Industries Federation, public money sits at the foundation of our £84b-a-year-and-growing creative industries sector, providing essential support at the start of careers and initiatives that go on to bring great success to Britain. Furthermore, anticipating the gap left by the withdrawal of EU funds beyond 2019 – subject of course to the ongoing Brexit negotiations – how do we shore-up and sustain future public investment in the arts? Arts Council England cannot do it alone, and a wider valuing of the arts in society must be a collective concern that we need to address together, within and beyond the visual arts.

The important and integral partnerships between our National Portfolio Organisations and others, both within and beyond the Creative Industries, will help to strengthen a platform for the visual arts over the coming years, and provide a firmer base to build upon for the future. From artists to arts organisations to educators and business, the benefit of the National Portfolio investment is channelled through the relatively few to the many.

So now is definitely a time to celebrate the achievement of those organisations and their supporters and partners that have strived to creative something crucial, critical and valuable. The National Portfolio status is something to be proud of, and an indicator of the valuable contribution organisations make as instigators, protectors, mediators, collaborators, risk-takers and trailblazers.

The inclusion of more organisations in the National Portfolio reflects the region’s growing confidence and the breadth of the work we do. Distinctively here in the West Midlands, the support for the smaller-scale, diverse, innovative and artist-led outfits bolsters the resilience of the visual arts ecology.

The collective strength of Birmingham’s Eastside organisations demonstrates the importance of working together to mutually support. Joining Eastside Projects in the National Portfolio are Centrala, Grand Union and Vivid Projects, all based in the Minerva Works complex in Digbeth, alongside Friction Arts at The Edge on Cheapside. This critical mass is a model that New Art West Midlands is keen to support elsewhere in the region, to ensure sustainability alongside critical success.

Our museums continue to get the support they desperately need and deserve, with Birmingham Museums Trust and The New Art Gallery Walsall receiving continued investment in the face of challenges with their respective local authority funding. Encouragingly, Wolverhampton Art Gallery receives an uplift from 2018 and they are joined in the National Portfolio by Culture Coventry (The Herbert Art Gallery) and Compton Verney, both of whom become regularly funded through Arts Council for the first time.

The region’s reputation for distinctive festivals shines through the Portfolio, with BE Festival and Fierce now joined by Flatpack, Shout, Capsule’s Supersonic Festival, and the Stoke on Trent-based British Ceramics Biennial. And in terms of innovation, BOM and Hereford-based Rural Media are supported to continue their leading roles in developing the territory within the scientific and digital realms. Wolverhampton’s Newhampton Arts Centre adds to the region’s complement of multi artform venues, widening the cultural offer in the Black Country.

These decisions demonstrate Art Council’s commitment to diversifying the National Portfolio, in terms of practice and geography as well as the protected characteristics including disability, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Among the existing National Portfolio, the Shropshire-based Disability Arts organisation DASH has received a significant uplift in their regular funding to expand their partnership work to commission disabled artists. DASH’s director Mike Layward commented:

“[This] is not only great news for the organisation as it secures our work across England for the next 4 years, but it’s also great news for the disabled artists we work with. The uplift will allow us to develop a new area of work with disabled children and young people who will be the disabled artists of tomorrow.”

New Art West Midlands’ director Craig Ashley reflects on yesterday’s announcement from Arts Council England about investment to the region’s visual arts organisations through their National Portfolio for 2018-22.

Image credit Alice Gale-Feeny

Artists Alice Gale-Feeny, Joe Fletcher Orr and Bryony Gillard were selected for Glasshouse, a residency devised by The New Art Gallery Walsall and Eastside Projects, with the aim to strengthen relationships between artists and galleries across the country. The three artists, based in Nottingham, Liverpool and Bristol respectively, spent time in May and June undertaking research, making and developing new conversations about their practice.

Anneka French spoke with them to find out more about their experiences at The New Art Gallery Walsall just prior to their studio presentation.


Image credit Alice Gale-Feeny

Anneka French: Maybe we could start with what it’s been like being in this artist studio space …

Joe Fletcher Orr: I think Alice should talk about that as her work has been about the space.

Alice Gale-Feeny: I guess my work has been more about the space. I was really interested in responding to this situation of being on show, being watched and being able to watch bodies in space. I’ve explored that by being in the building, not just in the studio.

Bryony Gillard: I think what’s different about working in this context is that the boundary between process and presentation is more permeable. I think we’ve all thought about what the space looks like when we leave which is a different way of using a studio to the usual. Here, it’s been possible to leave things up to test and people will see these things.

JFO: Maybe we should have left the door open. It probably looks more like an office.

AGF: Last week I had a good conversation with a man who came in to speak with me about the slide projector I was trying to mend. It was something about the old technology that invited him in. It was a talking point.

AF: Is the interaction important? There are maybe more similarities between Alice and Bryony’s practice but Joe, running Cactus, this interaction must be pretty important to you?

JFO: Yes it’s really important. My plan at the start was to have conversations with people and build relationships.

BG: This has happened well with the staff.

JFO: I’ve had a lot of conversations particularly with Zaynul, one of the gallery assistants. He’s really nice and the curatorial staff have been very supportive of course. We’ve had the whole care package.

BG: All the staff are very warm to the artist studio programme and people are really curious. This has been a great aspect of the institution.

AGF: I think they’re interested in the process of us being here which is not something I’ve experienced before.

AGF: Working with other people in this space has been a really interesting challenge. It frees up your own practice.

JFO: I’m used to hanging around with artists who have the same approach. But Bryony and Alice don’t really have the same approach as me. It’s challenged me a lot which is good because I haven’t been challenged much since leaving university I guess.

BG: We’ve all challenged each other and we’ve had intense conversations about our work and politics and process and this has been really productive. I’m experimenting a bit more without having to do loads of theoretical research – I feel I have more of a license to try something maybe even without a really strong reason to do it.

Alice Gale-Feeny and Bryony Gillard. Image credit Emily Warner.

AGF: We’re all on equal footing even though we are doing different things.

AF: Alice, how have you been using the building?

AGF: I’ve been photographing parts of the building mainly focussing on the staircases and aspects of the architecture that suggest movement to another part of the building. I’ve been thinking about how a space is designed for a public and how you get people to navigate a space and building things for different bodies. I’ve taken a lot of slides of stairwells and stair cases before I got here and I want to combine these in a slide carousel with the new ones in a reading and some kind of movement. It’s been nice to have a building to be in and use. I’ve enjoyed being out there and distilling things in here.

BG: We are doing something informal as the residency was programmed without any events. Both Alice and I might be showing some performance and we will be inviting people along.

JFO: I didn’t realise how short a month was. It’s gone so fast.

AGF: I’ve felt like I’ve been on residency even when I’ve not been in this space which has been really useful. Even on the train.

BG: Because none of us live here, everything is new and there is more time and space.

AGF: It’s about getting out of habitual ways of making and thinking.

AF: How much connection have you had with the gallery before?

JFO: I’ve not been here before but I’ve seen lots online. I don’t know why I hadn’t been, I’ve got no excuse. I went to the Leather Museum around the corner – there are places where I live like that that I’d never go to so it’s given me a different approach.

AF: Like being a tourist?

JFO: Yes and trying to research and learn.

AGF: It’s been a way of making the most of a place and the experience.

AF: How much of the place is coming into your research, Bryony?

BG: Nothing I’ve made is overtly related to the building. I’ve been working with dancers while I’ve been here who I’ve found through networks that Alice had. This is a site-specificity because I’m working with people from the area with whom I wouldn’t work otherwise and we’ve been working within this studio and the room next door. The physicality of the spaces have influenced our movements. It’s been obliquely connected to Walsall but not any historical information or anything like that. The residency was about having time and resources for me. I don’t think there are many programmes like this in the UK that are like this.

JFO: I want to make some works with leather, a long list of works that are related to the area but I’ve not made them yet. I wanted to figure out work for a solo show and group shows coming up that I can activate. I’ve made a good list to carry me through the year. I make an endless list and go through this. Alice thinks I’m not interested in process which is probably true and something I need to deal with head on.

AGF: I hope you didn’t take it as a criticism. I noticed our different ways of working.

Joe Fletcher Orr. Image by Alice Gale-Feeny

JFO: I always just want it to be done and do it again – everything else frustrates me. Even if the works made are about Walsall I can still show them elsewhere. I brought some footballs with me. I usually get artists to sign them but I’m going to do it with the gallery staff and leave it here. I was in an exhibition in Rome where all of the artists were quite famous conceptual artists and I took the role of the fan and got them to sign the football. I knew that them signing it would make the value of the work much higher than I could ever make. I’ve been asked to do it lots of times but I’d like to work with the staff. It’s not so much about football as memorabilia, signatures and value systems. I use a plain white football that looks like an art object – there is only one manufacturer of these. Teams are too loaded. I’ve thought about endless works about leather and footballs? I’m attracted to leather for loads of reasons though this is bad. People who’ve signed them usually want them.

AGF: It’s like looking at mirror of yourself.

AF: Can we talk about next steps? You have an open studio upcoming?

AGF: We have been like silent interlopers and we will leave this presentation but have not had so much interaction with the public.

BG: We are putting ourselves under public scrutiny.

AGF: More public scrutiny is good.

JFO: I’d really like to work with Walsall leather. Though it doesn’t matter if it is here and sometimes when I show things abroad and tell them local stories it has more of a mystery maybe. Sometimes it adds to the work if I take it completely far away.

AGF: It’s interesting to think about making something in one place and showing it elsewhere.

JFO: I think the photographs you took, Alice, could be shown anywhere. They are not too loaded with this place.

AGF: I want to take away recognisable features and to be more about public space. I hadn’t really thought about it as a collection that grows – about making something site-specific or general that means it can speak about other public places. I was looking at some of the architectural plans for the building but I like the way that it can be a bit more malleable. I’ve also been filming at a Quaker Meeting House in Bournville. They’ve let me film twice now and I hope that footage can become something though it might not be about Bournville exactly.

BG: The work I’ve been doing with the dancers is something new. I’ve never had the opportunity to work with more than one dancer at a time. I’ve used my materials budget to pay them which has felt like an enormous privilege – this has allowed me to improvise, play and take risks. I’ve learnt a lot from interacting, directing and working from them and I have lots of footage and experience to draw on and make something else. This has also been a good chance to push an existing project in a new direction. I wanted to explore my relationship to choreography and performance and this has completely moved things on for me. The dancers I worked with were so brilliant that I’d like to continue to work with them.

I’ve never spent any time in the Midlands before but I feel really excited at the thought of coming back here and developing relationships. It feels like a really exciting place to be. I think this would be great to accumulate and extend networks with Joe in Liverpool, Alice in Nottingham as well as within the West Midlands.


Glasshouse 2 will see James Lomax from Birmingham and Tom Verity from Stoke-on-Trent take up residence at The New Art Gallery Walsall from 4 July – 22 August 2017.

Alice Gale-Feeny, Joe Fletcher Orr and Bryony Gillard were selected for Glasshouse, a residency devised by The New Art Gallery Walsall and Eastside Projects, with the aim to strengthen relationships across the country. Anneka French spoke with them.