Birmingham Art Circle and Shapeshifters: sculptors and artists unite

Two respected art groups in Birmingham are joining forces for a joint exhibition this autumn…

The Birmingham Art Circle has a longstanding association with the Society, and includes artists working in a range of media. The group aims to support its members in their work and offers presentations on aspects of the working artist’s life.

Shapeshifters is a group of sculptors based at Winterbourne Gardens and Dudley, where the original group was formed under nationally-renowned sculptor John Tonks.

They work in stone, wood, clay and metal, and have a permanent exhibition at Winterbourne.

Viv Astling, Hon Sec of the RBSA and sculptor, said: ‘I became involved with the predecessor organisation to the Shapeshifters by going to workshops run by John Tonks. We called it the Tonks Group.

‘He was based in the Midlands and held courses at Winterbourne House and Gardens, and in Wolverhampton. He was a Vice President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors so was highly respected and an excellent teacher.

‘His students formed a group when he retired and we stayed together – some 30 years later we are still together as the Shapeshifters. There is still activity at Winterbourne but I spend most of my time at a second venue we have in Dudley College.’

Work by David Harban, member of Shapeshifters

Opportunities for artists

Viv is also a member of Birmingham Art Circle, and says joining a variety of groups and societies keeps his practice sharp and his output more consistent than it would be were he left to his own devices.

‘It isn’t easy to get your work shown in public unless it is really commercial and what I do in stone often does not sit well in certain galleries.

‘About ten years ago I joined Birmingham Art Circle as they have two group exhibitions a year.

‘As an RBSA member there is an annual cycle of Society shows: the Members and Associates Annual Exhibition, the Open and StArt exhibitions where you are guaranteed that your work will be shown.

‘This cycle of exhibitions gives a momentum to the year’s work and forces me to concentrate on making and finishing sculpture. I’ve been very busy with four major exhibitions this autumn, so I have been hard at work!’

The Birmingham Art Circle and Shapeshifters exhibition runs from 23 September to 5 October, with a Celebratory Open Day on 28 September, 12 – 2pm.

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