11 Midlands-based art graduates take part in the RBSA biennial mentoring and career development programme, Next Wave. The exhibition includes painting, drawing, print, sculpture, installation and photography. Learn about the practice of each artist and see their work at the RBSA Gallery, 18 – 29 February.
Haseebah Ali is an artist and print maker based in Birmingham. Her work centres around cultural and political themes and her artistic aim is to create artwork that not only educates her but the audience to which it is viewed. Ali is driven by storytelling and capturing narrative within her work.
Her Syrie prints arose during her final year project when the Syrian refugee crisis was in the headlines. She discovered that many people either did not know about the crisis or were interpreting media narratives with negativity. Ali therefore created a body of work that reflects an empathetic view of the situation, focusing on the displacement of people and the resulting emotional turmoil caused by displacement, rather than the political context.
The dry point etchings depict the crowds of Syrian refugees fleeing their country when the crisis was at its most chaotic. The orange detailing is deliberate to highlight different facial expressions and emphasise the vast number of lives that have been affected by the crisis.
Ali graduated from Birmingham City University in Visual Communication Illustration in 2018 with a 2:1.
Memory, perception and the human experience of being in the world is the primary focus of Julie Chambers’ work. Her main concern centres on being able to express emotions, ideas and thoughts of landscape using the language of paint.
Experimentation is the means by which she investigates, develops and morphs techniques of paint application. She combines traditional painterly techniques with more relaxed and intuitive methods to create images. Where images have become ubiquitous with the growth of digital media and photography, the struggle for her is how to produce images using the medium of paint, in ways that are fresh and alive with a vitality of their own. The experimental nature of her process is changeable in practical terms, however the subject matter, namely Nature, remains a constant.
Traveling throughout the South West of England and West Scotland, her partly real, partly imagined landscapes, worked from imagination and memory, have titles which reflect mythological places from old Norse, old English and Greek mythology.
Chambers graduated from Coventry University, BA Fine Art, MA. Painting, 2019
Ewan Johnston is a painter working and living in Wolverhampton.
His work is rooted in his life and the lives of people around him. He draws influence from both Art History and contemporary narratives mixed with stories of the everyday. He is concerned about what it means to be a young adult living in a small city in England.
Working through the medium of painting his practice is focused on colour, survival, joy, fear, humour and pain. His practice is his purpose, his refuge and the way he is most comfortable with expressing himself.
Johnston graduated from Edinburgh College of Art, BA (Hons) Painting and Drawing 2012 and Birmingham City University, MA Fine Art, 2019
Darius Martisius’ sculptures explore aspects of biomorphism, or the incorporation of natural forms into his work, expressed as either preserving certain inherent characteristics of my raw materials, or creating shapes or structures of his own that he conceives as being in synch or harmony with their original makeup.
His conceptual process of creating each piece begins by experimenting with a variety of materials including metal, concrete and wood. His final selections are based on the physical requirements necessary to materialise his vision. He considers each component part as a stand-alone whole, respecting the physical qualities it holds whether entirely from nature or combinations of the natural with elements that are manmade.
Lines, structural irregularities and surface textures are manipulated to express his thoughts and emotions of the moment, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the whole. Thereby forming a connection or even a collaboration between human and organic processes. The idea behind Martisius’ approach reflects challenges we all face, particularly integrating new-found freedoms and increased independence into traditional systems, frameworks and ways of life that have been in existence for many generations. His art can perhaps be understood as an abstract interpretation of the ongoing evolutionary and transformational journey from past to present to future.
Martisius’ graduated from The University of Derby with a BA (Hons) Fine Art
Ella Oakley examines the relationship between the maternal bond and separation, metaphorically representing this connection in the form of hand constructed woven or knitted textiles, combined and embodied in plaster.
The two materials merge but neither engulfs one another. The plaster forms evolve from the scientific, rigid dynamic pieces on the handmade metal plinths, to the natural irregular ovoid that is birthed onto the floor. Oakley created some of the wool material pieces with her mother, as knitting is a hobby, they both share.
The cuboid, flat sculptures situated on metal plinths, were made by a plaster cast process. The artist bridged the gap between this male orientated minimalism and the feminine maternal form with the physical contact and dripping surface of the ground level pieces. The floor based pieces were made by layering up thick coats of plaster by hand, to encase the wool and finished with a drip layer of plaster for the outer surface. These works are emotive and corporeal, representing the nature of the female human body with the abject.
Oakley is fine-art-textile and sculpture-based artist; currently studying for her Masters, in Arts and Project Management at Birmingham City University; Birmingham School of Art. She graduated from Birmingham City University; Birmingham School of Art with a BA in Fine Art, 2019.
Rita Rodner began her artistic practice working across the traditional media (primarily painting and drawing) gradually developing interest in digital photography and most recently in alternative photographic methods and techniques.
Her form-oriented abstract and experimental works are inspired by shapes, configurations and patterns of physical and digital reality. Their aim is to reveal the forms and structures beyond the imagination and expose the complexity of the world beneath its surface appearance.
In the latest works, she brings together the observations, knowledge and reflections about the subject of information and communication. She reaches out to history and the most up to date theory of information to intuitively and spontaneously illustrate the fascinating facts about the transformability of information and the fundamental role it plays in the interconnected universe.
Rodner graduated with an MFA from Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw (2002) and MA Photography from Falmouth University (2019). She lives and works in Northampton.
Kathryn Sawbridge is a Fine Artist with a background in photography. Her approach to collage is impacted by her photographic background, in that she creates work which broadly follows the composition rules of photography but takes components from real photographs and brings them together in a recognisable scene. The finished photomontage may at first appear normal, but with the elements being taken from one context and reassembled in a new context, on closer examination the new scene becomes surreal, albeit having the outward look of photographic reality.
During her first degree in Photography at the University of Wolverhampton, her work explored identity and obscurity, and how semiotics can give clues to obscured identity. During her studies for her Masters in Fine Art, University of Wolverhampton, Sawbridge continued her exploration of the building up of layers of personality but used dress patterns and materials to create life size installations to show the impact of families and other relationships on personality development.
Sawbridge is a member of Sutton Arts Society and was recently elected to the Birmingham Art Circle.
Drawer is on a mission to explore Britain by traveling the length and breadth of the country and taking at least one analogue photograph for every square kilometre listed on the Ordnance Survey map. This project developed out of an obsession with walking and drawing, in a need to escape the isolation that can come out of a studio-based practice.
The works presented here are three examples of sketchbooks from walks in 2019 and objects collected whilst on the walks; these will be used to develop the artist’s work at a later date.
Glasgow School of Art, Master’s Degree in Fine Art Practice
Oliver Turnpenny works between digital form making and slip cast ceramics transforming the fleeting nature of the digital into tactile everyday objects. He is interested in how the relatively new digital form making medium can work with traditional craft practice updating the old by incorporating the new and the nature of new digital material.
The three pieces on display are examples of three different making methods. The fractal is a digitally intensive method of modelling the natural. A fractal is a shape that is used at different scales and rotations to make up a larger object. This can be seen in rock and landscape formations.
Traditionally shapes have been turned or thrown first before slip casting. Interpreting this method in the digital to Turnpenny first meant deciding on the profile and turning the shape around a central pivot. This made a shape with interesting overlaps where the profile edges meet.
The final method pushes the boundaries of the handmade into the digital by free forming the shape by placing and manipulating each point of form, stretching and manipulating the raw digital material.
The final unglazed surface is a raw texture of the making process from the digital form, 3D printing to slip casting with gypsum plaster, the marks of the process can be seen on the surface of the pots.
Oliver Turnpenny graduated from Birmingham City University, BA (Hons) Art and Design
Much of Leigh Whurr’s work is heavily influenced by Surrealism. It often delves into absurd or existential territory and explores the ambiguous space between reality and interpretation, more specifically the notion of manufactured perception and the role of language in our relationship with the unknown.
The surreal often evokes this type of question, by confronting us with something strange that does not correspond with a predetermined visual language. If we learn the language first, it comes to shape the way we think. Whurr likes to reverse that process by encouraging thought or an imaginative process that lies outside what seems immediately definable, the work then itself becomes the language that emerges from the interpretation, rather than the other way around.
Whurr paints digitally, which involves the use of a graphics tablet. The two digital paintings on display reflect a recurring theme in his work of characters at odds with the environment. In this case, subway or train interiors that create a sense of juxtaposition in which we are in close proximity with others, yet isolated by an unspoken cultural boundary.
Leigh Whurr graduated from Birmingham City University, BA (Hons) Fine Art, 2017 and MA Fine Art 2019
Jodie Wingham’s work combines printmaking with non-traditional methods of display to create artworks that playfully distort images. Inspired by the act of observing others and the audiences’ enjoyment of this process, she focuses on the viewers desire to look and gain information, often using imagery with voyeuristic tendencies.
With a keen interest in getting people to ‘really look’ her practice regularly engages in the active crossing of mediums and processes, researching alternative ways to create works which can effectively use these processes in association with her chosen themes.
The pleasure taken by human beings in the act of ‘looking’ underpins Wingham’s more recent work. She plays with the satisfaction we receive when an image is presented to us that reveals something not usually seen, a glimpse into the hidden. This can take the form of an open button on a woman’s shirt in her screen print Unbuttoned (Woman), 2018, or the embrace of a couple featured in her plaster work Embrace(ing), 2019. Both works create conversations surrounding intimacy not just between the people in the work but between the viewer and the work.
Wingham plays with our desire to understand the information provided within an image (or in this case missing from the images on display). There is a greater need required from the audience to fill in the gaps or interpret a narrative within the image in order to explore the act of looking.
Jodie Wingham graduated from Birmingham City University with Distinction with an MA in Fine Art
By Magda Petford, Marketing Coordinator RBSA
See all work at Next Wave 2020
Next Wave 2020 exhibition is on display 18 – 29 February at the RBSA Gallery. Join the Next Wave artists and curators at the Opening Reception on 19 February, 6- 8pm or for a guided tour on Saturday 29 February, 2 – 4pm. Both events are free.
Next Wave 2020 is sponsored by Galliard & Apsley House Capital Partnership.
A special thanks to:
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist-led charity which supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of exhibitions, events and workshops.
The RBSA runs an exhibition venue – the RBSA Gallery – in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, a short walk from the city centre. The gallery is open 7 days a week and admission to all our exhibitions is free.
Find out how to reach the RBSA Gallery here.
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