(Originally written 23/09/18 8.30pm)
A trip to the New Art Gallery Walsall
On Friday we spent a few hours having a curator tour of our local art gallery. I have been before, but that was many years ago and I had no memories of it at all. I was very impressed by the size of the gallery; I assumed it would have a small collection of works by local artists, but in reality there were lots of pieces from many different well-known artists.
We began in the Family Gallery, an area focused on interactivity and connection between artists and visitors. The current exhibition there was by Mahtab Hussain and was entitled “Going back home to where I came from.” There were many snippets of his visit to Kashmir in 2016, and with the help of the local community, the art gallery were constructing a traditional Kashmiri mud house within the exhibition for museum-goers to explore. It reminded me of visiting science and history museums as a child, and it made an interesting cross-over of art and education in my mind. I would’ve liked the exhibition to be a little larger as I thought it was quite a compelling collection of works.
We then progressed up to floor 3 of the gallery, where there was the work of 21 artists as part of their final MA Fine Art exhibitions. The students were from Wolverhampton University, and I found the range of work shown very diverse. Some of it was a bit strange and not really the kind of thing I enjoy. For example, the work of Todd Jones was shown, which was a rectangle of paint dust on the floor of the site. I originally thought that this was just a taped off area waiting upon a sculpture piece or suchlike, and did not realise it was paint. The accompanying photographs explained the premise, and were very pleasing to look at. My favourite piece was by Bethany Dugmore, a look into the concept of surveillance entitled “After the fact.” The exhibition was really useful to see, as it was far easier to relate to the work of students and see that it is something potentially on the horizon for us, instead of that of established artists where their journey is less visible. I shall cover this exhibition in more detail in an essay piece, and really explore how the pieces made me feel.
The rest of the Gallery is a bit of a blur to me as I felt like we were quite rushed. We visited the 4th floor, where there was “Intermission” by Grace A Williams on show. The curator explained to us that Williams found two slides featuring 19th century men and hand-tinted them to draw attention to the role of women in photography, who would often be employed to add colour to photographs during the time the slide photographs were taken. The concept behind the work was impressive, but again, I felt like it was something I didn’t really “get” unfortunately. As time goes by, I really feel like my ideas of art are constantly being challenged, which is absolutely a good thing, and I would like to think that after some of my prejudices are broken down I could revisit the gallery and properly appreciate what it has to offer.
We then went down to floor 2 and viewed the Garman Ryan collection. I felt personally affected by the tale of Epstein’s life and his childrens’ feeling towards him. One of the quotes from them that was displayed said something along the lines of “nobody cares about your art, they will care about how much of a bad father you are.” I struggle with moderation and finding my own way to leave a mark on the world, and worry that my obsessing over my personal goals with affect my relationships with my children, so this really hit me in an unexpected way. We continued to view the work on show on this floor, but in all honesty I only remember snippets as I felt we didn’t have the time to look effectively.
One thing I did find surprising about the gallery was the idea of artists in residence. It is a term I had heard in the past but never really thought to look into. There is a studio space within the gallery for artists to work in, and it has a large window so museum-goers can watch them if they so desire. I really like the idea of this, and would be very interested to see an artist at work there. There is also an extensive art library on-site, which I believe will be very useful for the future of my college course.