BRITISH ART SHOW 9 - Public Engagement Ambassador Project
Alex Vann, a director of RAW, was delighted to work as Public Engagement Ambassador for British Art Show 9 in March and April 2022. In a project sponsored by University of Wolverhampton, Alex worked with Social Prescribing link workers and adult participants in Wolverhampton and delivered 5 workshops, across 2 locations: the University's School of Art and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
The British Art Show is a landmark touring exhibition that celebrates the vitality of recent art made in Britain. Organised every five years by Hayward Gallery Touring the exhibition brings the work of artists defining new directions in contemporary art to four cities across the UK.
BAS9 is curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar, and presented in collaboration with the cities of Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth.
These themes were agreed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and the global recognition of racial injustice sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020. All three are even more relevant now.
34 artists showed in BAS9 in Wolverhampton to look at how we live with and give voice to difference, while also extending our understanding of identity to beyond the human. Their projects often blur the boundaries between art and life, and imagine alternative futures. Through their works, they propose alternative economies and ways of living together that emphasise commonality, collaboration and care. They do so through film, photography, painting, sculpture, and performance, as well as through projects that don’t sit easily in any one category.
Alex chose to focus on the work of one of the artists exhibiting in Wolverhampton: Michael Armitage.
Workshop # 1: Introduction to Social Prescribing Link workers
Michael Armitage's work
Photos © Graham Everitt: Showing the 'imperfections' in Armitage's canvases. These so called 'imperfections' become integral and beautiful parts of the paintings. In the same way people have 'imperfections' but these are an important and valid part of who they are.
In this first session, as well as giving a background to British Art Show 9 and Michael Armitage's work, Alex encouraged the link workers to create their own artwork, using a 2D style to echo Armitage's style at the same time as doing a 'Post-It' note activity about possible practical activities their participants might enjoy and the impact the project might have on them.
Workshop #2: Asian Women's group
Facilitated by Ros Manasseh, this session focused on the use of lumbago bark in Armitage's work. The video above shows the process of the bark being made into a cloth and its importance on the culture of the Baganda people in Uganda.
Alex did his own example paintings and encouraged the participants to make their own paintings on specially sources bark board with the possibility of making Rangoli style designs to put their own culture into the artworks.
Beautiful artworks made by the participants
Workshop #3: Art 'Novices' (i)
For this workshop, Alex wanted to provide an accessible art technique which allowed the participants to create 2D artworks influenced by Africa and decided to use the African Dot Painting technique.
This simple but effective technique uses either acrylic paint and cotton buds or paint pens on black paper / card to paint pictures either of the participants own designs or using templates. Below are downloads of the resources used.
All the work above has been made by 'art novices' and we think it's fantastic - what do you think?
Workshop #4: Experienced artists
Alex focused on the use of animals in Michael Armitage's (and other artists') art. Animals can have many significant meanings and the participants used this as a starting point to create a piece of work which combined an animal that has meaning to them with another aspect which tells us more about their own personalities. Alex's example was a lion with a vibrant Pride flag backdrop.
Workshop #5: Art 'Novices' (ii)
In the final workshop which included some of the experienced artists from the previous session as well as the group of 'novices' we looked at 'newspaper mosaics' as a way of created 2D art - like we'd done in the very first session with Link Worker staff.
Some people chose to create dot paintings and it was nice to see some digital art too - from a talented participate who preferred to use an Apple Pencil and the ProCreate app in iPad Pro.
1. The Influence of European Art on Michael Armitage
2. Armitage's painting style
This was a highly rewarding and fulfilling project all round and some of the participants' artworks will be featured in an exhibition of works by other British Art Show 9 Ambassador projects at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 24th April - 15th May 2022.
Alex Vann is an all round creative. He formed RAW in 1997 out of a University project and restarted it in 2018 after working as a graphic designer for agencies and in-house for many years.