The West Midlands Open 2014

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Housed within the Birmingham Art Gallery, The West Midlands Open 2014 (running till 15 Feb) is an exhibition of artworks by practising and emerging artists from across the region. displaying an impressive array of pieces, including painting, sculpture and photography.

Seeking refuge from the insane German Market crowds that currently plague Birmingham, myself and my girlfriend visited the exhibition last weekend, finding some really interesting stuff amidst the quiet. More information on the show itself can be found here.

‘Zero Zero’ – Anthony Butterfield (2013) 


From across the wide spaces of the hall, this caustic, near hallucinatory photonegative-esque image really stands out. Through its alien landscape and simple conceit, the painting is one that invites the viewer to come nearer to engage and stare, its bold tones revealing new layers of complexity the closer you do.


The grass for example (see above), seems to sprout under scrutiny. What at first appears a neon wash reveals to a dense convincing weave of roots evoked through light yet vivid scrapes. The lawn seems to hum with production, with all the small stems subtly suggests a new direction. By having so much hidden detail throughout, it is easy to become entranced in one section and forget the rest. Such as the smouldering trees:


Their trunks ablaze with a menacing hellish colour. Their own dense red playing melding against the bubbling lava of the orange ground around them. Disregarding any true accurate portrayal, the trees become compelling rushes upward with their brushstrokes aggressively visible. Though, as if to belie the latent energy deep within this painting, between the wild oaks we see a calm, incorrigible sky. Its blue nothingness a smart antithesis to the manic energy elsewhere.

 Castle Drongo – Ian Gibson (2014)

In this wonderfully contorted piece, Gibson calls upon a style slightly comicbook to display the archaic nature of old institutions.


Or maybe it’s just more of a rumination on the limits of shape. Regardless, I love the fact that this dramatic reimagining seems to not only defy logic through the malleable nature of its pattern, but the fact the various turrets pass through the other as if nothing were there. Everything else in the painting seems normal, and is displayed in an interesting technique of great delicacy. Indeed the forest from above feels more of a seascape, with the mountains at the back ushered through in delicate ghostly blues. The contradictory shape though still remains, and for as long as I stared at ‘Castle Drango’, I felt some definite familiarity but couldn’t place it.

Then it clicked, as, to me, it looks like a heart. The various ventricles and fist-like shape reminiscent of the organ. As to why, I couldn’t really say, perhaps it’s a metaphor? Institutions are nothing without their people? That feels right, but isn’t exactly fun. I much prefer just dwelling on the goofy yet entrancing confluence of its shape.

‘The Love Of Three Oranges’ – David Paul Gleeson (2014)IMG_2722

A work of mind bending detail. This solemn portrait of great precision is quite a sight to behold.  Three oranges rest upon two stacked crates below a single light, with all the permutations of shade delivered in incredible skill.


From the skin on the fruit themselves, to the light that filters through the first box and down onto the second, the effect is one of peace and calm. With everything from the upside down writing on the top box, to the staples that keep it together realised with a wonderful eye. In its adorning caption, Gleeson states that he wishes to create still life work that obtains a certain portraiture in nature. With its consummate skill and high tangible intensity for such an everyday sight, ‘The Love of Three Oranges’ succeeds.

‘I am sorry to inform you…’ – Dan Auluk 2014

The final piece I’ve chosen is difficult to really analyse without sounding (even more) pretentious. So here’s what the Birmingham Art Gallery have to say:

This piece is a framed rejection letter from the 2010 West Midlands Open. The screwed up letter is the remainder of a brief and deliberate performance in response to the rejection. Through the rejection letter’s submission and acceptance into West Midlands Open 2014 it has been transformed into an artwork.


I love this idea. As to the actual acceptance subsequently into the competition through it, that doesn’t really matter to me personally. It’s more the statement of that impulse awakened during rejection.

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