Taiba Akhtar: Ruskin in the Contemporary

Taiba Akhtar presented her response to visiting Highbury Hall at the recent Ruskin symposium at Birmingham School of Art: Celebrating Imperfection: John Ruskin and the Creative Arts in the 21stCentury.

‘In relation to the visit, I worked on a set of fragments cutting in and out of the lino taking inspiration from Highbury’s interior, particularly the cracked marbled patterned tiles correlating to Interconnected 03, 04 and 06 exhibited at the BMI. As the black merged with the white, silver and blue areas created delicacy and fragility, coupled with the extender’s transparent nature enhanced the fragments residue. Going back to the fireplace, I was drawn to the cracks and the pattern gradually fading, associating the passage of time, thus translating and evolving. Fragmentising wholes encourages one to slow down and pick up minute detail through close attentiveness. 

Marks are made, marks are cut, surfaces are covered, and surfaces are cut, twisted and turned as multiples unravelling yet all derive from wholes. The wholes, in a sense are incomplete and the fragments in flux yesterday, today and tomorrow. Visibility to Invisibility, Invisibility to Visibility(2019) entailed 12 engraved sculptures positioned around 13 acrylic risers alongside delicate cut outs from iterations of Infinite and Interconnected spread across a plinth, as toppling precarious forms implying a dystopian sense. This was due to the risers stacked from the left, gradually spread dynamically as opposed to contrived forming little islands on a landscape immersing the viewer to look beneath the surfaces. The printed fragments scattered and scrunched embraces their imperfections shifting one from their initial pristine utopian nature.’

Interconnected 03, 04 and 06. Prints from Art after Nature, BMI Ruskin Exhibition

And on that note, I hope you enjoy seeing the variety of responses in relation to Celebrating Imperfection: John Ruskin and the Creative Arts in the 21stCentury. Just before I end, if anyone is interested in seeing more imagery or reading further about any of the works discussed feel free to take a look at www.taibakhtar.com.

Ruskin Symposium

Material Cluster members Taiba Akhtar and Lucy Parris are contributing to this 200th anniversary symposium being held in the school of art on Friday 17th. Below is the programme and additional Ruskin anniversary events being held throughout the year.

Art after Nature, Days of Future Past is a concurrent exhibition of MA student’s response to Ruskin’s legacy in the SoA and Midland Institute.

Element @ Stryx Gallery


||Element||is an active research space inviting the viewer to look again at both the ordinary and the unexpected. Kirsten and Ana have gathered materials from diverse locations and situations; news footage, rehearsal spaces, gardens, buildings and digital spaces.  

Through distilling, extracting, reformulating and repositioning sound, film, photographs, objects and text we will make new connections exploring; the suggested, what is missing, the contradictory, the bits outside of the frame: the uncomfortable details which have been forgotten or the serendipitous moments which were mislaid.

Private View:  6pm Saturday 18th May 2019  Open: 10 – 4 Sunday 19th May 2019

Stryx Gallery | Minerva Works | Fazeley Street | Birmingham

anarutter.com   |   kirstenadkins.co.uk

Gilchrist-Fisher Award 2020

With a prize of £6000, the Award welcomes entries on the broad theme of Landscape from artists under the age of 30 on 1st January 2020.

The deadline for entries for the 2020 Gilchrist-Fisher Award is 1st June 2019, just a few weeks away.

For details and to download the entry form, please visit www.gilchristfisheraward.co.uk.
For any further information please e-mail info@gilchristfisheraward.com.

Developing Your Creative Practice: Arts Council success

Catherine Baker is delighted to announce that she was successful in a Developing Your Creative Practice Award from Arts Council England. This competitive scheme received 909 eligible applications in Round 4 from which 100 awards were made. The funding will go towards the rework/finalisation of a short film that will be exhibited in Denmark at Musikkens Hus in August 2019. Round 5 of this scheme is now open if anyone is interested, grants are for between £2000 – £10,000. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Make Your Mark

An energetic tour de force in support and valuing of drawing by art critic Laura Cumming in the Observer. Coinciding with the first UK Art Fair 17-19May, Saatchi Gallery and drawings in over 60 UK galleries.


Kathe Kollowitz


10th April 2019 | 16:00-18:00 GMT | Birmingham School of Art |

It was great to see many colleagues and students turn up to yesterday evening’s cluster event at the School of Art. It was particularly good to welcome staff and students from the Education School at BCU for the first time so we hope to see more of them at future events. Kimberley and Karl Foster [SORHED] were their brilliant selves and many described their approach as engaging, “…I enjoyed the playfulness of the talk which was so engaging and enlightening. It was great to see material articulated in this way.”

Contemporary drawing symposium

We are working up a Contemporary Drawing symposium programme coinciding with Canadian Drawing Artists Matt Shane and Jim Holyoak at Midlands Arts Centre in September 2019. There will be a range of academic and practice opportunities for cluster members to contribute and participate in. In and outdoors.

The gloomy worlds of this artistic duo create phantasmagorical ecosystems on the verge of reality. The Who’s Haunts immerses the viewer in a house engulfed by the entropic forces of nature. Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, pavillon Pierre Lassonde
© Jim Shane Holyoak and Matt Shane, The Who’s Haunts, 2018
The recent Ways of Belonging show at MAC featured BCU Graduates
Sabiheh Awanzai Mahmoud, FreeHandFanatic, Farwa Moledina and Anisa Fazal

DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP: Impact, collaboration and working internationally

16th January 2019 | 16:00-18:00 GMT | Birmingham School of Art |

Using the School of Art’s recent representation at IMPACT10 in Santander, Spain as a starting point, the second session from the Material Encounters Research Cluster will focus on the development of shared international outputs between research staff and doctoral researchers as a key strategy for the development of ambitious collegiate, future projects.

4pm | Catherine Baker ~ Catherine will introduce the successful Diverso ENCUENTROS submission for IMPACT10 and plans for future 2020 submissions.

4.40 | Jonnie Turpie ~ PGR Student Jonnie will discuss the impact that attendance at this event had on his practice-based research, extension of research networks and on becoming part of an international community of print-based researchers.

5.00 | Soha AlZaid ~ PGR Student Soha will present her latest research paper, to be published as part of the IMPACT10 conference proceedings in the very near future.

5.20pm | Jacqueline Taylor ~ Jacqueline Taylor will discuss her collaborative international project Otherlands at the University of Memphis and facilitate discussion of future projects for the Material Encounters cluster.

We hope that you can join us to discuss the ways in which we can extend involvement in future event(s) planning and networking opportunities through the Material Encounters Research Cluster.


10th October 2019 | 16:00-18:00 GMT | Birmingham School of Art |

The first Material Encounters research seminar took place back in October and was led by artist and researcher Flora Parrott.

The event consisted of a talk by Flora about her interdisciplinary practice-based research and was followed by an interactive workshop exploring interdisciplinary, collaboration and materiality.

Bio: Flora Parrott is an artist and researcher currently undertaking a TECHNE funded PhD between the Geography Department at Royal Holloway University London and the Printmaking Department at The Royal College of Art. Her work looks at notions of the subterranean, the restructuring of the senses in the dark and conceptions of reality and fiction. The work is often developed in collaboration with experts working in other fields, Parrott is interested in experimenting with the conference format by organising interdisciplinary, thematic events that take place within the exhibition environment. Previous exhibitions include Wysing Arts Centre, Atelier Fidalga , Såo Paulo, The Earth Science Museum, USP, Såo Paulo, The Bluecoat, Norwich Castle Museum and Tintype London. In 2016 Parrott was the Artist In Residence at Royal Geographic Society-IBG developing a project about natural caves and caving titled ‘Swallet’. A publication of the same name has been designed and published with Camberwell Press.