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An exhibition of extraordinary photographic work inspired by Birmingham’s industrial, political and social history will be on display from 25 July 2019. Forward, a collection of work by artist Gwen Wilkinson, explores facets of the city’s rich heritage through installations, prints and ceramics.
One extraordinary piece on display will be Wall of Wonder (2019), a large-scale series of 80 cyanotypes depicting highlights of significant events, inventions and people from the 13th Century to the present day.
Another significant work is 1974 – an installation piece that refers to Birmingham’s pub bombings on 21 November 1974. Featuring two vintage silver boxes made in the Jewellery Quarter, each box is inlaid with a cyanotype print of the two pubs targeted by the bombs and contain a series of cabochons listing the names of the victims.
The use of the historical cyanotype process is central to this exhibition. Thomas Wedgwood, the son of famous potter and founding member of the Lunar Society Josiah Wedgwood, was an early experimenter of photography. However, his experiments resulted in shadow image photograms that quickly faded. The shadow-like images and striking ‘Wedgwood blue’ colour of the cyanotype process is a specific tribute to the work of both men.
Other pieces on display in Forward include;
- Cyanotype pinhole paper prints interpreting three poems by Erasmus Darwin.
- A selection of cyanotype images fixed onto porcelain vases presenting a contemporary interpretation of the renowned Wedgwood blue ware. Created in collaboration with renowned local ceramicist Andrew Matheson.
- Cyanotype photogram mural depicting skeletal leaf prints, referencing the attempts by Thomas Wedgwood to find a way to permanently “fix” a photographic image.
The collection reflects Wilkinson’s deep fascination with the city and its history. She explains: “I don’t think people outside of Birmingham realise quite what a fascinating place it really is nor the vital role its Lunar Society played in the advancement of science, engineering, manufacturing and the arts. This exhibition is a site-specific response to my many visits to Birmingham over the years and each piece of work relates to notable points in its history, good and bad, and to the remarkable people responsible for the city’s identity. I am thrilled to be able to show this collection of work at Argentea and hope the people of Birmingham enjoy it”
Wilkinson is the recipient of several arts awards including the Thomas Dammann Jr Award 2018 Golden Fleece Award in 2011 and the Artlinks Award in 2009. Her work is represented in several State art collections including the Office of Public Works and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
All pieces on display will be available to purchase.