The founders of the Ikon Gallery would have been in the very same space that the work of the New Birmingham Artists is now. The building that housed the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists now houses Medicine Bakery and Gallery, who are exhibiting the Ikon’s show ‘Forward: New Art from Birmingham’. I sat down with Ikon’s Exhibitions Manager Roma Piotrowska, to dive deeper into Birmingham’s most exiting exhibition in years.
There is a beautiful connection to the city evident in the show. It is in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw from Grand Central and next to the Nando’s on New Street, it can be found by anyone who wants to. The work is by artists in the city, through this there is a pride that seeps through each piece, and it is something you feel proud of simply by living here. The queue of people that snaked through the street on the opening night underlines this universality, there is an appetite within Birmingham for art from within, an outlet for the creative pressure building in the studio spaces and art schools. The show would not be possible without the city, without the flourishing artistic community that holds it together, providing a life and exuberance alternative to the incoming biggest Primark in the world.
This love for the second city filters into a worry for what the future holds. The uneasiness that comes with looking ahead to HS2 being determined to dig up Digbeth, uprooting countless artist studios and spaces, and the end of the yearly New Art West Midlands exhibition, leaving emerging artists without a platform, is evident throughout the Ikon offices. This cloudy horizon has flung Ikon into action, holding the flame of new creative potential against fear for further ignorance for the arts. Regardless, ‘Forward…’ is defiant; it suggests a headstrong push into the unknowable future, belief in art despite everything.
In selecting pieces for the show, the gallery chose emerging artists that they knew, and as such the exhibition feels personal and intimate – a close relationship between the exhibited and the exhibitors, through to the exhibition and the people. These emerging artists create an overwhelming sense of the new – the exciting new – as the wall and floor-based works pour out of the space, connected only through their newness. The art is connected insofar as the artists are all standing on the precipice of illustrious careers.
‘Forward’ is essential for Birmingham now, it is forging a connection with the people, towards a love for contemporary art that can exist within everyone. The status attached to an Ikon exhibition brings a pedigree to the space and presents a guaranteed enjoyable time. Passion, love, worry, and uncertainty surround ‘Forward’, combining to create an incredible experience.
Forward runs at Medicine Bakery and Gallery until March 24th