One of my favourite places to be in Birmingham is Bridleyplace. This is the area that surrounds part of the Birmingham Canals, a microcosm of its own modern making. Here you can find countless shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes. And although it may seem strange, a cinema hides in the corner of The Mailbox as well. However, what I didn’t know was here, was an art gallery. I have been here on adventures with friends, to throw pennies into fountains and even to see my favourite band live in Arena Birmingham. But in all that time, I had never come across an art gallery in this small neighbourhood.
In all honesty, I’ve never properly been into art. I like it at face value: I have prints framed on my walls or little stickers from some independent artists, but nothing more than that. I have walked through art galleries and art museums before and never really felt interested in any of the art on display. But after stumbling across Ikon Gallery whilst on a day out with my friends, I’m reconsidering my views on it.
What first caught my attention was the architecture of the building itself. The Ikon Gallery is housed by what was originally Oozells Street Board School, an old Victorian primary school established in the 1870s. Throughout the years, parts of this building have been redeveloped, with it’s latest renovation dating back in 1998 when Ikon decided to settle into the area. Although it may look like it’s from another era from the outside, the inside of this Grade II building is astonishingly contemporary.
This antique building combined with stunning cherry blossom trees in the main square of Brindleyplace creates a place like no other. The blossom trees are also a relatively new instalment to the area, and I absolutely love them. Look one way and you can find yourself in a calming meditation area that doesn’t seem to fit amongst the grey, underwhelming streets of Birmingham. Look in the opposite direction and you will find yourself in a white-washed classroom, new art exhibitions hanging from the walls.
There are currently two main exhibits spread across two floors of the Ikon Gallery. The majority of the artwork is from Hew Locke, with his presentation of Here’s The Thing. From intricate paintings to hanging model boats, the range of this artists work is amazing. It represents the colonial and post-colonial power and cultural identity throughout time, as well as its effect on other cultures. One room (as part of the exhibition) includes a projected film shown on one wall. Standing in front of it are ‘people’, some wearing masks and others staring off into space. Creepy is an understatement. The realism of the mannequins is astounding, and most visitors rushed out within minutes of entering the room.
Another room also incorporates a projected film, although this one belongs to the second exhibition from Lin Ke, with Fly. We walked around as a group of five, and none of us had a clue what this performance video represented. Although I’m sure there is an artistic representation in there somewhere, it wasn’t obvious to us!
The amount of detail in Locke’s work is mesmerising, and I’m very grateful to of had the chance to see it while it’s there. His work, as well as Ke’s, will be available to view until the start of June. New exhibits start as of then, and you can find more information about them here. As mentioned previously, I’m not very knowledgeable about art or have a varied opinions on it. So, in the name of art, I will leave you to these pictures and let you come to your own conclusions!