Exhibition: Private View and Day 1

Today is Friday 19th April, and the exhibition that opened yesterday has had a full day open in the Eagle Works. Five of us went to invigilate the exhibition for the open hours of between 11am and 5pm. How did the opening go? and how many visitors did we see on the first full day of being open?

With the work complete, mostly to get the hanging of work sorted on the Tuesday, only a few things remained to get resolved ahead of the 3pm opening for the private viewing.

The Transporter

First up for me was to help Michelle with her prints, getting them from the School Of Art and taking them to Eagle Works so they could be mounted onto the wall. After being refused entry to the car park at the back of the George Wallis building I waited by the Molineux until Michelle was ready, then drove in through the barriers and then up to the 3rd floor where Jim was waiting in the print room. The prints looked amazing and were a good size too, they were mounted on board with a frame glued to the rear to give it a floating effect from the wall, kind of like those beds that appear to float off the floor by not having the supports all the way to the edges. With beds I bet it’s a recipe for disaster but with Michelle’s prints it looked great.

Next up was how to hang them, Jim had provided eight hanging plates for the four prints and the screws to do the job also, he even kindly assembled them for Michelle. I did one of them also to allow Jim some leeway, and once the plates were fitted we had to get them downstairs to the car.

They don’t come with any real protection though, the edges are very vulnerable to being dinked or damaged and the safest way to transport is having two prints face to face with a sheet of paper between. This is what we did when we laid them carefully in the boot of my Skoda Octavia estate, first off a blanket on the deck, then two pictures, the blanket folded back over them, then the other two on that with another blanket protecting those also. The spare room was made up with a coat and the bags for life we’ve collected for shopping over the last 10 years.

My car was handy as there was just enough room, whereas Michelle has a Mini Cabrio and there may not have been sufficient space to move them safely. We made our way up to the Mander Centre car park and then proceeded to get them into the Project Space ready for hanging. Using my tools Michelle and I had the prints hung on the wall in plenty of time for the exhibition to open, so Michelle went out for a Thai meal before coming back for the grand opening and private view.

Wolverhampton Wander

I went for a wander around the city centre to get the blood pumping around my legs again and warm up a bit as it was a bit chilly in the Project Space of Eagle Works. When I got back, everything was ready for the public and it was time to head over to the School Of Art to help the people interested in the exhibition to get to the Eagle Works. It’s a bit of a tricky place to find, especially at the top of the car park and then across the roof level to the old Victoria House.

Whilst on the way I had a chat with Namar (apologies if I’ve misspelt this), Veronica, Paris and Hannah about their degree show which is due to kick off in June and I’m looking forward to seeing how the group I originally started my course with three years hence get on, I’m certain that they will smash it out of the park.

Private Viewing (Thursday)

When we arrived at the Eagle Works there were many others already there and we showed people the drinks and snacks on the way to the Project Space where the exhibition was taking place.

I walked into the room and there was a large group of people in there looking around and discussing the photography and artworks around them. It was good to see some of the Level 4 and 6s taking an interest in our work, as well as some of the MA students and teaching staff also.

There were many compliments given to the artists and whilst I still struggle with the kind words people say, I try and say “Thank you that’s very kind” so I don’t demean the message that they’re imparting on me. It’s not comfortable but impostor syndrome lessens everytime I share work with others and receive feedback from them. It is really lovely when people have nice things to say but I also appreciate it when there are helpful suggestions and ways that I could rethink something the next time I do some work. Only by trying and failing do we learn, although nobody gave me any critique on the photos, maybe just that they were a mite reflective being on shiny acrylic leading to distracting lights and images being reflected in the photos.

Note the reflections from the windows on the acrylic.

I spoke to a few of the teaching staff about the presentation I had chosen to mount the images on and why I’d selected the photos I had. I spoke with Rob Elkington from Arts Connect about ho wthey are in the business of getting people into the arts from a very young age and he explained that there is a gender disparity in the arts currently with more females studying art than males. We had a brief chat about my motivations behind doing the degree part time, the positives and negatives of being a part time student and all of the good stuff I’d learned since beginning, nearly three years ago.

People were talking to the photographers about their work and reading the artists statements, then looking at other works before looking back at the work they’d just come from to see if there were any connection. In most cases people had a drink in hand and a small plate or bowl of snacks that we’d also laid on at the reception desk.

Everyone was really kind, and whilst we only had seven photographers displaying work it did tie in with the theme of Timeless Perspectives. Bethany’s work was about a dark time in her life and how she conquered her eating disorder, Ieva’s was about nostalgia and homesickness for her younger years and family in Lithuania and Emma’s about time and capturing the present moment with echoes of the past and future also. Codey’s work was also about dealing with an historic traumatic event and coming to terms with that and they way that she felt deconstructed, and put herself back together again and Michelle’s work about fantasy and a time in the past or future in a seemingly parallel universe. My work was about the 35 years I’ve spent at work and how it’s taken all of this time to grow as an artist and notice how I’m inextricably linked to the factory.

As it wound down and people left we got closer to the 6pm close and it was time to catch up with each other and discuss our thoughts and reflections of the evening. I found that my work drew more questions around how the work was printed than what the contents of the work was. Is it dibond, aluminum or acrylic? Is there a light panel to illuminate the prints from behind?

It was a great event and we all felt a buzz and a bit tired from what I could tell. It was kind of Sarah Byrne from Eagle Works to remain there with us all day to assist with the show prep and opening, as well as Sylvia too. Everyone has been super helpful and supportive.

FULL DAY 1 (Friday)

After a good night’s sleep and a tidy up of the car boot, to remove all of the tools etc, it was time to head back over to Wolverhampton from Shrewsbury and get into the car park before the 9:30am deadline, so I get all day for £3.50 (rather and the £8 from the day before)

Terror Threat

I ended up outside Eagle Works at 9am to invigilate the exhibition with my coursemates between 11am and 5pm. I was there super early so went for a wander around the car park, with a plan to hit the city centre if time allowed. Whilst walking around I noticed a blue Porsche and there were some reflections of the the Mander House, large concrete tower, visible inthe windows and headlight so was taking a few photos, being very careful not to get too close or touch the vehicle. Someone came out from the building and asked me what I was doing so I politely informed them I wa a photographer and once he’d checked that I wasn’t photographing any private paperwork or anything in his car he seemed happy and left me to it.

Weird Concrete Texture (Brain Like)

Five minutes later after I’d taken some macro shots of the weird concrete on the walls, two security guards approached me and asked me what I was up to. I told them politely and then they told me I couldn’t take photographs, that I’d have to delete any I’d already taken and that as it was private property I’d have to get permission from management on level 5 before continuing taking photographs. They asked what I was making images of, I told them, they looked incredulous and told me that they have to stop me due to terrorism. I suggested that terrorists would be unlikely to be carrying out reconnaissance with a camera and not hiding the fact. They told me to stop so I stopped, it was private land after all, and then I headed into the Mander House up to floor 5 and the Management suite where I spoke to a man in the office and explained that security had sent me up here, then he looked away from me and repeated “guy wants to take photographs of the shopping centre” to someone out of sight around a corner. I figured that this must be his manager so I introduced myself to him and explained that I’m a student, that we’re exhibiting at Eagle Works and I like taking photographs of concrete structures etc. This guy was the manager of the Mander Centre, Richard Scharenguivel, and he replied with a compromise. If I could get a letter or an email sent from the University to admin@mandercentre.co.uk confirming that I am a student and that I needed to take photographs of the buildings, then he’d look into it and let me know a week later. With this absolute petty bullshit I left the office saying “a week? Thank you” as it was going to be pointless talking to them further.

Concrete Centre

I left the office and stood outside the lifts, penning an email to them stating that I was unhappy with the lack of understanding and for not allowing someone to make photographs, because I had a camera. If it had been a smartphone, like everyone else uses, there would have been no issue or there would be too many for the security guards to nobble.

I decided against sending the email as I didn’t want to stir up any misunderstanding and il feeling to the artists already in the Eagle Works, it is not my intention to wind up security guards, only to take photographs. I didn’t want to cause any headaches for the people working in the old Victoria House so decided to leave it in my Drafts.


Once I’d calmed down and headed back to the Eagle Works and my car, I was let into the building by Ethan one of the studio residents who asked if I was helping with the invigilation. He unlocked the door, let me in and then locked it behind us. They are very careful to lock the door in order to prevent unwanted people from getting in so I don’t mind. I did want to get my stuff out of the car though so would have to wait for someone else to arrive so I could time going out to the car with them coming in. This happened when Emma and Ieva arrived along the same sort of time that Laura and Sarah and Sarah arrived. Sarah had also brought Kerry Berry her Corgi to assist around the space.

First job was to capture som installation shots of my work in the space without anyone else around. I turned on the LED lights on the rear of the pallet and got to work.

Exhibition Visitors

I set up everything, tidied up the space behind the reception a little and then retired to the project space to wait for the inrush of visitors to the exhibition. I didn’t expect there to be a huge number of people, and I was right. A couple of the resident studio holders had a look around and spoke to us, then one of Emma’s ex coursemates from college arrived and took a look around. Noah and Bethany arrived in the afternoon and Noah’s parents came towards the end of the afternoon so it was good to meet them and have a chat. As it got closer to 5pm a chap arrived called Mac who had tried to come for the private viewing but had got lost on the way, and was gutted that he’d missed the wine. We got him a small cup of Merlot and he was having a look around the work. I talked to him about his practice and that he was interested in traced images and how he’d drawn onto glass which then showed a shadow on the paper mounted behind it. He was interested in how the acrylic prints were made. From the website I’d got them printed at it says:

  • 5 mm thick acrylic
  • 7-colour UV direct printing including light colours
  • Image is printed directly onto the back of the acrylic plate
  • An opaque film is attached to the rear side of the acrylic plate

Mac explained a bit about his practice, finished hs wine and then had a phone call from someone that meant he had to leave. He was probably sick of me asking him questions about his work. Someone who wasn’t sick of it, I don’t think, was Ethan whom I had spoken to earlier and he invited me to go and take a look at his work in his studio. We had a chat about how he was mightily inspired by the works of John Singer Sargent. He was explaining the process that he is learning of making distinct and purposeful marks with the brush and paint to create an image that is lifelike from a distance but shows the impasto strokes when close up. I complimented him on his work, it was outstanding and the images he’s made were amazing. He showed me that he is working on a piece at the moment where he is mocking it up on a digital tablet and will transfer the composition to the unstretched canvas when he’s happy with it. He also told me that he preferred unstretched canvas on boards so there was no give in the surface and the brush marks were more predictable and less of a damping effect on the marks made. Such a helpful guy and a joy to listen to, as well as being really passionate about his craft.

Resident Artists

I also had a quick chat with Stephen, another resident artist, about his work and he showed me a large piece based on a concrete building abroad and the texture that he’d painted into the image was amazing. I’m hugely impressed by these talented people who can paint so well and yet are so modest about their work. It truly was a pleasure.

Tom was another artist who showed us a quick peek into his studio and how he has a Durst enlarger set up in there to develop some prints, we had a chat about cameras and photography and then he had to leave to be the lighting engineer at the Civic for a Cheeky Monkey’s rave revival night.

Thanks to all of the artists whom I met for their time and support with our exhibition, and their kind words. Tom and James, Ed, Stephen, David, Ethan, Sue, Sarah and Sarah and Laura. Everyone was awesome and made it an easy experience by putting us all at ease. Cheers.

With the five o clock ringing out on the watch it was time to get off back to drive home to Shrewsbury and check on the family before coming back tomorrow to repeat for the last day of the exhibition.

Day 2 tomorrow, and then it’s closed until the take down on the Tuesday next week. When I’ll bring home the scaffold poles and pallet, keeping the acrylic prints carefully protected in case they’re accepted into the Shrewsbury Arts Trail.

After tomorrow, we’ll look at the limited amount of entries into the visitor guest book and feedback form online to see what the common themes appear to be. At the end of day 1 we had 2 responses on the online form and three in the physical book.

Catch up tomorrow to see what the feedback helps us with.

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