Photos by Craig Pavid Parr Temporary Phantasmous Zone Meadow Arts Digital Commission 2021

RURALities is a series of four artworks that investigate some of the many different perspectives of people’s rural experiences. It’s the first time that contemporary art charity Meadow Arts has commissioned a digital project, and it’s been created in partnership with Birmingham’s Vivid Projects.

The finished work will be exhibited in regional museums until 27 June, at Hereford Museum & Art Gallery, Worcestershire County Museum at Hartlebury Castle and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, ensuring that it’s more accessible to people who don’t use the internet and also connecting to objects from each museum’s collection that have inspired the artworks.

 Leanne O’Connor, Artistic Programme Assistant at Meadow Arts, describes how the artists were chosen from the many applications that responded to the original brief, “From an open call, artists Lucy Wright, Craig David-Parr, Dan Turner and Martha Kelsey were selected for their commitment to investigating the rural within their practices, the quality of their ideas and their critical engagement with our ever-growing digital world and its relationship to the rural. The ‘rural’ might conjure up thoughts of farmland and hedges, but within that landscape live many people with very different experiences to one another – and to more urban dwellers.

Anne de Charmant, Director and Curator, explains the background, “Meadow Arts has been based in the rural West Midlands for nearly two decades and everything we do reflects this context. We often work with artists who are more gallery-based and our projects are often the first chance they’ve had to work outside of that. With RURALities, we’re bringing together the digital – something that is not necessarily associated with the countryside – and artists who look at aspects of the rural in their individual practices.”

The project has been produced in partnership with Birmingham’s Vivid Projects, who collaborate with artists, producers, thinkers and researchers. Opening up links between urban and rurally-based artists has been important to the project and Vivid Projects has played a key role in mentoring the four artists in 1-2-1 and group sessions, introducing them to the digital practices and methods necessary to expand their practice and support their ambitions.

Yasmeen Baig-Clifford, Vivid Projects Director, commented that, “The four artists came from very different practices and starting points. We were keen to help them experiment, support them to take their time and absorb new techniques and most importantly, not be afraid of the trial and error processes necessary to take work in new directions. All of the artists were eager to leave their comfort zones and try something new”.

This project was made possible through funding support from Arts Council England and Art Fund.

Dan Turner – Kipsi – Dan Turner, an artist of Romani heritage, examines how Gypsy, Roma and Traveller cultures meet and interact with dominant mainstream culture, through the art forms of sculpture, video and painting. Working with migration maps of Roma diasporas – and using traditional crafts and occupations such as; herbalism, peg and wooden flower making, and fortune-telling – Turner re-imagines Roma past, present and future to challenge mainstream culture’s view of Roma identities.

Exhibition in the Vardo Gallery at Hartlebury Castle.

Martha Kelsey – Mirrors in Stone – Martha Kelsey is inspired by the ‘Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture’ and the mysterious ancient stone carvings found in rural churches (especially those situated in the ‘Archenfield’ – the ancient name for the shifting border between Herefordshire and Wales). She has created digital drawings that reimagine and reanimate these stone sculptural forms in the contemporary and impermanent medium of GIF animations. “I hope that my animations will connect a 21st-century audience with their heritage, using these 900-year-old stone treasures to activate themes of conquest, identity and belief.”

Exhibition in the window at Hereford Museum and Art Gallery.

Craig David Parr – TEMPORARY PHANTASMOUS ZONE – Craig David Parr has been considering how the past and future ‘hold hands’ in a familiar, but mythical way. He explored sites of importance within Shropshire, connected to the grave of the last ‘sin eater’ and how this has contemporary relevance when we view it through the lens of working-class labour. The artist has created a series of seven individual film chapters that form a strange narrative relating to his “looking in holes for old things, and finding even older things and more holes in the holes … whilst uncovering inter-dimensional class war.”

“I’ve drawn together theory, fantasy, magic, sci-fi, history and class struggle to create the TEMPORARY PHANTASMOUS ZONE, which acts as a hybrid world that reconnects with a folk tale tradition.”

Exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery

Lucy Wright – Plough Witches– Gathering a group of 6 women and non-binary people together for Plough Witches, Lucy Wright has created striking animations and imagery that reinterpret traditional rural plays, “The role of women and non-binary people has long been marginalised in the English traditional arts, creating a canon of performances—and with it, an ideal of nationhood—that is strongly male-identified. Historically plough plays (also known as ‘mummers’ plays”) were informal and pantomime-like, performed by amateur actors, depicting a stylised battle of good versus evil—but in most instances, women were not permitted to take part.”

Exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

All exhibitions run until 27th June. For more info please visit www.meadowarts.org

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