28th Jun, 2022

MUSIC MATTERS - Portrait exhibition of Coventry greats goes on show

Coventry Editorial 10th Mar, 2022

COVENTRY Music Museum curator Pete Chambers BEM writes for the Observer.

Creative Connections is a new exhibition of internationally celebrated cultural and political figures who were born or are associated with Coventry – including The Specials, The Selecter, George Eliot, EM Forster, Philip Larkin, Susan Hill, Vanley Burke, Sarah Siddons, Ellen Terry, Billie Whitelaw, Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Mo Mowlam.

The portraits are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery and are at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry.

This free exhibition, opened on Friday and runs until May 30.

From a musical viewpoint it’s great to see two of Coventry’s 2-Tone bands The Selecter and the Specials in there. Both photographed by Janette Beckman, they are are two wonderful monochrome studies of the bands at their peak.

It includes the Specials in Southend in 1980 and the Selecter taken around the time of the band’s second ground-breaking album ‘Celebrate the Bullet’ from 1981 an album that saw the band reinvent themselves.

The Selecter by Janette Beckman. s

Indeed this superb album was not actually released on the 2-Tone label but on Chrysalis instead. It also included new members James Mackie on keyboards and Adam Williams on bass and was produced by Roger Lomas.

The exhibition connects artworks from the two galleries by highlighting the creative links between the people on display and their work.

Highlights include a portrait of Vanley Burke displayed next to commissioned photographs from the Herbert’s collection – portraits of Basil Spence and Graham Sutherland, presented alongside the Trial Piece for the tapestry within Coventry Cathedral and a portrait of Benjamin Britten, who wrote the War Requiem for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral. This is displayed next to work by Matthew Picton, who uses the score of War Requiem to create a map of Coventry showing the destruction of the city in the Blitz.

The exhibition includes portraits recently acquired for the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection, such as Rankin’s photograph of the comedian and actor, Guz Khan, politicians Zarah Sultana, MP for Coventry South, and Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, taken by Charlotte Hadden.

Local art students from Barr’s Hill School in Coventry have worked collaboratively with artist Maryam Wahid and the Herbert’s

Learning and Engagement Team to explore the collections of the two galleries to celebrate the inspirational stories of people associated with Coventry.

Maryam Wahid’s work explores identity and representation, and she has created photographic portraits of the young people which are showcased in the exhibition.

Maryam Wahid was a judge for the National Portrait Gallery’s Hold Still photography project in 2020, which was spearheaded by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.

 

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