Blog Archive

Camera Obscura by David Bethell

Ilam Park, Ilam Holy Cross, near Ashbourne, Staffordshire Moorlands

The work will be in-situ 14 – 22 April 2018

Artist David Bethell is inspired by the rural landscape and natural environment.   He frequently uses performance, film and photography in his work to animate his installations and sculptures within the location and to explore a narrative. GRAIN Projects has commissioned David to create a unique camera obscura for Ilam Park in the Peak District, inspired by the landscape and heritage there and in collaboration with the National Trust.

Ilam Park is a 158-acre country park situated in Ilam, on both banks of the River Manifold five miles north west of Ashbourne, and is owned and managed by the National Trust. The estate includes the remains of Ilam Hall, built in the 1820s.  Nearby, within the village, a Saxon church stands which houses the shrine of a Mercian king.  Most significant is the beautiful landscape, an area of outstanding natural beauty, including Bunster hill just beyond the church and the magnificent example of a picturesque landscape in the foreground.

It is the church that forms the basis and design for David Bethell’s site specific largescale work which functions as a camera obscura. Visitors will be able to engage and experience the surroundings as an inverted landscape from within the installation.   The commission will capture the immense beauty of the surrounding landscape from its position.

For more information on Ilam Park, how to get there and parking arrangements visit;

For more information on David Bethell

David Bethell Inverted Landscapes writing by Selina Oakes

GRAIN is proud to continue to host a series of talks by artists and photographers.

The talks are programmed in collaboration with our project partners and are often planned to coincide with the regional exhibitions, events and commissions.

In collaboration with Coventry University Photography Department, GRAIN is pleased to announce three new Photographers’ Talks dates.

Trish Morrissey  

Thursday 22nd February 2018, 6pm – 7.30pm

Square One, The Hub, Coventry University, Priory St, Coventry CV1 5QP

£4.00 tickets – click here for tickets and more information

Guy Martin

Wednesday 7th March 2018, 6pm – 7.30pm

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry

£4.00 tickets – click here for tickets and more information

Lua Ribeira

Wednesday 28th March 2018, 6pm – 7.30pm

mac, Birmingham

£4.00 tickets – click here for tickets and more information

To date we have been delighted to host talks by the following;

  • Mat Collishaw
  • Faye Claridge
  • Nathaniel Pitt and Donall Curtin
  • Tom Hunter
  • Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl
  • Bruce Gilden
  • David Birkett
  • Daniel Meadows
  • Simon Roberts
  • Andrew Jackson
  • David Hurn
  • Matthew Murray
  • Liz Hingley

Image Credit: Guy Martin, The Parallel State

26 01 2018


We are pleased to produce Noises, an exhibition of works by photographer Lúa Ribeira from the series of the same name, in conjunction with Argentea Gallery, Birmingham.

Argentea Gallery, 30th March-12th May 2018

Noises is inspired by contemporary Jamaican dancehall ritual.  Made in collaboration with a group of British Jamaican women in Birmingham, Ribeira recreated scenes from dancehall culture at the participants’ homes. By embracing the impossibility of fully understanding this cultural expression so very different from her own, Ribeira playfully dissects the ideas of femininity and sexuality within the performances.   Ribeira does not intend the images to comment on the Dancehall, but to become the ritual itself. The power of the transformations of the women and the innovation and provocation that they engage, often clash with Western ideas of femininity. ‘Mythological powers, the concept of female divinity and sacredness in Afro-Caribbean culture, were very present in my visual search. Fed by their folklore and my imagination, universal subjects such as birth, love, death and sex are central to the encounters.’ – Lúa Riberia

The title is borrowed from author Dr Carolyn Cooper’s book ‘Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the”Vulgar” Body of Jamaican Popular Culture’. Through Noises Ribeira did not attempt to produce a series that reinforced the mass media’s view of dancehall and the female body as a denigration of women.  She did not wish to ignore the display of the participants’ bodies nor their perception of femininity to create westernised versions of the dancehall ritual. Both strategies, she felt, would ultimately fail to acknowledge the complexity of cultural expression.

Recipient of the Jerwood Award and the Firecracker Grant, Noises will be exhibited at Argentea Gallery in early 2018, alongside a limited edition leporello book of the work published by Fishbar Books.

Lúa Ribeira Cendán (born 1986) is a Spanish documentary photographer based in Bristol. She graduated in Graphic Design Degree BAU, Barcelona 2011, and with a BA in Documentary Photography from the University of South Wales, Newport in 2016. She was awarded the Jerwood Photoworks Grant 2018, the Reginald Salisbury Fund 2016, Firecracker Grant 2015 and Ditto Press Scholarship in 2015. She has participated in The Independent Air Residency, Denmark 2015, Photo España 2014, Emcontros da Imagem Discovery Awards 2015, Gazebook Photobook Festival 2015,  and ‘A Fine Beginning’, Contemporary Welsh Photography exhibition London 2014 . Her work was selected by Susan Meiselas for inclusion in Raw View magazine’s “Women looking at Women” issue and has featured in the British Journal of Photography.

For the exhibition a new piece of writing has been commissioned by writer, curator and photographer Colin Pantall ‘Lose the Noise and you Lose the Meaning’

20 01 2018

Indre Serpytyte

Indre Serpytyte (b. 1983 in Palanga, Lithuania) is an artist living and working in London, UK. Serpytyte is concerned with the impact of conflict and war on history and perception.  She works with photography, sculpture and installation. 

Earlier this year GRAIN Projects commissioned Serpytyte to collaborate on research and make new work in response to the history of war and conflict in Birmingham.

It is estimated that throughout both World Wars, the Ministry of Munitions employed around a million female munitions workers in thousands of arms factories. These women played a crucial role in Britain’s strategy of “total war”. especially after Britain’s shell crisis in 1915 when there was a severe shortage of artillery shells on the front line. The women worked extremely long hours as production was focused on a 24-hour shift pattern with only one day off a week.

Using archive material from Birmingham collections as well as from the Imperial War Museum Serpytyte has examined the relationship between widely publicised propaganda images of the female factory workforce, as part of a political project of moral boosting, and the images, accounts and ephemera that tell the largely hidden and forgotten story of the so-called ‘munitionettes.’  In her work she will look at the history of female work and life in the context of war, violence and political strategy as well as the home as a place of waiting, loss and a repository for memory and objects. Domestic objects on shelves and mantlepieces provided keep sakes as well as reminders of lives and death. Most unsettling are the vases made from spent ammunition shells, many of which were made by women in munitions factories and then decorated by women for home ornamentation.

In her work Serpytyte will use these vases as a way to explore the complex relationship between domesticity, ornament, labour, class, gender, war and trauma. The work will explore the objects and materials of war.

Image credit: © IWM (Q 54375) – A female munitions worker operating a chronometer for registering velocity of bullets fired from cartridges at the Kynoch’s factory in Birmingham, 1917

Photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley is collaborating with Syrian individuals who have recently arrived in Coventry on a unique UN programme, to capture the remarkable welcome that the city and refugee centre provide. Interlacing between archival collections and fundamental symbols of contemporary life, Hingley looks to future of the fastest growing city in the UK.

The work references the historic practice of presenting honoured visitors with symbolic keys to the city gates in relation to the sim card given to refugees as soon as they land in the UK. The sim card offers a direct link to scattered loved ones and an archive of photographic memories.  As an object and tool it thus offers an immediate sense of security, identity and home in a new place.

Presented within an intimate installation, items from the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum’s collections portray the cities eclectic history alongside images, which explore how stories and skills from Syria can translate and transform in new contexts.

The exhibition will be on show at the Herbert Art Gallery from the 1st December 2017 to the 11th of February 2018.

This project was commissioned by GRAIN Projects and is generously supported by Arts Council England, Rubery Owen Trust, Coventry University and The Herbert Art Gallery. Enormous thanks is also owed to Coventry City Council, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre and the participants in the project.

Artist Talk by Liz Hingley 

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum – Learning Space   
Thursday 18th January 2018
4.30 – 6.30pm

Join Hingley at Herbert Art Gallery and Museum on Thursday 18th January to explore the process and creation of this thought provoking exhibition. Tickets are free, but places are limited so please book via our eventbrite page.

Image credit;  Key from the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum Collection

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12 11 2017


Arena Gallery, Mac, Birmingham

18 November 2017 – 21 January 2018

The project will premier Matthew Murray’s new work which focuses on contemporary photography and the landscape. Murray has created a photographic odyssey, an epic series of landscape works made over a period of four-and-a-half years. The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication, symposium and newly commissioned writing.

Murray involves the viewer in a series of challenges; aesthetic, emotional, and perhaps even moral. If we look at the pictures without knowledge of the location – and the tragic historical events that took place there – our initial response to the brooding, picturesque terrain may be purely aesthetic. This location seems untouched by human intervention. Murray captures its changing moods under glowering skies, creating impressions, partly real and partly generated through the photographic process. We seem to be in a dream world as much as a real place. In this work Murray occupies a position within a lineage of landscape artists stretching back hundreds of years.

Murray is a Birmingham based photographer who has worked in a gallery context as well as commercially shooting campaigns for various advertising agencies, features for editorials and exhibiting personal photography projects.

In the context of the exhibition Saddleworth, Responding to A Landscape, the symposium will invite acclaimed and outstanding photographers, artists, writers and photography historians to talk about their work and relationship with the landscape. Those speaking alongside Matthew Murray include; Richard Billingham, Jem Southam, Chrystel Lebas, Camilla Brown, Simon Constantine, John Hillman and Mark Wright.

The practitioners will talk about how they have approached landscape and their unique relationship with it.

Image Credit:  Matthew Murray – Saddleworth Moor, Peak District

The project is supported by GRAIN Projects, Arts Council England, Gallery Vassie, mac Birmingham, Pirate Design and the University of Gloucestershire.

mac-birm-black81Pirate_Logo   gallery Vassie logo small

GRAIN is pleased to announce the next event in its programme of professional development activities. Our Portfolio Development Day will be delivered at and in partnership with The Herbert Museum and Art Gallery, Coventry on Saturday 2nd December 2017.

During the morning our guest expert reviewers will give short presentations and in the afternoon there will be opportunities for one to one portfolio advice and reviews.

We will be joined by Camilla Brown; curator, writer and lecturer on contemporary art, specialising in photography, Craig Ashley; Director of New Art West MidlandsLiz Hingley; British photographer and anthropologist and Anthony Luvera; artist and writer.

The day is devised to enable emerging photographers, students and artists who work in photography to get advice and reviews from leading photography experts.

Please note there will be a maximum of 18 attendees to enable a focussed day. Please book early.

The day is a must for emerging photographers who wish to understand how to develop their work and their portfolio in order to secure new opportunities.

The event is ticketed and places must be booked in advance.

£20 for professionals, concessions for £12
To purchase click here to go to our Eventbrite page.


24th November 2017, 9.30am-5.30pm

Responding to a Landscape will explore, debate and review the evolving relationship between artists and photographers and the landscape.  We will hear from a number of perspectives, from acclaimed practitioners for which landscape is a recurring subject, a social and environmental concern, a research and archive practice and an essential departure.   What does landscape and our natural world look like and mean to photographers and artists today? 

The symposium has been planned in conjunction with the exhibition Matthew Murray’s Saddleworth; Responding to a Landscape, premiered at mac, Birmingham. Murray is interested in depicting the landscape based on what he feels rather than what he sees.  His landscape work is a personal story and odyssey. His Saddleworth is the result of a five year creative and sensitive journey that captures the beauty of the moorland landscape.

The symposium invites acclaimed and outstanding photographers, artists, writers and photography historians to talk about their work and relationship with the landscape. Those speaking alongside Murray include; Richard Billingham, Chrystel Lebas, Jem Southam, Camilla Brown, Simon Constantine, John Hillman, Craig Ashley and Mark Wright. 

The practitioners will talk about how they have approached landscape and their unique relationship with it. Landscape photography has a long and significant history and today approaches have perhaps never been so broad with practitioner’s motivations and aesthetic concerns been varied. Some document, others work with more abstract concerns; Some work collaboratively, others in isolation; Some are working on environmental concerns and others more personal stories.

During the Symposium we will hear from the perspective of the photographer, curator and academic. They are motivated by landscape for many different reasons. We will hear from and celebrate those that create self-initiated projects and commissioned bodies of work and see a range of photographic practices that are at the cutting edge of photography now.

The project is supported by GRAIN Projects, Arts Council England, Gallery Vassie, mac Birmingham, Pirate Design and the University of Gloucestershire.

Early Bird Concession: £15
Early Bird Standard: £22
Early Bird available until 15th October 2017.
Concession: £20
Standard: £28

To book your tickets click here.

*Please note prices include tea/coffee in breaks but do not include lunch.

Photo credit: Saddleworth  © Matthew Murray.

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10 08 2017


Photographer Sam Ivin has worked with individuals and community groups in Stoke on Trent to explore migration to the city. During the residency he has focused on the participant’s personal photographs and stories, working with people who moved to the city from after World War II to the present day.  These include Sikh families in the 1950’s, war veterans, and more recent individuals. They have travelled for a wide range of reasons: professional opportunities, education and refuge from difficult circumstances.

Most participants have engaged with the project through a series of workshops, others through individual meetups.   During the project those taking part have taken photographs, shared photography collections, made photo collages and told their stories, focusing on what led them to live in Stoke-on-Trent. Fascinating, brave and poignant stories have been captured and recorded alongside precious photographs that tell something of the participant’s story.

Photography is part of these people’s journey; from the places and people they left to their new lives in Stoke-on-Trent.  Photographer Sam Ivin has created a new archive of photographs from people’s contributions.  

Sam Ivin is a photographer whose work focuses on social issues and the people connected with them. His pictures attempt to demonstrate the impact situations have on his subjects. By documenting their stories and perspectives he hopes to provide a more personal, tangible understanding of them. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport graduating in 2014.  Since then he has been awarded numerous significant photography prizes including the Magnum Photos Graduate Photographers Award, May 2017, The GMC First Prize, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, March 2017, the Best Graduate Single Image, Runner Up,  British Journal of Photography (BJP) Breakthrough Award 2016 and the Winner of Best Single Image, Human Category at Renaissance Photography Prize 2015.

A selection of the archive, entitled ‘Settling’ will be exhibited in Stoke on Trent at The Big Feast Festival during August 2017.

Image Credit: Walerian ‘Val’ Tyminski
Photographer: Unknown/Possibly Fellow Soldier
Date: 1946
Location: Florence, Giotto’s Bell Tower in the Background.
Description: Val poses for a photograph in Florence. He spent a year in Italy after World War II had ended, occasionally the Polish Army would go on one or two day excursions to nearby places of interest.

The project is a collaboration between GRAIN Projects and Appetite, supported by Arts Council England and is part of the Creative People and Places Programme.

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Our collaborative bursary has been awarded to Lily Wales for the research and development activity she is undertaking into themes of nuclear warfare and its language.

This ongoing enquiry and work will be enhanced by a research trip to the Nevada Testing Site and Atomic Testing Museum near Las Vegas.

Specialising in handmade photomontage, Lily often uses found images, photography and text to explore how language anesthetises the audiences’ perception of the subject, such as atomic bombs personified by being given human names, and the absurd language used in films demonstrating how to survive a nuclear attack.

The bursary will provide an opportunity to make new work, collect, shoot and collate imagery from Nevada, and gather resources and research materials from the Atomic Testing Museum.  The opportunity will also give the artist an insight into the immense scale and geography of the site and the activities that have happened there, a sense of the past and an opportunity to expand her practice.

Image credit: Lily Wales; Operation Plumbob, 2017

Nuclearosis 2017

Lily Wales; Nuclearosis 2017

Bursary awarded in collaboration with:


Copyright 2016 GRAIN.