Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dates for your Diary this Autumn!

It may be the end of August but things are hotting up already for the autumn term! Here at The Golovine we’ve put together an overview of some of the exciting things being organised in and around the department of Art History, Film and Visual Studies. So, whether you are a prospective student, a new or returning student, an alumnus or just interested in the arts, we are sure you’ll find something here to tempt you! We look forward to seeing you at one or more of these events soon!

It all kicks off with an Open Day on Saturday 14th September that includes departmental talks, accommodation tours, and lots of information about studying at Birmingham. Let’s hope the campus will look like this again!

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Come and visit the Art History, Film and Visual Studies stand in the Bramall Building from 9am-4pm.To book a place, visit this link. There’s another one on 26th October too!

Fresher’s week starts on 23rd September – start by grabbing your free copy of The Incredible Human Journey by Professor Alice Roberts, this year’s choice for GRAB, the Great Read at Birmingham 2013!

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The book traces the origins of the human race from Africa through our colonisation of the globe. Using scientific methods, from analysis of climate changes to human genetics, whilst also exploring art, culture and society, the book encourages the reader to ask some of the great questions in life: who are we, and how did we get here?

The weekend of 28th September is a bumper one! First, we are running our Taster Day for Year 12 and 13 Students and their teachers from 11-4pm in the Barber Institute. If you are currently deciding whether studying History of Art at University is really for you, come along and give it a try! You’ll be able to get a real feel for what it’s like to study History of Art, through a series of mini lectures, seminars, and gallery sessions on subjects including Botticelli, Damien Hirst, women artists, and cinema and art. You will also have the opportunity to meet current students and staff, find out about careers an Art History degree can lead to, and obtain useful tips for your UCAS application! Lunch is provided but registration is essential.

Already at Brum? Well, the same day you can take part in a writing workshop with Barber writer-in-residence, Jacqui Rowe. Sonic Visions takes place in the Lady Barber Gallery where visual works will be interpreted as music, and you can experiment with mixing the senses in prose and poetry. Tickets are £6 or £4 for concessions and students.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the same evening sees the Barber Mixer event for new and returning students. If you’re (re)joining us in September, make sure that you come along to the Barber at 7pm to meet like-minded arts lovers, course-mates, academics and Barber staff. There will be live music, art activities (including commissioned portraits), drinks, pizza and art society stalls – all for a fiver! Keep an eye out on Facebook about getting your ticket.

Moving into October,the Digbeth Speaks oral histories project launches its exhibition on 3rd. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Digbeth Speaks has created a time capsule of contemporary Digbeth, an area of inner city Birmingham, during 2013. The project has been devised and led by young members of the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage, Library of Birmingham. Many of the dedicated team of young volunteers comprise postgraduate students and alumni from the University of Birmingham, including our own Carly Hegenbarth!

Digbeth speaks file

A bit later in the month, on the 16th at 7.30pm, world-renowned choir The Sixteen come to the Barber. Their concert will feature some of the best-loved classics of Tudor and Jacobean church music together with madrigals by Tallis, Byrd and Gibbons, alongside pieces by Britten, Tippett and MacMillan including the ‘Five Spirituals’ from A Child of Our Time and the ‘Choral Dances’ from Gloriana.

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Birmingham University Singers will feature, alongside The Sixteen, in a performance of Chilcott’s Tallis Canon. For more information see here.

This year, Birmingham is home to the seventh Cine Excess international film conference and festival which brings together leading film scholars and cult film makers. The theme of this year’s conference is European Erotic Cinema: Identity, Desire and Disgust and events are organised in conjunction with the University’s newly-formed B-Film (Birmingham Centre for Film Studies) and the Midlands Arts Centre, which is hosting the event from 15-17 November. Cine-Excess VII considers Europe’s long and controversial relationship with the erotic image, considering the extent to which cult European traditions of desire reveal fascinating issues of nation and regional distinction.

Cine Excess

Wondering what you might do with your History of Art degree? On Wednesday 20th November we are holding our Careers Day (2-5pm) where you’ll have the opportunity to hear from graduates of our department talking about their career paths and current jobs. Speakers will include staff from the Wallace Collection in London, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, and Matt Carey-Williams, director of the White Cube Gallery. More information to follow soon!

The end of November (30th) sees the opening of BMAG’s Photorealism exhibition – the first and largest European retrospective of this highly realistic painting genre. Photorealism begin in America in the late 1960s with artists painting realistic depictions of everyday objects and scenes like cars, highways and diners which, at first glance, appear to be photographs, like this example by Birmingham-born artist John Salt.

John Salt, White Chevy, 1975

John Salt, White Chevy, 1975

The exhibition features work by photorealist artists from the 60s to the present, including John Salt, Chuck Close, and Peter Maier and explores the questions and debates raised by the movement on what makes an authentic image and the ways in which we perceive the world.

Phew…that takes us nearly up until the Christmas holidays, so we’ll stop there while the sun is still shining and the evenings are still long (at least at the time of writing)! But keep an eye on The Golovine and our Facebook page for more updates – there are bound to be some Christmas-related festivities to announce!

A Perfect Opportunity for a Perfect End to a Year in Medieval Poitiers

Joint Honours Student Holly Wain on using her French and Art History skills to work for the journal Cahiers de civilisation médiévale.

As my days at the University of Poitiers drew to a close, I was determined to make the most of the last weeks of my Year Abroad in France. During my course, I was lucky enough to have translation classes with Stephen Morrison, a researcher specialising in the medieval period and director of the Centre for Medieval Studies in Poitiers (CESCM). I began speaking to him about my course at Birmingham and my interest in medieval art history and, then later, about possible work experience at the research centre. I am grateful for all his efforts, as in June I began work at the centre’s journal, the Cahiers de civilisation médiévale.

The journal began in 1958 and covers a variety of areas including philosophy, art history, literature, and musicology. It aims to bring together summaries of topics that deepen understanding in medieval civilisation and articles are submitted by researchers from all over the world. The articles include a short summary abstract in English, and literature reviews were also often published in both English and French. I was therefore given a range of pieces to translate, which was not only brilliant practice for my French but allowed me to learn about subjects I had never come across before such as the celtic ‘evil eye’ which cropped up while translating a review of a work by Jacqueline Borsje. Some of the texts tackled extremely specific areas of the early medieval period so there were sentences that I did not even understand in English! However, in the three weeks that I was there I did manage to translate substantial amounts of text. I was able to develop my translation skills immensely as I had to work around difficult sections to be able to communicate their broader sense.

The Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, where I worked under the direction of editor Blaise Royer.

The Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, where I worked under the direction of editor Blaise Royer.

It was very fortunate that the weeks I spent at the journal coincided with the annual conference held by the centre, the Semaines d’études médiévales in which students from many different countries flock to Poitiers to hear speakers present a variety of papers. I was very kindly invited by Blaise and the team to attend the opening lecture by Piotr Skubiszewski from the University of Warsaw on a manuscript found in Poitiers and the tradition of author ‘portraits’. Back at the journal, the team took a lot of interest in my own studies, for example I was able to attend the lecture by Stephen Morrison the topic of which was relevant to my own dissertation project, an early fifteenth-century tomb in Canterbury Cathedral. I gained an insight into the Lollard movement whilst also practising my French! I could not have asked for more.

A flyer presents the conference, detailing the great international presence among the speakers.

A flyer presents the conference, detailing the great international presence among the speakers.

The three weeks spent at the journal were often overwhelming as the team were working on lots of  different projects . As well as translation, I gained experience in the digitisation of previous issues of the journal and the translation of searchable terms for the Brepols database of the International Medieval Bibliography which is primarily linked to the University of Leeds. I worked with Karine Corre who looks after the indexation of books for the development of the database. It is a mammoth task with hundreds of books being sent in. I often felt sorry for her as I entered the office in the morning to find her surrounded by piles of yet more new books! I was also given access to the database so I could use it for my own research. Karine was extremely helpful and we found several very promising articles for my dissertation.

The site of the CESCM, Hôtel Berthelot (although due to building works the team at the journal were relocated, so I spent my time in a much less picturesque university building!)

The site of the CESCM, Hôtel Berthelot (although due to building works the team at the journal were relocated, so I spent my time in a much less picturesque university building!)

After finishing exams and feeling like my year abroad was fading away, work experience at the Cahiers was a brilliant insight into the world of medieval research and the demands of translation. The team were extremely welcoming and enabled my year abroad to be more than lessons at the University, but a full experience in the medieval world of the CESCM.

Our Prize-Winning Students 2013!

At graduation this year, the department of Art History, Film and Visual Studies celebrated three of its students through the award of prizes for the best dissertation and best contribution to the department.

The Emily Rastall Memorial Prize, set up this year in memory of Emily Rastall, a graduate of the department who sadly passed away in 2012, was awarded jointly to Rachel Johnston and Charlotte Bagwell. Reflecting Emily’s own love of the Barber and her passion for her degree course, the prize rewards service and commitment to the department. Rachel Johnston served as student representative throughout her time at Birmingham, putting forward the views, concerns, and ideas of her year group. Like Emily, she was involved in the Buddy System which mentors new first year undergraduates, and she also played an active part in the musical activities of the Barber. Charlotte gave generously of her time, especially during her busy final year, to represent the department at Open Days and Applicant Visit Days, talking to Year 12 and 13 students, offer holders, and their parents about her experience of studying at Birmingham, and taking them on tours of the Barber.

Rachel and Charlotte with their prizes

Rachel and Charlotte with their prizes

I was very touched to receive the prize, particularly as Emily was a close friend of mine, and also because it serves as recognition of my involvement in a very special department which I have so enjoyed being part of during my three years at Birmingham. – Rachel Johnston

I was really honoured to be chosen along with Rachel to receive the first Emily Rastall prize. It’s a great prize to award, as a number of students willingly give their time to work for the department, showing their enjoyment of the History of Art course. I’m glad that I was able to contribute to the department and that I hopefully managed to convince potential students, who might be worrying over which university to choose, the strength of the University of Birmingham’s History of Art course. – Charlotte Bagwell

Charlotte and Rachel by the cherry tree planted in Emily's memory

Charlotte and Rachel by the cherry tree planted in Emily’s memory next to the Barber Institute

The involvement of students is crucial to the running of a happy, successful department and we are really grateful to both Charlotte and Rachel and all the other students who have given of their time and showed their commitment. Rachel and Charlotte were also contributors to The Golovine and we hope to hear more from them in the future!

The Sam Beighton Prize for the best dissertation was awarded this year to Maximilian Milward for his study of Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson’s ‘Sprucers’/Dog-Tired (1916). Max gives us a glimpse of the process of writing his dissertation, which was awarded a mark of 80.

For about the first three months of working on my dissertation, I just could not see how it was going to end. And by that I do not mean that I could not envision my final argument or the overriding theme of the project. I mean that I could not imagine how I would ever pull all the strands of enquiry together and actually finish such a horribly daunting task. It is the same for every history of art essay that I have ever done. But somehow, in the end, they always get done.

The subject of my study was a painting by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889-1946) called ‘Sprucers’. Nevinson’s career as an artist spanned almost four decades but his most critically acclaimed works were made during the First World War. Today he is well-known for his Futurist depictions of machine-like marching soldiers and abstract shell explosions but a number of his war paintings are more reflective and understated. It was one of these less well known works that I decided to bring into question in my dissertation.

Christopher Nevinson, 'Sprucers'/DogTired, 1916, Bristol City Museum and Gallery (K2394)

Christopher Nevinson, ‘Sprucers’/DogTired, 1916, Bristol City Museum and Gallery (K2394)

‘Sprucers’ was exhibited for the first time in the autumn of 1916, when it was widely considered to be a condemnatory depiction of members of the British armed forces. ‘Sprucer’ was a slang term used during the First World War to refer to a soldier who was lazy or who avoided his duties. It was not my intention to consider whether this meaning was intended by the artist: more important to my dissertation was the way in which the social conditions of production and display changed the implications of the work. It was interesting, therefore, that by 1920 the name had changed from ‘Sprucers’ to the less provocative Dog Tired. The person responsible for this title alteration is unknown, and whilst this was discussed in some depth in my study, I felt that it was more important to establish the motives behind the change. Indeed I was able to argue that this was a deliberate alteration of a controversial title in order to make the painting more socially acceptable, and thus commercially viable, in the years immediately after the War.

Max at Graduation with fellow History of Art graduate Sapna Patel

It is going to sound a bit corny, but in the last few weeks of my working on the project I had elevated it to a status above that of mere coursework. It was a labour of love. Never before had I truly enjoyed a piece of academic work, and for this reason I am sad that it is over. All I can say now is thanks to my supervisor and the History of Art department for their support and help over the last three years. It has been a ball!

Congratulations to all three prize-winners and good luck with your future plans! This summer Charlotte has been travelling in China and is looking for a museum internship (perhaps in Hong Kong!). Rachel has been working as an intern at Apollo magazine, one of the oldest and most authoritative of magazines on the visual arts. Max is currently taking part in the British Horseracing Authority Graduate Programme with an eight-week placement at the Jockey Club Racecourses in Epsom with a view to going into horseracing journalism. Watch out Clare Balding!

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