Changing face of Britain portrayed at Sheffield gallery

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A new exhibition at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery takes a look at modern Britain through the eyes of the artist.

Recording Britain Now is linked to the Recording Britain exhibition at the same gallery, which looks back at a Government project that got artists to record British scenes that were in danger of disappearing during World War Two.

The new exhibition brings together artists who made the shortlist for this year’s John Ruskin Prize for art, which took Recording Britain Now as its theme. They were chosen from among 600 entries.

The winner of the £1,000 prize was announced on Friday as Maggie Hargreaves, whose pair of huge and striking charcoal drawings are on display, taking up a whole wall of the gallery.

Beautifully detailed, they show an overgrown graveyard and a council estate with a neglected children’s slide in the foreground.

Local artists on the shortlist of 23 were Sean Williams, Roanna Wells and Mandy Payne from Sheffield, Darren Reid from Belper and Hallam University student Jennifer Morgan.

One of the shortlisted artists, Laura Oldfield Ford, also has a piece on display in the Recording Britain show.

Kirstie Hamilton, exhibition and display manager at Museums Sheffield, was a member of the Ruskin Prize judging panel.

She said that artists were asked to portray Britain today and came up with a fascinating range of ideas. Many of the artists concentrated on urban sprawl but there were also suburban and rural scenes.

She added: “They were an interesting group, wanting to reflect things about contemporary life. They were all interesting but coming from different places.

“All of the works are about Britain in transition and a little bit about uncertainty.

“The standard of the work in the shortlist is fantastic and the exhibition provides a wonderful counterpoint to the fascinating historical works we’re showing from the V&A’s collection.”

She added: “It’s been quite nice to have student work with established artists who have a different take on things. The idea of open prize and exhibition gives you that opportunity to include artists at different points in their careers.”

The prize was restricted to wall-based art and no photography or film work was allowed. Even so, there was a wide range of media used, including printing, embroidery, painting, stitching and drawing.

Giving the example of Philip Sanderson’s Nowhere, a large tapestry of a field with a tree in front, Kirstie said: “It’s a landscape we’re looking at but how sustainable is it given industrialisation and the post-industrial age? It’s a really interesting thing to do.”

In contrast, Sheffield artist Mandy Payne’s work is very small scale, consisting of views of the city’s infamous Park Hill flats painted on a slab of concrete using a spray painting technique.

Sue Grayson Ford, a member of the judging panel and Director of The Campaign for Drawing, said:

“It was exciting to see such a vast variety of work addressing the state of our cities and landscape and tracing social change in Britain today.

“The exhibition can show only a fragment of this rich submission and should certainly prompt interest and lively debate.”

Recording Britain is on show at the Millennium Gallery until October 12. Entry to the exhibition, and to Recording Britain, which on display until November 2, is free.