The Black Country
The New Art Gallery Walsall
8 April - 19 June 2011
‘Growing up in the Black Country was the best thing that ever happened to me’. Brian Griffin, 2010
Brian Griffin, Woman Chainmaker, 2010.
Archival pigment print, Courtesy of the artist.
The New Art Gallery Walsall presents the first UK showing of THE BLACK COUNTRY, a new body of work by renowned photographer Brian Griffin.
BRIAN GRIFFIN was born in Birmingham in 1948 but spent his childhood in Lye, in the Black Country before departing for Manchester College of Art in 1969 to study photography. He has since gone on to become one of the UK’s most established photographers and is renowned for his portraits of musicians, actors, political figures and the business community. However, growing up in the 50s and 60s in the Black Country, surrounded by industry, has left an indelible impression on the artist, to such an extent, that a new body of work restages his childhood memories of living amongst the factories on Stocking Street, Lye.
‘’Factories were everywhere, even surrounding my school. I was determined not to end up in one but in 1964 I did. Forced out of school by my parents, being an only child, the family needed money and I was a source. I never realised at the time – wanting to stay on at school to do my A levels – but working in a factory would turn out to be my salvation.’’
The photographic series predominantly focuses on the factory worker, a role he played himself after leaving school at 16, and one both his parents occupied throughout their working lives. Other works depict the Black Country as seen through a child’s eyes. The photographs reveal how the factories, its workers, the surrounding landscape and local traditions, spurred Griffin’s imagination from an early age.
‘’If I opened my bedroom net curtains, sometimes the night sky would be glowing red from the furnaces of Round Oak Steelworks in Brierley Hill. Beyond the steelworks was Dudley Castle the former home of the Earls of Dudley. Mom and Dad used to say that everything was the Earl of Dudley’s.’’
The Earl of Dudley, Black Country Food, Speedway racing, The Lone Ranger, Davy Crockett, the local pub, the family cat and his early years as a choir boy are also celebrated in the series. Family photographs and Brian Griffin’s written accounts of childhood also accompany the photographs.
Each of the images within The Black Country brings together a careful composition of nostalgia, tenderness and absurdity. Inspired by a range of influences including Caravaggio, Stanley Spencer, Joseph Wright of Derby and religious art, his theatrical scenarios place his life story on centre stage.
Griffin’s artistic influences will also be explored through a display of works from The New Art Gallery Walsall’s collection. The accompanying exhibition curated by Griffin, will include works by Jacob Epstein, Odilon Redon and Georges Rouault.
Also showing: Toby Ziegler, The Alienation of Objects, 8 April - 19 June 2011
THE NEW ART GALLERY WALSALL
Floor 3, Gallery 1
Admission is free