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Contemporary Art by Dion Kitson Comes to J W Evans Silver Factory

Taking inspiration from the disused factory as well as from his own experience growing up in the Midlands, Kitson honours a lost industrial past, using new technologies to create sculptural interventions which celebrate the history and popular culture of Birmingham and the Black Country.

  • The second of our four creative programme exhibitions for 2024 launches this week
  • 'Silver Lining' takes inspiration from Birmingham's historic jewellery quarter and the city's present-day working-class culture

Silver Lining, a new exhibition by Dion Kitson, the award-winning contemporary artist, opens at J W Evans Silver Factory in the heart of Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter on 11 May.

A self-portrait as Tin Man, cigarettes cast in bronze and a trophy cabinet of lost footballs are just some of the new works on display.

The exhibition will be open to the public by guided tour on selected dates until 6th September, coinciding with the artist's first major solo exhibition, Rue Britannia at Ikon Gallery.

Self Portrait as The Tin Man, 2024 (Plaster and Funnel, Sculpture) 2024. Photo by Tom Bird

Like J W Evans himself, Kitson studied at Birmingham School of Art and worked in the Jewellery Quarter learning the metal casting process.

Using diverse mediums including sculpture, painting and film, Kitson's work incorporates found objects and recognisable visual cues to make work that is both pertinent and provocative.

Silver Lining is his personal response to the immersive environment of the J W Evans Silver Factory and the classicism associated with silverwork. The exhibition comprises 20 works in total.

Dion Kitson in the Factory Packing Room. Photo by Tom Bird

One of the most complete surviving historic factories in the area, J W Evans Silver Factory is a preserved time capsule of a lost industrial world. At its heyday in the early 20th century, the Jewellery Quarter employed tens of thousands of people.

But demand for the ornate table silverware produced by businesses like J W Evans's slowly declined, and the factory finally closed in 2008. It was taken into the care of English Heritage in the same year.

Today, it is as if the inhabitants of the factory simply walked out, leaving the remnants of their skilled craft, including machinery, dies and finished works, behind them.

Haribo ring, 2023 (Solid Cast Silver, Sculpture). Photo by Tom Bird

Kitson's take on this includes juxtapositions of the aspirational middle-class products manufactured by the factory and contemporary, everyday objects.

On the workshop floor and in display cases, Kitson has installed works including solid silver NOS canisters, a broken hammer and cigarettes cast in bronze.

Elsewhere, a silver sprayed sculpture made from a cast of his own head replicates Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. In the 1990s factory packing room, which is a shrine to Aston Villa, Kitson has installed a life-sized image of Steve Bull, top goal scorer for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The title of the exhibition itself comes from the song sung at the start of every Wolverhampton Wanderers game: Hi Ho Silver Lining, by Jeff Beck.

Bob, 2024 (Mug and Biscuit, Sculpture). Photo by Tom Bird

Dion Kitson said, 'JW Evans Silver Factory represents something of British heritage and its lost industrial workforce. It's special in that the factory is fixed in time. It made me consider the historical classicism that was associated with silver. I like that people can see my work and overlook it by accident – which is centred on everyday objects – but in a different setting, and for them to experience J W Evans Silver Factory from a contemporary art perspective.'

Bob, 2024 (Mug and Biscuit, Sculpture). Photo by Tom Bird

Bethan Stanley, Senior Collections Conservator at English Heritage added, 'We're thrilled to be working with Dion Kitson in this brand-new show as part of the charity's creative programme this year. Dion has a passion for creating new narratives from existing objects and challenging our preconceptions of the heritage of Birmingham and the Black Country, which is exciting for us at English Heritage. It will be a unique and thought-provoking experience for visitors to come and see Dion’s installations interspersed with the rich historic collection here.'


Channel website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Original article link: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about-us/search-news/contemporary-art-display-by-dion-kitson-at-j-w-evans-silver-factory/

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