This show hangs, quite literally, in the atrium of the School of Jewellery. A light open space, galleried walkways high above, art deco echoes of ocean liners in their railings. Circulus has a light touch. We are offered plates of small morsels, opaque acrylic platters suspended from invisible threads. I feel immediately awkward, worried that I might knock the work, and my elbow inadvertently disturbs one of the circles. It begins to wander in the air, gently swinging. The movement attracts someone’s attention on the other side of the room. This possibility of movement, the merest interaction, stops the work from feeling too static, too presented. This is a group show for the nine artists in residence based at the School of Jewellery this academic year. A group with completely differing styles and approaches to making wearable objects, brought together under the shared community they have formed due to their roles. I am intrigued by the simultaneously touchable and yet slightly repulsive necklace of pearls and silicone, desperately want to stroke the organic carved wood brooch, and imagine pushing my hand through the fronds of pale pink and green painted anemone-like wire.
Anya Miles’ work, a necklace, is held aloft by a thread, pulled upwards so slowly it feels like, if we wait for a moment, it will gradually be lifted off the acrylic support. The strength of the display is that we are presented with a variety of viewpoints, uninterrupted, of the pieces. And, as I orbit the displays I notice that the ‘chain’ of the necklace interacts with itself nicely, crossing and uncrossing. At one particular angle I see glimpses of building sites, of iron girders upright in rubble; it reminds me that Anya’s work is inherently urban. Like a view in the Jewellery Quarter, taking in old and crumbly with new and shiny, her assemblage of colours, planes and textures suggest a structure built up over time, elements added piece-meal. The square silver wire scaffolding supports moments for consideration, encloses and suggests a vantage point, the rectangular links of the necklace chain like window frames or shafts of light reflected on glass.
Anya reflects on architecture and environment in her artists statement, as a visual source of inspiration for colour, texture and form, but also as a location that requires the negotiation of self: “I am interested in the need for a sense of place and identity within a new and ever-evolving environment”. She talks of her experiences here in Birmingham, of moving to an unfamiliar city, of starting a residency where everything is new. How better to find a way to feel comfortable, than to manipulate and adjust the things you notice around you, to take the unfamiliar and through re-making it, grow to understand it. But, most importantly, to find a way to hold onto your own perception of yourself in amongst all the busyness.
I leave the atrium, out into the Jewellery Quarter. Halfway down the hill into town I pass a neglected facade, peely purple paint and rusted gratings. It feels oddly familiar, and I wonder if this found its way into Anya’s work.
‘Circulus’ Artist in Residency 2015-16 Exhibition, School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University. 17-27 May 2016