2020 has certainly been an unexpected year for everyone, and our Hive Gallery is no exception! We had a whole host of beautiful exhibitions planned for the summer, which we have had to reschedule for after our September re-opening. Nonetheless, we had three wonderful exhibitions from January - March 2020. So here's a little recap of our year in the Gallery so far.


Janet Manifold, Time Unfolding (Echoes), 2019

A Sign of Life

A collaborative exhibition showcasing artworks by the students of Argent College who worked alongside artist Hillary J Baker to create mono-print self-portraits, A Sign of Life responded to themes of hope, fear, and dreams. The exhibition was organised to coincide with the grand opening of The Hive on 7th November 2019, reflecting the Ruskin-esque values that Argent College follow through their Practical Skills and Therapeutic Education programme. There were a number of prints on display, exhibiting artworks by John Ruskin and his followers that demonstrate the emotional response to art, from euphoria to despair. 

The exhibition also featured a beautiful sculptural work entitled Time Unfolding (Echoes) by Janet Manifold. Janet’s sculpture is hand-carved from alabaster, a soft rock with a luminous white colour. She describes the sculpture:

‘The shell’s orientation is upright with a deliberate softness intended to reflect human orientation and form. It is possible to hear the sea in the sculpture just as in a real shell. Although this echoed sound is a scientifically quantifiable process it means much more to our emotional selves, as evidenced by poetry, literature, myth and legend through the centuries. It can be argued that this is the implicit influence of calcium acting on the human brain.’ 

Janet’s work was a highlight of the exhibition, creating a dynamic and intriguing focal point which unified the sometimes complex Ruskin-esque themes. At the Hive, we always value visitor feedback. This exhibition revealed that our audience valued the artist-produced artwork, rather than the prints. For our subsequent exhibitions, we’ve worked hard to make sure that we respond to what our visitors enjoy!


Franziska Schenk, detail of Diptych II, 2010

Truth to Nature: The Art of Iridescence 

From the 31st January - 25th February 2020, we had the pleasure of exhibiting Franziska Schenk’s illuminating series of larger-than-life butterflies. The exhibition was a great success, and faultlessly carried through themes from the previous Ruskin exhibition. Six huge butterfly canvases graced our gallery walls, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to make them really shine - for the duration of the exhibition, the gallery was set in a magical low light. Using blue and white lights (and torches for our little visitors!) we illuminated the shimmering nano-pigment technology of the butterflies to really make the exhibition come alive. 

Our visitors really enjoyed the show. Here are some of their lovely comments:

“Truly amazing - no words”

“Such dynamic iridescence!”

“I haven’t seen anything like this before. The paintings are absolutely fantastic and very unique”

“Beautiful pictures… we have a newfound appreciation of butterflies”

Schenk’s series, ‘Erebus Obscura’ was initially developed in 2009 as part of Charles Darwin’s 200th anniversary celebrations, which took place all over the country in different ways. Below, you can read the exhibition labels which accompanied the artist’s paintings in the exhibition: 

"In response to Darwin's iconic description of the development of the eye, Schenk draws on novel biomimetic techniques and paint-technology to create artworks inspired by the astonishingly realistic eyespots adorning the wings of the rare moth Erebus obscura.

Mirroring the process of evolution, latest colour-shifting nano-particles and innovative reproduction techniques are employed to create successively 'modified' variations of the 'same' moth painting. Simultaneously magnifying, yet focusing in on, the subject, each additional repeated version evolves from the previous template - but inevitably change and mutation leads to the formation of new, modified patterns, shapes and hues.

To capture the ephemeral quality of the colour, the artist draws on her expertise of utilising cutting-edge iridescent 'pigments'. Thus, depending on the light and viewing angle, an apparently dull brown moth transforms itself into a glittering beauty - before our very eyes.

The complex interrelationships between the evolution of colour, camouflage, display and perception are artistically explored."


Tracey Thorne, Untitled, 2019-2020

The Fading City 

Our most recent exhibition, The Fading City, was a real showstopper. Showcasing beautiful handmade printmaking techniques by Jemma Gunning and Tracey Thorne, the exhibition explored the textures and typography of buildings in Birmingham, with an emphasis on fading signs, known as ghost signs, and the role of historic buildings in an ever-modernising city. 

The exhibition kicked off on the 2nd March with a captivating launch event. A panel discussion featuring the artists, members of Birmingham City Council, an illustration lecturer from the University of the West of England, and the director of a local redevelopment firm was well-received by the audience, who eagerly participated in the discussions.

Jemma’s work focuses on two derelict buildings in the Jewellery Quarter: Alabaster and Wilson and Unity Works. Her use of intaglio and mono-printing perfectly captures the eerie yet somehow beautiful decay of the historic buildings. Her work creates a moving document of time passing in an ever-changing city, and acts as a valuable record of the Jewellery Quarter’s rich heritage. An ethereal silk screen print, using details of Jemma’s work, was draped against the old industrial walls of the gallery creating a stunning contrast between the callous industrial brickwork and the delicate weightlessness of silk. 

Observing the city through the medium of photography, Tracey turns images of hand-painted building signs into detailed screen prints. Her work documents the history of local advertising and greatly appealed to the current building owners, many of whom attended the launch event. 

For information about our our grand re-opening for Birmingham Heritage Week, follow @TheHiveJQ on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  See you soon!