An exhibition focused on showcasing artistic responses to Birmingham, ‘Door to the City’ is a collection of four doors decorated by local artists Martin McNally, Ildikó Nagy, noiamreiss and a collaboration between the organisations Baobab Women’s Project and Meena Centre for Asylum Seeking and Refugee Women and Children.
As part of the Medicine event, Project Birmingham provided each artist or contributor with a blank wooden door and invited them to create an interpretation of Birmingham’s identity. Placed in Medicine’s airy gallery space, the decorated doors are propped up in the centre of the exhibition and brought together with lengths of string holding photos of the artists. As with the other exhibitions at the event, ‘Door to the City’ provides an immersive experience for visitors as they reach each door through the maze of photographs and keys. Though each door differs in terms of style, the exhibition collectively demonstrates the rich significance of the city, with a diverse ongoing cultural history.
Ildikó Nagy is a multidisciplinary artist whose work includes painting, drawing, sculpturing and craftwork (felt hats!). Nagy’s work is focused on the natural environment, the importance of expression through creative means, and art as a means of provoking an active response to ecological issues. Nagy uses her talent to curate workshops and projects and has established a creative business: Usefool. Using enamel paint, the two sides of her door represent a keyhole that is filled with bright colours that contrast with the minimalist background of black and white lines. Nagy encourages creative interpretations of all of her work - including the doors.
Martin McNally is also a multidisciplinary creative individual as an artist, illustrator, filmmaker and animator who works under the pseudonym Mixed Milk. The different creative avenues McNally has pursued are a means by which he is able to portray the human condition. As with Nagy’s work, McNally encourages public engagement and promotes the approach of ‘collaboratively using visual communication to tackle social issues as well as using the arts to strengthen well being and encourage self-exploration’.
Noiamreiss, an illustration graduate, believes that seemingly mundane activities provide creative inspiration (though he is also influenced by the symbolism of Egyptian hieroglyphics). His work has creatively expanded to the mediums of paint, ink, oil pastel and fine-liners. The female form, predominately the face, is an ongoing creative production. Noiamreiss’ door is striking; the colours of pink, black and white on one side, and orange, black and white for the other. Signifiers of Birmingham replicated upon the doors are most evident in the bull and the municipal bank, though, if you observe closely, other symbols can be identified.
The Meena Centre for Asylum Seeking and Refugee Women and Children and Baobab Women’s Project collaborated as similar organisations working with asylum seekers - focusing on helping women in particular. The Meena Centre offers support and has connections to legal organisations and local support networks. They also recognise the importance of raising awareness of the issues refugee women face through action. Similarly, the Baobab Project offers assistance and support and also seeks ways to influence positive social change. Both organisations share a similar ethos to Project Birmingham – that of promoting community support and cohesion.
Each door celebrates Birmingham’s cultural identity. There are each a reminder that Birmingham is an inclusive city with the responsibility and capabilities to take sufficient action, a realisation provoked by the creative exhibition as a whole.
Written by Kristin Guzder
Photography by Izabel Sladecekova & Laura Chen