Poignant and unique artistic record of LJMU's Bicentenary year goes on display

A variety of sketches and drawings were celebrated by the Arts community this week as Liverpool John Moores University looks back on its milestone Bicentenary year thorough an exhibition of work by artist Julia Midgley, created during her residency throughout 2023.

Julia Midgley: Bicentenary Sketchbook - A Window on LJMU's 200th Anniversary Year is now on display for an extended run until Friday 5 April, open daily to the public from 10am to 4pm (closed during the Easter bank holiday weekend), at LJMU’s John Lennon Art and Design Building, Duckinfield Street, Liverpool L3 5RD.

As Artist in Residence, Julia visited the LJMU campus regularly during the year, as well as at key university events hosted around the city, to capture everything from open days to public lectures, to student projects and graduation celebrations, using her distinctive documentary and reportage style to create a poignant record of a historic year.

Julia created around 140 individual drawings with watercolour from her time on campus, some of which have been curated for the special exhibition which will also feature large-scale reproductions of the original works, Julia’s sketchbooks and her art materials.  

Innovative, creative and unusual way for a university to document its Bicentenary

LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Power addressed guests, including representatives from National Museums Liverpool, Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, as well as playwright, musician and LJMU Honorary Fellow Willy Russell, at a special exhibition viewing and celebration.

Vice-Chancellor Power said: “We knew we had to capture our Bicentenary year in some purposeful way. In an innovative and creative way. A way in which we could celebrate both the everyday life of the modern university, and the extra special commemorative events that we would be hosting throughout the anniversary year. Since we do have the oldest School of Art in England, outside of London, it seemed fitting that we would use art as the medium to document this significant chapter in our history. 

“Accomplished artist Julia was a Reader in Documentary Drawing within our School of Art and Design, sharing her knowledge and expertise with students for over 26 years before retiring from her role in 2013. She has previously drawn our Roscoe Lecture Series and was the Artist in Residence for the construction of the John Lennon Art and Design Building – so it made a lot of sense that a long-standing friend of LJMU would take on the unique task of documenting our 200th year.  

“I first worked with Julia many decades ago when I was a technician in the art school. As an artist myself, I have a tremendous admiration for Julia’s exceptional talent and I’m so pleased that we were able to collaborate with her on this journey through our Bicentenary.

“I do hope that in 200 years from now these works will be looked upon as a poignant record of LJMU’s remarkable history, and a window in time on our Bicentenary.”

Exhibition curated in collaboration with the Bluecoat

In bringing the exhibition to fruition, Julia has worked in collaboration with the Bluecoat’s Director of Cultural Legacies Bryan Biggs, one of LJMU’s Bicentenary Honorary Fellows, and final year History of Art and Museum Studies student Madeleine Pedley, brought onto the project through an innovative internship opportunity through the university’s on-campus recruitment agency Unitemps.

The Julia Midgley Reportage Travel Award recipient’s artwork also on display

In recognition of Julia’s long-standing relationship with LJMU, the Julia Midgley Reportage Travel Award runs annually and aims to encourage students who wish to specialise in the discipline and follow in Julia’s pen and brush strokes. The award offers a small fund to provide an opportunity to travel and engage with a project relevant to society today. Three students’ work is on display in the entrance area to the John Lennon Art and Design Building for the duration of the main exhibition run.

Graphic Design and Illustration graduate Lauren Wright was the main recipient of the award in 2023. Her body of work reflects a solo journey to Tenerife, to record the communities and livelihoods of the people in the south of the island, specifically the areas of Arona and Adeje, which contain an interesting array of areas such as coastline and mountains.

Two other students, Harry Urand and Finn Finnegan, received vouchers to enable them to purchase art materials to create their works. Harry’s work captures a visit to Sapporo, Japan, and reflects the distinctions between city life and rural communities in this area specifically the indigenous Ainu people. Finn’s work is focussed on the observation and documentation of transport infrastructure and users; pedestrians, cyclists, metro users, bus users, and other types of transport people use to get from place to place across the UK.

About Julia Midgley and her work

Reportage is an important aspect of Julia’s studio practice. In her projects she records events with drawing creating beautiful and detailed watercolour sketches. A wide variety of locations and subjects have been illustrated from sporting events such as the Wimbledon Championships to medical procedures at the Royal Liverpool University and Broadgreen Hospital.

Julia has previously captured other milestones in LJMU’s history, as the Resident Artist to LJMU’s Roscoe Anniversary Lecture Series in 2017 and between 2006 and 2007 she was the DLA Piper Artist in Residence, creating a unique fly-on-the-wall catalogue of the construction of the John Lennon Art and Design Building. She donated this collection to the university for the building's 10th anniversary and this was exhibited at the school in 2018.

Julia is also a practising printmaker and is a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Art's Summer Exhibition (12 occasions). She has been the recipient of national awards for drawing, painting and printmaking, and is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers and the Royal Watercolour Society.

Further exhibition at Kirkby Gallery spring and summer 2024

Julia will also be exhibiting a selection of her drawings at Kirkby Gallery from 15 April to 17 August 2024, including a number of artworks from the LJMU Bicentenary portfolio.


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