People United and Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park explored the theme of Humour with Birmingham-based street-artist, Foka Wolf and local people from the West-Midlands.
Foka Wolf is an anonymous Birmingham based urban artist who has been pasting their work on the streets for over a decade. Their subject matter ranges from cartoons to celebrities, gory heads to thumbs up, but their most recognisable works are the joke adverts. Foka Wolf’s advertising agency has covered subjects including forehead extension surgery and rent-a-curse, tackling both comedy and serious political and social commentary.
Their art has garnered national attention and featured in media including Time Out, Metro, Evening Standard and the BBC. They have previously worked with partners including Ikon Gallery, TEDx, Glug and Beatfreeks, and held exhibitions at Bene Culture, Centrala and Attic Brewery.
Following the joint call-out from People United and Compton Verney in July of 2020, Foka Wolf said:
“The submission guidelines could have been made for me – text based artworks using humour to help people be more empathetic and kind towards one another.
I am really intrigued to see how this sort of work will sit in the a parkland and gallery setting. Usually my work is out on a road side, but here I can observe the Compton Verney gallerygoers reactions in the flesh. I am hoping to bring about some positivity through these installations.”
To support Foka Wolf to connect with people remotely, and to gather stories about the local sense of humour, People United and Compton Verney held two digital ‘Laughter Cafes’ in mid-August. The online cafes were hosted by Janice Connolly (BEM) who, as well as starring in shows such as Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, is also known for her alter-ego, Birmingham icon and Britain’s Got Talent star, Mrs Barbara Nice. Janice is also the Artistic Director of Women & Theatre.
Local people from the West-Midlands joined Janice at two online events to share and discuss what had made them laugh in lockdown.
“Humanity has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. In this extraordinary time we have found ourselves living through, humour has proved an important ally in its ability to strengthen our resilience as individuals and communities. In the Laughter Cafe sessions, I was struck by how often people cited the role that everyday interactions, language play and observations of daily family life had in eliciting laughter and humour.
I really look forward to seeing how these laugh out loud, lively, big hearted sessions inform the artwork in the grounds of Compton Verney.” – Janice Connolly
The Open Arms
On Saturday 26 September 2020, The Open Arms, a brand new outdoor art trail created by Foka Wolf opened at Compton Verney.
Foka Wolf’s most recognisable artworks before this commission have been joke adverts with a serious message. With this project Foka Wolf created signs that fuse that previous interest with inspiration from Compton Verney’s British Folk Art collection. The resulting artworks feel completely at home in the ‘Capability Brown’ landscape, while also creating a surprise for visitors who ‘come across’ the signs and discover their witty content and clever placement.
The artworks are also influenced by local people’s experience of social solidarity during lockdown and the role of humour as a tool for empathy and resilience.
To mark the launch of the new art trail, Foka Wolf was interviewed as part of the West Midlands Culture Response Unit’s Democratising Creativity & Culture Weekender. This was a free online event celebrating young creatives in the West Midlands, held on Saturday 26 September 2020. The weekender featured a collection of performances, films, dance, poetry and stand-up, that put the region’s young talent centre-stage, sharing their art and highlighting the issues affecting them including lockdown, including health, Black Lives Matter, and the power of communities.
The Open Arms at Compton Verney
Saturday 26 September – Friday 23 October 2020. Tues- Sun, 10am -5pm.
Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park
Warwickshire, CV35 9HZ
No advance booking required for grounds only tickets.
£5 per adult, child (0 -18) FREE
Access All Areas Members & Local Pass Holders, FREE
For more information on visiting Compton Verney please visit: www.comptonverney.org.uk
With thanks to:
Foka Wolf, Artist
Amy Banks, Creative Consultant at Compton Verney
Emma Butchart, Formal Learning Programmer at Compton Verney
Becky Vincer, Creative Programmes Coordinator at People United
Chloe Osborne, Creative Producer