Open Day Picket Line for Striking Academics

Exhibition celebrating LJMU's 200th Anniversary Year

Bryan Biggs, the Bluecoat’s Director of Cultural Legacies reports on an exhibition of drawings by Julia Midgley

Date posted

12 March 2024

The Bluecoat is pleased to be working with Liverpool John Moores University on an exhibition by artist Julia Midgley.

Titled Bicentenary Sketchbook: A Window on LJMU's 200th Anniversary Year, this presents the results of Julia’s year as Artist in Residence recording life on campus as well as key events offsite related to the University’s marking of the founding of one of the antecedent colleges from which it emerged, the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institute in 1823.

Julia’s brief was to capture a broad spectrum of activities in 2023, from open days to public lectures, to student projects and graduation celebrations, using her distinctive documentary and reportage drawing style to create a record of a historic year. She created around 140 individual drawings with ink and watercolour, a selection of which feature in the exhibition alongside reproductions of the original works, her sketchbooks and art materials.

As a graduate of the art school (when it was Liverpool Polytechnic) and having also recently become an Honorary Fellow of the University, I was delighted to be invited to collaborate on this project, providing curatorial input. Essential to this process was LJMU intern Madeleine Pedley, a final year History of Art and Museum Studies student who worked with me and the Bluecoat’s marketing staff to develop each aspect of the show, from selection of the work to designing a visual timeline of Julia’s year, and input into the exhibition’s communications and marketing plan.

It was fascinating for us to select from such an impressive body of work documenting all aspects of the University’s year. Encapsulating these moments in drawing, combining accuracy with spontaneity, is a highly skilled practice, one in which Julia excels, and this exhibition demonstrates the continuing vitality of that process, bringing to life activities in a way quite different to that of the camera.

Alongside her reportage drawing practice, Julia is also a printmaker and frequently exhibits at the Royal Academy of Art's Summer Exhibition and is Fellow of both the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers and the Royal Watercolour Society. For her, the commission to capture LJMU’s bicentenary year marked a welcomed return to the School of Art and Design where she was a Reader in Documentary Drawing and member of staff for 26 years. She regarded the opportunity to record the bicentenary year through drawing as “a privilege and delight. The project introduced me to the many faceted worlds of the whole University. Staff and students warmly welcomed me, a professional fly on the wall in their workplaces. Courteously they inspected the sketchbooks. Hopefully the drawings will help others enjoy the journey.”

Julia Midgley: Bicentenary Sketchbook - A Window on LJMU's 200th Anniversary Year is at the LJMU John Lennon Art and Design Building until Fri 5 Apr, 10am-4pm - free entry.

Please note that the exhibition will be closed for Easter weekend and bank holidays.

Some of the work will also feature in a solo show at Kirkby Gallery, 15 April - 17 August.

Julia Midgley: Bicentenary Sketchbook - A Window on LJMU's 200th Anniversary Year exhibition launch