Artbeat

14th July 2000 at 01:00
At a time when people are preoccupied with questions about national identity, which itself seems to be a national characteristic, it's good to see Britain celebrating its artistic creativity. Tate Britain's Intelligence exhibition (until September 24) is the first of a series of shows - to be held every three years - that aims to publicise young British artists. But, unlike the Sensation brat pack, these artists offer a huge variety of tone and sensibility.

Based on the idea that artists are, in the words of curators Virginia Button and Charles Esche,"intelligence agents at large in society, gathering and transforming the raw data of our life", the show features many kinds of art, from video to text. One room is devoted to Michael Craig-Martin's cartoonish everyday objects; another is full of Julian Opie's bold, colourful figures.

With several rooms turned into environments, the sense of space in the exhibition is amazing. You can plonk down on a sofa and watch a video, or write your own one-line protest to be included in Bob and Roberta Smith's Stop It Write Now! One of these protests may appeal to children: "I am stupid but I understand." Adult education events include talks, workshops and films. Details: 020 7887 8604.

Young British Artists also feature in Tate Triennial (Channel 4, July 15, 8pm), which examines the Britishness of Brit art - and confirms that it's enjoying an unparalleled boom in creativity. So much so that London's Hayward Gallery is touring its British Art Show 5, which positively screams with exuberance, wit and variety. Currently in Southampton, it includes Grayson Perry's "Boring Cool People" and Sarah Lucas's "in-yer-face" "Self-Portrait with Fried Eggs". Details of educational video: Oliver Sumner 023 8059 2160; www.britartshow.org.uk Part of Britain's national identity is ethnic diversity, and this is celebrated by Opera North's major millennium work, Operaville, in Bradford.

Working with eight families - two Asian, two white, Ukrainian, Polish, Dominican and mixed-race - and 100 children, the project recorded their ideas about the past and hopes for the future. Nostalgia seems to be a strong theme. As Dominic Gray, head of education, says: "Most found talking about the future difficult, but all were nostalgic for the past."

Operaville culminates in performances at the Bradford Alhambra on July 14 and 15. Box office: 01274 752 000. A CD is also available. Tel: 0113 223 3548.

If Brits love nostalgia, does this feeling apply to old clothes? At Manchester's Gallery of Costume's A Suit of Her Own exhibition (until summer 2002) you can take a peek at the way women's clothing changed between 1895 to 1918, from Victorian corsets to the tailored suits of the New Woman.

As well as showing the clothes, the exhibition features accessories such as handbags and hair-dos. It also records the reaction of male cartoonists, who derided women's freer clothing, calling it "sexless and shapeless". Next term, te gallery plans to run PSHE projects with secondary art and history teachers. Information pack available: 0161 445 0987.

One woman not known for dowdy suits is TV presenter and former pop singer Toyah Wilcox. On July 3 she opened Children's Art for Children 2000, which marks the 21st anniversary of the Bedford Hill Gallery in London's Battersea. To cheer up young patients, the project will decorate St George's Hospital, Tooting, with some 22 colourful paintings by 15 14 to 15-year-olds from Burntwood secondary girls school. As Wilcox says: "It's great to have artwork in hospitals. Children need to know that people are thinking about them."

She also presented six-year-old Marnie Thompson Shand with the Tesco Schoolnet 2000 Millennium Art Competition prize for best painting in the four-to-six age group for her "A New Day". Bedford Hill Gallery: 020 7498 8730.

Today's Brits may be less religious than ever before, but they're more prone to believe in angels and other supernatural beings. Crowded Air: a vision of angels is a multimedia exhibition that uses photographs, paintings, sculptures and texts to conjure up the winged messengers of myth and fable and to look at how they were represented by Renaissance and Victorian artists. Seraphim, the art group that organised the show, talked to schoolchildren about the idea of angels, especially guardian angels, and found young people more familiar with the spirit realm that you'd expect. The exhibition, at St John the Evangelist's church in Islington, London, closes today (July 14), but a brilliantly illustrated book, Angels: millennium messengers, by Seraphim (pound;15.99) is available. Details: seraphim@justina.fsbusiness.co.uk; www.saulman.co.uk One part of Britain where identity is fiercely fought over is Northern Ireland. Voices from Life, a touring exhibition of photographs of young people, brings together two ventures that try to reconcile historical enmities. Combining photographs from Voices, a Belfast project that records the lives of young Protestant women, with those from Documenting Lifestyles, which brings together young people from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the show is a good example of how the arts can be used to enhance understanding. It is at Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham (July 17 to August 4). Details of education pack: 01223 500 202; www.eastern_touring.org.uk A state-of-the art pound;1million performing arts centre has been officially opened at the Latymer School in north London. The impressive Mills Building - it's named after former head Geoffrey Mills, who retired last August - includes three music rooms, 12 practice rooms, two drama rehearsal rooms and a video editing suite. Last month's official ceremony - the centre has been in use since February - marked the culmination of a four-year fundraising effort by parents and pupils. Their pound;800,000 was bolstered by a maximum grant of pound;200,000 from the Government's Seed Challenge Scheme.

Aleks Sierz


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