One of the things we encourage on the MA Visual Communication course is developing a sense of community, both within the classroom but also forming useful relationships with the community outside of the University. Mengxia Xu, who graduated from MA Visual Communication in 2018, has done just this.
Since graduating with a Distinction, she has gone on to work on a number of collaborative projects, soon after she left she and a fellow student went to the St Etienne Design Biennale where she took part in a student collaboration.
However she was awarded an opportunity to work with Grand Union, an art collective in Digbeth. From her studio at Grand Union she has worked with a number of Birmingham based design groups and organisations.
Rob Gibb, her tutor on the MA Visual Communication course commented:
“Mengxia really shows how students from overseas have embraced their new life and experience in Birmingham and in some ways their observation of Birmingham life and events gives a refreshing viewpoint and voice to things we can take for granted.”
Mengxia uses a reportage style to observe and interact with Birmingham’s diverse communities, she takes inspiration from public events such as the Frankfurt Christmas Market and Bullring Open Market. From these studies, Mengxia has explored the overlapping narratives that inform vibrant city life.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the meaning of topics such as home, mobility and accessibility, into greater consideration. Taking a cue from these issues Mengxia was motivated to explore how these themes resonated with those who call Birmingham’s historic canal networks home. Through conversations made possible by the hospitality and generosity of local canal residents, the unique routines and shifting circumstances of canal life have been brought into relief, informing her new works ‘Canalside dreams’.
Professor Andrew Kulman, who worked with Mengxia in St Etienne said:
“Once again Mengxia has engaged with the local community, recently she helped organise the Birmingham Zine Fair which brought together artists and publishers from the region in a collective creative art fair. Now she has taken her wonderful art and depicted scenes from Birmingham on the walls of the grand union canal. This is a really immediate way of engaging the public with contemporary image making”