Jeremy Deller: It’s a Kind of English Magic, London

Running until 21 September, a selection of Jeremy Deller’s works are on display at the London headquarters of the British Council. Currently representing England at the Venice Biennale, Deller’s presentation in Italy has already attracted over 12,000 visitors per week. For those who can’t get overseas, It’s a Kind of English Magic: Notes from the Venice Biennale will give UK audiences a taste of what’s on show in Venice.

The exhibition is also due to go on tour throughout the UK, made possible through the support of the Art Fund. Combining newly commissioned work with pieces produced by Deller specifically for the Biennale, It’s a Kind of English Magic offers audiences’ a fresh taste of Deller’s practice in the context of other artists. Within the display will be a newly commissioned wall painting of Stonehenge by Stuart Sam Hughes, as well as English Magic, Deller’s new film made especially for Venice. A multi-sensory experience, the soundtrack to the film features music played by the Melodians Steel Orchestra, who recorded the tracks at Abbey Road Studios.

As part of his preparations for Venice, Deller worked in three UK prisons, requesting offenders to create pieces based on their army experiences. It’s a Kind of English Magic includes those insightful works, produced by prisoners who had mainly served in Iraq and Afghanistan as soldiers. The pieces include portraits of politicians, spin doctors and others caught up in the conflict – among them Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell and David Kelly. Chosen specifically for London, the selection includes several works not presented in Venice, besides screened highlights from the British Pavilion.

As part of Deller’s project, a new partnership between the British Council and the Koestler Trust will see eight ex-offenders travel to the Venice Biennale as part of an education initiative. Accompanied by support staff from the Koestler Trust, a charity that has been promoting arts in the British criminal justice system for over 50 years, the group will journey to the Biennale to discuss the work on display as well as get the opportunity to visit museums and galleries.

Alongside the exhibition a new book entitled English Magic is due to be published.

Jeremy Deller: It’s a Kind of English Magic: Notes from the Venice Biennale, until 21 September, British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2BN.

1. Jeremy Deller – It’s A Kind of English Magic: Notes from the Venice Biennale, Installation View, July 2013, Photo by James Gifford-Mead; © British Council.