John Yeadon: Control Rooms

26 Jan 2017 – 16 Feb 2017

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Class Room, Coventry

England, United Kingdom


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An exhibition of new works by Coventry based artist John Yeadon


John Yeadon: Control Rooms

The next exhibition at CLASS ROOM brings work by the highly regarded Coventry-based painter JOHN YEADON. 

The source of these paintings, drawings and watercolours are the photographs that Yeadon collected from documentaries on Sellafield Nuclear Power Station and images culled from the internet on the theme Man and Machine. 

In 1983, John Yeadon encountered an early digital computer from 1951 at the Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry, this computer became the subject of a painting that Yeadon recently rediscovered and it reignited the artist’s interest in 1950s technology.

‘This computer filled a room in the Birmingham Museum with banks of valves, ticker tape input, it was assembled from components more commonly found in a British telephone exchange. Essentially a calculator this two-and-a-half-ton computer is less powerful than a mobile phone.’

‘Over a day, I did drawings of the computer in my sketch book in the Birmingham Museum. My humorous though ambivalently sinister painting had an abacus and Babbage's brain in a glass dome on a table in front of the computer. The painting was an homage to this sad unused defunct machine, neglected and abandoned in a museum as an ancient relic.’

Yeadon's painting 'Portrait of a Dead Witch’, (9ft x 7ft) is of the Harwell Dekatron which was built in 1949 and first ran in 1951. The computer moved from Harwell to Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College in 1957, after the introduction of transistors made the computer obsolete. The computer was given the acronym WITCH when it reached the technical college, (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell). 

From 1973 to 1997 the defunct machine formed part of the exhibition in Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry, where in '83 Yeadon searched it out. The computer was put into storage by the Museum and effectively was lost. The WITCH was 'rediscovered' in 2008 and has now been restored by the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park, being rebooted in November 2012, becoming the oldest digital working computer: so no longer dead.

Yeadon's original intentions were to make a witty, ironic comment on 'computer art' the crass and perverse idea of painting a computer. That is, a painting of a computer posing as computer art. The WITCH was a diabolical contraption, a dusty hunk of electric and mechanical hardware that reminded him of the disturbing 1950s Quatermass science fiction television series that so impressed him as a child. 

Yeadon is sceptical about technology and its uses, these paintings are not celebrations of technology but are more a warning. He is concerned with revealing the controlling men, hidden, watching, listening, the men with the finger on the button.

Yeadon is now working on two new versions of the WITCH, the 'Live WITCH'. His new paintings of the WITCH are central to this series on Man and Machine. 

Open by appointment 27th January - 16th Feburary, please email hello@pluspace.com to book an appointment.


Matthew Macaulay

Matthew Macaulay

Exhibiting artists

John Yeadon

Taking part


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