Pointe Blank

Author: Andy Hartwell

Pointe Blank is a collection of original images inspired by the story of Coppélia. In a first-of-its-kind collaborative project for Birmingham Royal Ballet, 27 artists and designers have been invited to produce individual pieces of artwork based upon the tale of toymaker Doctor Coppélius, and his attempts to breathe life into his most prized creation.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a rather exciting personal project with Rob Lindsay from Birmingham Royal Ballet. Rob got in contact at the end of April to discuss a collaborative design project he’d been thinking about, so over a good cup of tea we sparked off some ideas. Often people decide a show isn’t for them as soon as they read the third word of ‘Birmingham Royal Ballet presents…’ But sometimes people will take a chance if they already know the plot of the piece. They’re not actually coming for the dancing, they’re coming for the story. Rob wanted to reach the ballet out to a wider audience, collaborating with other creatives to design something around their recent production, Coppélia. Birmingham Royal Ballet were 100% supportive.

“The appeal of Coppélia for such a project was that it’s got a lively and colourful story, but one that’s not already been told in hundreds of different ways, like Cinderella or The Sleeping Beauty. Even as a ballet, it’s not quite crossed over into the public consciousness in the same way that The Nutcracker or Swan Lake has. So it meant – or at least I’d hope that it meant – that the artists could interpret the story with very few visual preconceptions.” – Rob Lindsay, Birmingham Royal Ballet

After a few meetings we’d cracked a concept and entitled our project Pointe Blank. I put together a list of artists and designers I admired or had previously worked with and we wrote the brief. We explored options for a physical exhibition too, an opportunity to bring the creatives together, as opposed to an online presence only. The brief given to the contributors did not require them to present Coppélia as a ballet, only that ideally, they include some reference to Birmingham Royal Ballet. Production images were available, but not initially provided in an attempt to keep the brief as unprescriptive as possible.

We launched the collection at the Hippodrome on Monday 13th June to the artists and invited guests. It was a great evening with my friend Nat tickling the ivories and Lewis being our photographer. David Bintley, the director of Birmingham Royal Ballet did a speech too – it was great to hear his genuine support and excitement over our project. We also launched the collection online that evening and received over 2000 views on the Tuesday alone!


Artwork shown above from Substrakt’s Ryan and Claire 🙂