Svg patterns
A woman wearing glasses and a head-dress sitting in a wood-panelled room.
Onyeka Igwe, A Radical Duet, 2023, HD Video, 28:09 mins. Courtesy the artist.

Onyeka Igwe
history is a living weapon in yr hand
13 January – 2 March 2024

Exhibition preview: Friday 12 January 6-8pm

Bonington Gallery presents history is a living weapon in yr hand, a solo exhibition of new and reconfigured work by London based artist Onyeka Igwe. The exhibition follows Igwe’s acclaimed solo exhibition A Repertoire of Protest (No Dance, No Palaver) at MoMA PS1 in New York, earlier this year, and ahead of her inclusion in the exhibition Nigeria Imaginary at the national pavilion of Nigeria at the Venice Biennale 2024.

The exhibition will be centred around a new two-screen adaptation of Igwe’s dual timeline experimental film A Radical Duet (2023). In 1947 London was a hub of radical anti-colonial activity, with international intellectuals, artists, and activists such as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Sylvia Wynter, C L R James, Kwame Nkrumah and George Padmore all in London at this time. Each of them was individually agitating for their respective countries’ national independence, but did they meet, and if so, what did they discuss?

The film features fictional characters inspired by these radical figures. It imagines what happens when two women of different generations, but both part of the post-war independence movement, come together in London to put their fervour and imagination into writing a revolutionary play. The film depicts this process and envisages what that play would look like if staged today.

A film still featuring a man standing in a dark room, with his hands in the air, holding a book in one hand.
Onyeka Igwe, A Radical Duet, 2023, HD Video, 28:09 mins. Courtesy the artist.

The film will be accompanied by elements of the set design and props from the making of A Radical Duet, taking inspiration from the Jamaican writer and cultural theorist, Sylvia Wynter’s ideas on theatrical adaptation. Wynter builds on Brechtian principles of modern epic theatre and advises on how set design can support a theatre to ‘explode [social] fears by bringing them out into the light of day’.

For this exhibition, Igwe will be working with Collective Text, an organisation supporting accessibility in art and film through creative captioning, audio description and interpretation.

history is a living weapon in yr hand is produced in collaboration with Peer Gallery, London, where it will be presented in autumn 2024.

An old sepia postcard showing the Waverley building.
Image: Misch & Stock’s ‘Camera Graphics”. Series No. 510 i2. Nottingham. Stamped July 31, 1906 The image shows the Waverley Building, originally home to the Nottingham School of Art & Design and now part of the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University

John Beck and Matthew Cornford
The Art Schools of the East Midlands
22 September – 2 December 2023
Exhibition preview: Thursday 21 September 6-8pm

This autumn Bonington Gallery presents The Art Schools of the East Midlands, the latest iteration of John Beck’s and Matthew Cornford’s ambitious Art School Project to locate and document the nation’s art school buildings or the sites upon which they once stood. The project combines photography, text, and archival materials to explore the histories and legacies of Britain’s art schools, and examine the vital role art schools have played, and continue to play, in the cultural and economic life of our towns and cities.

The twin Victorian engines of industrial ambition and social reform powered the British art school system, set up to deliver a skilled labour force for local industry – such as lace manufacture in Nottingham – and much needed educational opportunities to the newly enfranchised working class. Art schools combined practical training and exposure to culture, turning out skilled producers and discerning consumers well into the twentieth century.

By the mid-1960s there were still over 150 art schools in the UK, and ‘art school’ became a journalistic shorthand for creative innovation across arts, design, music and advertising. Yet at the peak of their influence on British cultural life, art schools in many towns and cities were already being amalgamated, reorganised and rebranded as part of a drive to reshape education in the arts. Most art schools have long since been absorbed into larger institutions or faded away.

Bonington Gallery’s presentation focuses on the art schools of the East Midlands and features original photographic images of all the region’s art school buildings alongside displays of archival material. The striking grandeur of Derby School of Art’s Gothic Revival building currently stands empty, whilst the Waverley Building built in 1865 for Nottingham School of Art remains one of the few Victorian built art school buildings still actively used for teaching art – as part of Nottingham Trent University. The project is also, importantly, an investigation of our present moment, documenting the sites of former art schools which have been redeveloped or reused.

The exhibition and the accompanying series of talks and events aim to create a space for dialogue and debate, raising questions about the role of the arts and art education in relation to community, history, and identity, and the shifting complex role of cultural production and cultural labour in the contemporary environment.

The Art School Project was prompted by the discovery that the college both Beck and Cornford attended in the early 1980s, Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design, was disused and up for sale. Evolving over 15 years the project takes the form of a series of regionally focused exhibitions. Their work on the West Midlands was recently shown at the New Gallery Walsall, and the North West iteration of the project was exhibited in Liverpool, Bury and Rochdale. The project is documented on Instagram:

Ruth Fainlight sitting at her kitchen table.

Emily Andersen
Somewhere Else Entirely
25 March – 13 May 2023
Exhibition preview: Friday 24 March, 6-8 pm

“When I’m not writing poetry everything is okay, life’s fine, but it is not entire. Something is missing.” – Ruth Fainlight

This spring Bonington Gallery presents Somewhere Else Entirely a new three-screen video installation by the acclaimed photographer Emily Andersen featuring the American-born poet and writer Ruth Fainlight, who has become one of Britain’s most distinguished poets.

Ruth Fainlight was born in New York City in 1931 and moved to England when she was 15. During a lifetime dedicated to writing she has produced numerous collections of poetry, short stories, and translations. In 1959 she married the writer, Alan Sillitoe, and her many literary friendships included Sylvia Plath, Jane and Paul Bowles, and Robert Graves.

Andersen’s work is an intimate portrait of Fainlight, now aged 91, presenting fragments of the poet’s life. Taking inspiration from Renaissance triptychs and their depiction of different elements of the same subject across three panels, Somewhere Else Entirely captures Fainlight at her home in London, making notes, on her walks, and in the seaside town of Brighton where she spent her teenage years. Each image is carefully framed with a photographer’s eye for composition and detail – Fainlight walking along the corridor, her green cardigan against green foliage, the booklined walls – and intentionally moves at a gentle pace, sometimes almost appearing to be a series of still images.

In Somewhere Else Entirely Fainlight talks off-screen, revealing fascinating insights into her life, her creative process, and how she is ‘in the hands of the poem’. Her intensely visual poetry and fiction touch on themes of time, memory, and loss – and in her voiceover, she movingly recites her poem ‘Somewhere Else Entirely’ composed after the death of her husband.

Andersen has been a photographer for four decades. Her work includes interiors, architecture, and landscape but she is best known for her award-winning portraiture, capturing well-known faces including Nico, Peter Blake, and Helen Mirren. Somewhere Else Entirely is Andersen’s first completed video portrait and is inspired by her decade-long friendship with Fainlight. The exhibition also shares its title with Fainlight’s 2018 poetry collection which features Andersen’s photographs on the cover.

The 11 minute long, three-channel video, will be shown on a 10.5m wide curved screen within the gallery space. To accompany the exhibition there will be an in-conversation with Emily Andersen and Ruth Fainlight, and an evening of performative readings, using the work to reflect on the reciprocity of words and images, and the process of biography.

The launch of Somewhere Else Entirely in Nottingham is significant, as Fainlight’s husband Alan Sillitoe was famously from the city, and the couple met in a local bookshop. Andersen is Senior Lecturer in Critical and Visual Practice of Photography at Nottingham Trent University.

Emily Andersen
Somewhere Else Entirely (2023)
Funded by Bonington Gallery and Nottingham Trent University

Bonington Gallery is part of Curated & Created, NTU’s extra-curricular and public arts programme.

A conversation between Bonington Gallery’s director Tom Godfrey and artist and curator Cedar Lewisohn over email during October 2022.

Artist Cedar Lewisohn. Photo by Sophie Dawson, 2021.

Tom Godfrey: Hi Cedar, initially it’d be great if you could offer an introduction to your practice, including the mediums you utilise and the ideas you explore.

Cedar Lewisohn: I’m an artist, writer and curator. Curating is really my main ‘day job’, but for this conversation I’ll focus on my visual art, studio practise. But to be honest, all areas of my work feed into each other.

In the studio – my work is often centred around drawings, which I translate into wood carvings, books and publications. Recently, I’ve used the wood carvings as the basis to make a virtual space and moving images. The subject matter for the past five years or so has focused on reappropriating images from various museum collections. Often images related to African, ancient Egyptian or Mesopotamian collections in those museums. The idea of mixing the very analogue process of the wood carved images, and turning that into a virtual space really appealed to me.

TG: What constitutes your research ­– what types of things do you like to read, watch or listen to?

CL: I’m always researching in some way or another. I’ve spent lots of time over the past few years visiting historic museum collections, and sometimes speaking to curators, finding out about the history of objects, and how they came into the collection. I had no idea the debates about contested museum objects would explode into the public consciousness in the way they have over the last year or so, in the wake of Covid and Black Lives Matter.

In terms of what I read or watch, it’s very, very varied. I tend to listen to lectures and audio books. I like highbrow things as well as total trash. In my digital library right now, I’ve got Black Skin White Masks by Franz Fanon, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, and I just really enjoyed David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History. In terms of music, I flick between a bit of drill, like 67, lots of reggae and dub, like Scientist, also lots of bands I’ve been into over the years, like Autechre or Slowdive. I mean this list could go on for a very long time. It just depends on my mood and the day.

Cedar Lewisohn Untitled (Mesopotamian and Egyptian Gods) Hand Pressed Woodcut on paper with spray paint and ink, 2013.

TG: As you mention above, your overall practice encapsulates several different strands, including artmaking, curating and writing. Can you talk about what it’s like to work across these different areas – what overlaps, connections or separations may exist?

CL: To be honest, everything just feeds into each other, and it just makes sense for me. Curating is very collaborative, and really the area of curating I’ve mainly been involved with is in institutions. I enjoy bringing art projects to audiences and doing projects at scale. There are lots of negotiations and relationships, but when it works out, it’s extremely rewarding. I worked on a project called Dub London a couple of years ago, and that really got me into the history of Jamaican music and soundsystem culture. I never really knew the difference between, say rocksteady and ska before. But I’m really into rocksteady now.

As part of that research, I became more interested in Patois and the language used in the lyrics of the music. So, in the first lockdown during the pandemic, I did a course on Patois with a Jamaican poet and teacher Joan Hutchinson. It was fascinating to learn about the history of the language and the meaning behind many phrases in Jamaican English. So that is where the title for the exhibition at Bonington comes from.

With my studio practice, in essence, it is quite a tactile process. It’s physical and centres around things I make with my hands. The research I do for curatorial projects often feeds into my studio practice. I mean, all the time I spend in historic museums looking at objects and re-drawing them, could be seen as a form of curating. I also do lots of different types of writing, from short stories and fiction to straight up writing about art and culture.  Recently, I’ve been doing what I call ‘Rants’. They are short texts that are quite funny, and a place to vent. I have all these ‘notes’, that I was planning to use in longer texts. Again, it’s almost a curatorial thing, if I was visiting an artist’s studio, and they had all this writing, in the form of a few sentences, my advice to them would be, just show the texts as they are. So, I decided to take some of my own advice.

TG: I’m interested in the immediacy and boldness you employ when manoeuvring between the different medias in your practice. For example, going from a woodcut to a VR experience, and the ease at which you appear to move between these different platforms. Can you talk more about this please?

CL: I aways do a lot of things at once. So, it’s often about how the projects fit together conceptually. With the VR piece, it’s made using hundreds of scans of my woodcut prints. So, the idea is partly to creative a digital experience that is also quite handmade or analogue. It’s partly a daft idea that I’ve followed through with but I do think there is a difference between handmade moving image work and digital animation. If you look at early Disney animation for example, when the individual cells are hand drawn and coloured, they have an energy and beauty that is lost when the process is digitised. So, I wanted to take this idea, of bringing back the handmade to the virtual space. Obviously, it’s not very practical. But who wants practical art?

TG: I like what you say above “…if I was visiting an artist’s studio, and they had all this writing, in the form of a few sentences, my advice to them would be, just show the texts as they are. So I decided to take some of my own advice”. It seems as though you’ve been able to internalise some of the objectivity that being a curator often affords. This is usually applied to other people’s work, but here it seems that you are able to look at your work through the eyes of a different position. Is this fair to say, and what does being a curator bring to your art, and what does your art bring to your curating?

CL: I love making art and I love organising art projects. These are separate disciplines that relate to each other but are far from being the same thing. I think most artists have to have a certain self-criticality and ability to self-edit.  I also think artists can often be great curators. For me, having quite a lot of institutional curatorial experience, this does feed into my studio work. Some of my research processes, looking at historic museum collections and objects, could easily been seen as a curatorial practice. In terms of my art influencing my curating… Sometimes it seems like 90 per cent of curating is bureaucracy – so it takes an artist to cut through and just say, “here’s a crazy idea, let’s do it…”  Which does loosely fit my curatorial approach.

TG: Without giving too much away, could you talk a little about some of your ideas and thinking for the exhibition at Bonington. The title ‘Patois Banton’ appears to highlight the ease you have in mixing together different reference points in a respectfully irreverent and generative way.

CL: During one of the [Covid-19] lockdowns, for some reason I decided to do Patois lessons. Because my heritage is Jamaican, there is something slightly ridiculous about this. Imagine an English person wanting to have lessons in how to speak Cockney. But still, I couldn’t speak Patois, so I did some lessons. I found an amazing tutor in Jamacia, and we did the classes online. Joan Hutchinson, the tutor, is a poet in her own right, and takes the subject really seriously. It was great to dive into the subject. It was quite academic, looking the history of words, grammar, all sorts. But also, folk stories, songs, and lots of meaning behind these things. There is so much Patois used in the English language, in music and conversation. But people often don’t know the history and context of these words. ‘Banton’ is a word people might, or might not be familiar with, it just means storyteller, something like the griot, in West African tradition. So, Patois Banton seemed like a good title for the show.

TG: Some of the source imagery that you use for your drawings, I’m thinking of the Black Drawings that you produced whilst on residency at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, are dense monochrome renderings of paintings by European Expressionist painters (although I think you include a Basquiat in this series). What is it about this group of artists that you have chosen to reference, and, by reducing these works to a singular form of execution is there any potential commentary/criticism being paid towards the established and widely adopted, western-centric/European cannons within art-history?

CL: The Black Drawings series was an exploration with the European fascination with so-called ‘Primitivism’ from the first part of the 20th Century.

The series came about quite spontaneously but due to having time and freedom of being on a residency at Jan Van Eyck Academie, I was able to fully explore. Before starting at the JVA around 2014, I saw a Hannah Höch exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Some of her collages which included images of African women intrigued me, so I took a few photographs. Obviously, the Höch images inspire lots of questions around cultural appropriation, depictions of the black body by white artists and so on. It started a train of thought about huge numbers of Modernist artists, who had done the same thing. So, when I was in Maastricht at the JVA, I spent a lot of time visiting museums and collections in that region, places like Cologne, Brussels, Aachen, Liège.

I kept seeing more and more work, sometimes by quite surprising artists, who you would not associate with African imagery, such as Fernand Léger, or Francis Picabia, Lots of German Expressionists, The Blue Rider Group. They all had works with African influences. So, I just re-drew them, but almost entirely in black. It was my way of re-appropriating the works, or “stealing them back,” as I used to say at the time.

It was not a super critical attack on the artists I was looking at. I was not trying to “take them down”. I actually love many of the artists’ work I was looking at. It was more about pointing out this massive influence of African imagery on Modernist aesthetics.

Cedar Lewisohn, Excerpt from The Marduk Prophecy, published by Slimvolume, 2020.

TG: I like your reference to early animation, that would turn hand-drawn cells into cinematic films. It would be great if you could go into a little more detail about the relationship between your lino-cuts and VR experiences. It feels that the ‘gulf’ you present between these mediums is wider than early Disney, and I guess these chasms will only grow as technology develops.

CL: The link between early animation and the digital space is something I’ve been thinking about fairly recently. I was doing some curatorial research a few years ago into early film and moving image, which is what perhaps first sparked my interest.

When we look at early hand drawn animations, there is a certain magic in the movement of the images, that to me, seems lost when the process is digitised. It’s the analogue v. digital debate, I guess.

With visual material, I do think there is a certain aura that we subconsciously recognise when the human hand has made something. With AI art and image production, this is an area I think more and more people will become concerned with. If AI can an make any image or object that that can be imagined, what is the actual point of having a human do it? Humans are kind of a pain in the arse, in comparison to a nice subservient AI programme. AI programmes don’t need lunch breaks, they don’t ask for pay rises and so on.

So ultimately, I’m trying to think about analogue virtual spaces, that have to be handmade by me.  It’s a slightly ridiculous proposition at this point, but with the virtual space that uses woodcut and lino prints in the exhibition, we can see a type of prototype of what I’m thinking about.

Cedar Lewisohn, The Marduk Prophesy cover.

TG: Finally, I’d like to hear more about your use of the book format. Due to their scale, the experience of looking and ’reading’ becomes a very physical and shared experience. By showing drawings in this way, the viewer(s) can only experience 1-2 images at a time, and not the full series in one go around the walls of a gallery. As a comparison, Andy Warhol’s ‘Shadow Paintings’ come to mind for how they are shown at DIA Art Foundation, but they could almost be pages from a book – or maybe cells from an animation.

CL: Books and printed publications have been something I’ve always enjoyed as an alternative display space. Again, it’s mixing curatorial and studio practice. Playing with the scale of the books adds a level of drama and spectacle that I really enjoy. When you have these massive books, just the act of looking at them and turning the pages becomes a performance. It turns the act of looking into a physical experience. It also slows down the way it’s possible to view the images and pages. So, it asks a lot from the viewer. But books suit me as a medium. Books are somewhat undervalued as a medium right now, but I have a long-term self-belief that the appreciation for the medium will increase.

Catch Cedar’s exhibition Patois Banton in the gallery from 21 January – 11 March 2023.

Cedar and Jamaican writer and teacher Joan Andrea Hutchinson will be holding a free in-conversation event to discuss Jamaican Patois on Thursday 16 February.

A red and black screen printed image with the words Patois Banton written on top

Cedar Lewisohn
Patois Banton
21 January – 11 March 2023
Launch: Friday 20 January 6–8 pm

Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University, Dryden Street, Nottingham. NG1 4GG

Patois Banton is a new exhibition by artist, writer, and curator Cedar Lewisohn, on show at the Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University, from 21 January 2023. 

The exhibition will be Lewisohn’s first UK solo exhibition outside of London and follows his critically acclaimed exhibition The Thousand Year Kingdom at the Saatchi Gallery and group exhibition Untitled at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, both in 2021.  As a curator, Lewisohn produced the landmark Street Art exhibition at Tate Modern in 2008, and more recently the Dub London project at the Museum of London.  He is currently the Curator of Site Design at Southbank Centre, London. 

Lewisohn’s work uses drawing as the starting point for a practice that encompasses woodblock and lino prints, publications, performances, moving images, sound, VR experience, and the written word.

Over the past decade he has been researching and drawing objects relating to ancient African and Mesopotamian civilizations within museum collections, including the Benin Bronzes, which have become a touchstone in the discussion around global museums’ restitution of looted heritage.

In his prints Lewisohn mixes his depictions of works from ancient civilizations with symbols of contemporary British youth culture, such as sound system culture, dancehall, drill music and urban landscapes, to explore current social, ethical, and political issues. The mix of African, Jamaican and British histories, locations, myths, and hidden stories is central to Lewisohn’s work.

The exhibition’s title is a fusion of two words that offer further insight into Lewisohn’s practice and preoccupations. During the pandemic, Lewisohn took lessons in Patois – the English-based creole language spoken throughout Jamaica – from academic and poet, Joan Hutchison.  He is interested in the migration of Patois back to the UK through its use in reggae and dancehall lyrics, and its integration into the slang of young urban Britain.  Banton is the Jamaican word for storyteller.  Combining these words highlights Lewisohn’s concern with Jamaican heritage from both a personal and historical perspective, and his desire to explore its ongoing influence on modern-day British culture.

The exhibition will present a range of large and small-scale works, some not exhibited before. It will include works from his acclaimed book The Marduk Prophecy – shown alongside a newly commissioned publication, and an interactive virtual space that explores Lewisohn’s fascination with mixing the handmade – in this case his woodblock prints – with digital technology. 

To accompany the exhibition Bonington Gallery will publish a new compilation of poetry by the artist.   ‘Office Poems’ features a selection of poems exploring the humour and mundanity of office life.  Each poem will be published in English and Patois, with translations by Joan Hutchinson. 

Bonington Gallery is part of Curated & Created, NTU’s extra-curricular and public arts programme.

A black and white photo of two women playing tennis

10 October – 10 December 2022
Preview: Saturday 8 October, 6-8 pm
Bonington Gallery, Dryden Street, Nottingham. NG1 4GG

Tennis Tournament: Saturday 8 October, 2-4 pm
Park Tennis Club, Nottingham. NG7 1BX

For six decades, Stephen Willats (born in London in 1943) has concentrated on ideas that today are ever-present in contemporary art: communication, social engagement, active spectatorship and self-organisation, and has initiated many seminal multi-media art projects. He has situated his pioneering practice at the intersection between art and other disciplines such as cybernetics – the hybrid post-war science of communication – advertising, systems research, learning theory, communications theory and computer technology. In so doing, he has constructed and developed a collaborative, interactive and participatory practice grounded in the variables of social relationships, settings and physical realities. Rather than presenting visitors with icons of certainty he creates a random, complex environment which stimulates visitors to engage in their own creative process.

In the early 1970’s Stephen Willats was living in Nottingham and leading a radical and forward-thinking teaching programme within the Fine Art Department at Nottingham College of Art and Design (now Nottingham Trent University). Here he began several early interactive projects, which explored relationships between audience and artist, and among people in public and private space. Social Resource Project for Tennis Clubs was one of Willats’ first community based, participatory projects, and signalled the direction his future critically acclaimed work would take.

Working with four tennis clubs in Nottingham in 1971-72 that were socially, economically and physically separate, Willats’ idea was to unite different social groups within a shared process. Working in a collaborative manner, producing work within the community and outside of the art gallery Willats began to formulate a belief that the artist can work with anyone to transform their perceptions of their social and personal reality.

Social Resource Project for Tennis Clubs was one of the first artworks to use imagery taken directly from the environment in which it was situated in. This use of familiar visual references and the importance of location were to become common elements in Willats’ works. The results of the project, a networked arrangement of photography, text, drawings and publications will form the core of the exhibition. Accompanying the artwork and the archive materials will be a new film and photographic series based upon recent visits to the original sites by the artist. The exhibition will also include works produced during Willats’ early years in Nottingham that proved formative for his subsequent career. 

Nottingham City Museums & Galleries acquired Social Resource Project for Tennis Clubs in autumn 2021 and is lending the work to the Bonington Gallery for this exhibition. The artwork was purchased with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Art Fund. Nottingham City Museums & Galleries Fine Art collection has been growing since the opening of the Midland Counties Art Museum at Nottingham Castle in 1878. The acquisition of this significant body of work from early in the career of an artist of Willats standing, highlights the history of experimental and progressive work that has taken place in the city. 

During the launch day for the exhibition there will be a restaging of the Tennis Tournament that happened at the culmination of the original project. Like the original iteration, Stephen will work closely with members of The Park Tennis Club to re-model the game of tennis based upon their reasons and intentions for joining the club – utilising this site and experience as a simulation of a transformed society. This will take place at The Park Tennis Club in the afternoon of Saturday 8 October. The invitation is open to all and afterwards there will be an exhibition opening at the gallery in the evening. Please follow our website for updates. This exhibition will be accompanied by a free publication with a new text by Stephen Willats, available from the gallery.

The inaugural year of our Formations programme, led by the Postcolonial Studies Centre (directed by Jenni Ramone and Nicole Thiara) in collaboration with Bonington Gallery, will close at the end of September 2021 with the segment Formation: Re-viewing. This final segment will be an opportunity to look back over the programme of 30 events including 15 videos now archived on our YouTube channel.

Thank you to everyone who has attended and supported our events, and a huge thanks to all of the participants and contributors to the programme. Having not done an online events programme before, we were excited to take advantage of the opportunity that online programming brings with hosting such a wide range of practitioners, knowledge and experience, and continue global conversations that were established and furthered in 2020 as a result of George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Decolonisation agenda and COVID-19.

This blog post by no means covers all aspects of the programme, but will offer a flavour and starting point for the range of topics that were explored.

Honey Williams, Snakey Friends II (Banned From Britain), 2020.

Our programme began in October 2020 with the launch of Honey Williams‘ specially commissioned work Snakey Friends II (Banned from Britain), 2020. This work, with its anti-structural racism message, acted as an emblem for the Formations programme, and was on display outside the gallery for the whole year. We are really pleased that our host institution Nottingham Trent University acquired this work as part of its Art Collection, securing the long-term care and display of this work. Honey’s piece will stay on show outside the gallery for another year at least, before it is sited elsewhere, so please take a look when you next visit the gallery. Honey’s commission was adjoined by a Q&A, where she expands upon what constitutes and informs her practice and thinking.

Formation: History

Our very first Formations event, as part of Formation: History was the book launch of Distinguished Professor Sharon Monteith’s book SNCC’s Stories: The African American Freedom Movement in the Civil Rights South (University of Georgia Press, October 2020). This included a Q+A with Poet, Director of Nottingham Black Archive and NTU doctoral researcher Panya Banjoko. It was great to work with Panya again after her Bonington Vitrines presentation in November 2019.

Formation: Land

November & December’s segment was entitled Formation: Land, which considered dispossession, migration, and ways the human and land interact. This segment saw the first of several writing workshops led by the PSC’s writer in residence Eve Makis. This workshop encouraged participants to learn how to evoke a landscape using your senses, taking inspiration from the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Elif Shafak. The workshops with Eve remained very popular throughout the year.

In December we were extremely pleased to have supported the student led conference Longing to Belong, which raised questions surrounding our relationship with the term ‘belonging’. It focused on writers from the diaspora, asserting that their relationship with belonging is a unique and under-represented experience. The guest speakers included Eve Makis, Panya Banjoko and Helen Cousins.

Formation: Memorials

The new year began with Formation: Memorials, extending many of the conversations and dialogues around public history and memorialisation prompted by such recent moments as the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.

We were pleased to have hosted a discussion between Dr Jessica Moody and Professor Stephen Small, chaired by NTU’s Dr Jenny Woodley, with Purnachandra Naik. This lively event explored how the UK and USA’s histories are inextricably bound up with enslavement and yet, both countries have failed to fully recognise or interrogate these pasts.

Formation: DNA

Prompted by the shared circumstance of the pandemic, but its disproportionate impact upon people of colour, the next segment Formation: DNA explored related topics such as identity, care, inequality, disease and vaccination.

In April we hosted a conversation between KARVAN and Kwanzaa Collective UK, who have been working closely with five Black frontline workers to ask the question “How do you do a job that involves caring for others, when you are working within a system that doesn’t care about you?“.

With the ONS reporting that over 60% of COVID-related deaths on the frontline have come from ethnic minority backgrounds, yet ethnic minorities only make up about 17% of the NHS – with Black people being only 6.1% of that, this disproportion generates a lot of questions that desperately need answers.

Formation: Milk

Our May/June segment was Formation: Milk, looking at global practices and representations of breastfeeding in art and literature. In acknowledgment of Bonington Gallery’s own position, one of the events we hosted explored representations of breastfeeding in art history. This event featured Rebecca Randle, Learning and Engagement Coordinator, and Helen Cobby, Assistant Curator, both from The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham who spoke to PSC’s Jenni Ramone about text and interpretation used within gallery and museum contexts, and the opportunity to utilise labels, panels and leaflets to better connect with audiences and elicit emotion.

Patterns of Struggle and Solidarity

In June we hosted the PSC’s online conference Patterns of Struggle and Solidarity, exploring the practice and study of cultural activism from disciplines across postcolonial studies. Across a collection of presentations, conversations, workshops, screenings and performances, questions were posed such as How do academics fit into the field of cultural activism? How do academics and activists conceptualise patterns of struggle and solidarity? What role does postcolonial research play in supporting and amplifying the voices and work of cultural activists, in particular in the fields of literature, art, film, craft and performance art? and How do cultural activists and performers engage with postcolonial studies? A performance highlight from the conference was by Dalit rapper Sumit Samos.

Formation: Lace

A material and subject very close to Nottingham was explored in the sixth segment of Formations, Formation: Lace – The global history of lace and its use in colonial contexts. This segment featured important research and knowledge that is related to the history of Lace, as well as working with practitioners local to Nottingham who continue a tradition of hand embroidery and craft as a form of community exercise.

We were delighted to work with Nottingham based artist Rita Kappia, furthering her series of Empowerment Doll workshops and projects. Firstly we hosted a Zoom workshop for 20 participants who were situated across the globe. The group followed Rita’s instructions to make themselves an Empowerment Doll. The workshop proved emotional at times, and showed the therapeutic potential of making a doll in the company of others, and exploring personal themes of identity and self-care.

Our second engagement with Rita was a specially filmed YouTube instructional video (shot by Reece Straw) that was accompanied by 80 free kits that allowed people around the world to make a doll following Rita on the screen. The free kits went very quickly, and pictures of dolls have been sent to us over the past few weeks.

As reflected by this post, the final segment Formation: Re-viewing will be an opportunity to look back over all of the topics and content gathered this year, so please explore yourselves. You can view all of the Formation talks on our YouTube playlist.

We are really pleased to be continuing Formations for a second year, so please check back to our website and follow our social channels for updates over the coming weeks.

Andrew Logan dressed in half a tuxedo and half a dress.

We are very excited about launching our 2021/22 season with a solo exhibition spanning 50 years of work by Andrew Logan, one of Britain’s most iconic artists.

We’ll be opening our doors for a preview of this incredible exhibition on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 September 2021, 12 – 6 pm daily. Everyone is welcome – just reserve your free place online and drop in:

Reserve your free place for The Joy of Sculpture preview on Saturday 25 September

Reserve your free place for The Joy of Sculpture preview on Sunday 26 September

Lockdown may be upon us once more, but our online events programme is still in full swing, including fascinating talks and events as part of our year-long Formations programme.

Formations is a series of events in response to Black History Month, Black Lives Matter, and the Decolonisation agenda, in partnership with Postcolonial Studies Centre at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). The series so far has included talks under the thematic banners of Formation: History – critical responses to Black History Month, and the current instalment, Formation: Land which focuses on the ways in which humans are connected with the living environment and heritage.

Catch them again online on our new YouTube channel.

Chloé Maratta – ARTnews feature

This April we’re excited to be presenting a two person exhibition between artist, musician and designer Chloé Maratta and artist & musician Joanne Robertson. The exhibition will also involve artefacts from NTU’s School of Art & Design’s high-street fashion archive, FashionMap. Chloé features in a recent ARTnews article that profiles several of the ‘leading lights’ within LA’s art/fashion/music crossover scene:

Chloé Maratta in ArtNews
Joanne Robertson – interview with Under The Radar (NZ)

Coming up in April next year is C/J, a collaboration between artists Chloé Maratta and Joanne Robertson, who as well visual artists are both musicians.

Joanne is currently touring her music in New Zealand, and answered a few questions from, in which she refers to the upcoming exhibition here at the gallery, as well as discussing the process of collaborating with other artists, and the strong link between her musical and visual practices.

Take a read of the interview here – where you can also listen to some of Joanne’s music »

Joanne Roberston interview in Under the Radar (NZ)