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Join us in exploring a 15-year history of the application and appropriation of motif across a wide range of design cultures, and play a part in reinterpreting the future relationship between image and message.

Bonington Gallery is delighted to present Motif, an exhibition and experience that brings together 15 years of research conducted by Nottingham Trent University’s Tim Rundle, Principal Lecturer in BA (Hons) Fashion Communication and Promotion.

Motifs have become the cultural hieroglyphics of our times, charting a new labyrinthine set of semiotics that reflect shifts in social identity and consumer behaviour. As the new cryptologic visual shorthand, motifs have become a dominant form of communication, from tote to tattoo, replacing text with emoji, logo with image, city name with icon. Adopted as both badges of belonging and icons of individuality, motifs can be understood as markers of creative conformity or aesthetic innovation.

After 30 years of aggressive shifts in design, our relationship to retail, consumption, personal and lifestyle narratives are unrecognisable. One of the key markers of these global changes is our adoption of motifs.

Exhibition Graphic Design by Joff + Ollie Studio
Exhibition Animations by Simone Elverum-Hunt

Motif Artist in Residence

Between Monday 16 December and Friday 10 January we are delighted to welcome Nick Chaffe & Bruce Asbestos as our Motif Artists in Residence. Working within the gallery, both practitioners will create work in response to the premise of the exhibition that will then be manifested through a public display. Bruce Asbestos will work towards a presentation of his S/S 2020 Fashion Collection, and Nick will work towards a currently undetermined outcome. Follow our digital channels for updates.


Bruce Asbestos lives and works in Nottingham, UK. His broad work encompasses performance, painting, clothing, social media, computer games, and a multitude of collaborations. Recent projects and exhibitions include: Bruce Asbestos x Juliana Sissons 2019 Collection, A/W 2018 Collection Nottingham Contemporary and Kunstraum, London, an Arts Council International Fund project to NYC and Philadelphia, Bruce Asbestos A-B Testing, Concrete, Hayward Gallery, London. MTN DEW, Commission by EM15 for ‘Sunscreen’, Venice Biennale. Ivan Poe, Plymouth Art Weekender (Main commission as ‘Reactor’).

Nick Chaffe is a graphic artist, illustrator and brand designer based in Manchester. He has worked with Amnesty International, The Oscars, Time Out, London Jazz Festival, Manchester International Festival and more locally Nottingham Contemporary and 200 Degrees Coffee.

Motif Map Workshop

A decade and a half of research into the use of motifs in design and culture has resulted in the creation of two new workshops that will run in January 2020 here at NTU. The sessions, designed for both teachers and designers, will offer a series of new tools to change your approaches to the use of brand, design, motif, and image.

Find out more and reserve your place now:

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