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We are delighted to present Knees Kiss Ground, a solo exhibition by Motunrayo Akinola exploring faith and belonging through everyday objects.

The exhibition was produced during his six month Postgraduate Residency at South London Gallery, delivered in partnership with ourselves.

Motunrayo Akinola (b.1992) uses images of the home and everyday objects to explore comfort and belonging. He is interested in the function and materiality of these objects, and how they can trigger emotions and memories.

Akinola spent some time studying architecture before moving into art. He is interested in ideas around existing within different kinds of spaces. For this exhibition, Akinola will present works made during his residency, including an immersive installation constructed entirely from corrugated cardboard to replicate the exact dimensions of a shipping container, and several light works that explore the relationship between light and religious or spiritual rituals. These works also make reference to Biblical associations of light as a revelatory presence.

Akinola’s interest in attitudes towards migration stems from his dual upbringing in London and Lagos, Nigeria. His research throughout his residency has delved into post-colonial power dynamics and the psychology of ownership. By noting subtle gaps in cultural knowledge, his work aims to come to a new understanding about the possession of space.

About Motunrayo Akinola

Motunrayo Akinola is a London-based artist who uses images of the home and everyday materials to explore comfort and belonging. He creates sculptures, installations, sound and drawings. He studied at RA Schools, graduating in 2023. As a British-born Nigerian who has spent time in and now feels comfortable in both countries, Akinola’s work exposes the nuanced differences between the two places.

About the residency

Bonington Gallery have partnered with South London Gallery to deliver their 13th Postgraduate Residency, an open submission six-month residency that provides an early-career artist with a rare opportunity to produce a new body of work, which is then exhibited at the SLG and in this instance at Bonington Gallery. The residency is open to artists who have completed a BA, and have undertaken a period of self-directed, peer-led or postgraduate study in the year prior to the residency. This can include alternative, peer organised and non-accredited programmes from an institution, collective or art school in the UK as well as an MA, MFA, PGDip, MRes.

The SLG has an international reputation for its contemporary art exhibitions by established, mid-career and younger artists and programme of film and performance events. Its highly regarded, free education programme includes a peer-led young people’s forum; family workshops; artist-led projects and commissions on local housing estates; and a programme for looked after children.

The Postgraduate Residency is supported by The Paul and Louise Cooke Endowment.

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Join us for the launch of a new exhibition featuring over 120 works by contemporary working-class artists and photographers.

Curated by photographer, writer and broadcaster Johny Pitts, After the End of History emphasises the perspectives of practitioners who turn their gaze towards both their communities and outwards to the wider world. Find out more.

‘After the End of History: British Working Class Photography 1989 – 2024’ is a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition curated by Johny Pitts with Hayward Gallery Touring.

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The Blue Description Project (2023) is a new experimental version of Derek Jarman’s seminal film, Blue (1993). It features expanded accessibility measures including audio description, creative captions and in-person British Sign Language interpretation.

Event information
About the film

“Moving beyond words.”Time Out      Extraordinary ★★★★★ – The Times

In 1993, Derek Jarman released Blue, an epoch-defining account of AIDS, illness, and the experience of disability in a culture of repressive heteronormativity and compulsory able-bodiedness. Though often referred to as a feature film, Blue never existed exclusively in one medium. It was screened in theatres, simulcast on television and radio, released as a CD, and published as a book, creating opportunities for many different kinds of sensory abilities—visual, aural, and textual—to experience the work.

Conceived by artists and writers Christopher Robert Jones, Liza Sylvestre, and Sarah Hayden, The Blue Description Project creates a new, experimental iteration of Blue on the 30th anniversary of its release and Jarman’s death. Reflecting Blue’s standing as a foundational work of Crip* art, the project challenges ableist hierarchies in art while focusing on the generative possibilities of difference and interdependence.

In 1994, Jarman wrote in Chroma: “If I have overlooked something you hold precious — write it in the margin.” Taking up this invitation to write in the margin, The Blue Description Project builds on the multifaceted nature of Jarman’s work through newly commissioned and expansive accessibility.

*Crip—Cripistemology and the Arts.


The producers of the project wish to thanks everyone who so generously contributed their descriptions to the Blue Description Project. Warm thanks to Elaine Lillian Joseph and Corvyn Dostie. Special thanks to James MacKay, Basilisk Communications, and Zeitgeist Films.

Image credit: Christopher Robert Jones, Liza Sylvestre, Sarah Hayden, Blue Description Project, film still, 2024. Digital movie, captions. 1:20:55. Courtesy of the artists.

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Alongside our current exhibition, Karuppu, join artist Osheen Siva for this free, in-person workshop rooted in Dalit history, focusing on the legacy of the Dalit Panthers.

This event utilises speculative fiction as a tool to explore a future in which multi-dimensional narratives are built, while being anchored through an anti-caste, anti-racist and intersectional feminist lens.

Things to note:

About the workshop:

During the workshop, we’ll look into the origins, history, legacy of the Dalit Panthers movement. Exploring how the call for action was manifested physically through art and design, through the means of newsletters, posters, typography, colours, and so on. In parallel, we also focus on the history of protest artworks throughout history such as the poster designs from the 70s punk movement, art practices of creatives like Keith Haring, Shiva Nallaperumal, Rajni Perera, Panther’s Paw Publications, and Octavia Butler amongst others.

With the knowledge of Dalit history and the universe of futurisms we’ll combine the two using speculative fiction to create our own empowering narratives. Using the Dalit Panther newsletter as the template, we speculate what the year 3000 would look like for the Dalit community.

This will be envisioned through:

Alongside our current exhibition, Karuppu, join us for a free online in-conversation event between our exhibiting artist Osheen Siva with Jelena Sofronijevic, producer of EMPIRE LINES podcast and Nicole Thiara, researcher of Dalit and Adivasi literature.

Together, they will explore topics related to Osheen’s practice; their inspiration from cultural aesthetics that explore speculative futures and racial identity, including Afrofuturism. Osheen’s work uses science fiction, mythology, and religious heritage amidst their love of comic books and the vibrant soul of South India. Their artworks imagine fantastical dreamscapes, whilst reclaiming and reinventing Indian folktales and myths to imagine a decolonised future.

This event will be live streamed on YouTube, with auto generated closed captions. During the live event there will be the opportunity to ask questions.

As a legacy to our Art Schools of the East Midlands exhibition by John Beck & Matthew Cornford in Sept/Dec 2023, we invited Stella Couloutbanis who was Exhibition Organiser (later Exhibitions, Events and Festival Director) at Bonington Gallery between 1989 and 2007 to jot down memories of her time at Bonington Gallery & NTU.

This piece of writing is also shared on the occasion of our current Bonington Archive display entitled Stella’s Dilemma, that documents some of the process behind the creation of Tom Hackett’s 1991 solo exhibition Burst. This presentation is on show in the foyer of Bonington Gallery from 16 March – 4 May, 2024.

Memories of Bonington Gallery by Stella Couloutbanis

“In April 1989 I joined Trent Polytechnic as an Exhibitions Organiser for the Bonington Gallery, having left my previous role as Touring Exhibitions Officer within the Arts Division of Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC).

It was an interesting time to join the Polytechnic. Local authorities had relinquished responsibility and Trent Polytechnic was moved away from NCC – two years later becoming an independent university, first called Trent University and later changed to its current name, Nottingham Trent University. With its new statute a Vice Chancellor (VC) was appointed, Professor Ray Cowell. He had a passion for the arts and played a pivotal role in developing the art culture within the university. 

Image of the Bonington building in 1971.

The strategy was to transform the space into a public contemporary art gallery. The early years presented some significant challenges, with no designated office area, no staff, a limited budget, limited technical support, no funds to publicise the space, no doors to the gallery, no easy access, and no invigilation.

I initially shared an office within proximity to Professor Robert Ayres, Head of Visual Arts and Fine Art Department, who was my manager and led the vision for the space and the city.

Up to this point the gallery was referred to as ‘The Exhibition Hall’. It had an outline exhibition programme established by external bookings and by members of the Fine Art staff. 

To reposition the gallery as a contemporary public gallery we needed to shift away from external bookings and use by internal staff towards a more public remit. Like any change it was initially tricky to implement, but after two years the switch was well underway. The gallery had been renamed to ‘The Bonington Gallery’ (later shortened to just ‘Bonington Gallery’), and a programme of contemporary artworks and performances was being programmed for up to two years ahead. 

Detail of Bonington Building plans taken from The Architects Journal, January 1971.

In the early 1990’s we successfully secured two significant grants which helped elevate the Gallery and establish its position as a public art gallery. We became clients from East Midlands Arts (now the Arts Council England) receiving an annual grant plus match funding from Trent Polytechnic. 

The Henry Moore Foundation awarded us a grant to upgrade the gallery, allowing us to procure and fit doors, install a disabled access lift, install bannisters on the staircase, procure and install theatre lights and completely renovate the wooden floor.  

We also managed to get a disabled toilet installed in the Bonington building with a grant from Nottinghamshire County Council.

The most amazing thing for me about the Bonington Gallery was its size. It was one of the largest, single room galleries in the Midlands with a ceiling height of 22 feet and 2153 square feet of flooring. It had a beautiful maple floor which was in stark contrast with its brutal concrete egg box ceiling – all these distinguishing features making the gallery iconic, in my opinion. I would often describe the space to artists as a space you walked down into and, “imagine you are at the bottom of an empty public swimming bath”. The vastness of the space also meant the acoustics were difficult to work with making public speaking sometimes a challenge.

Image from the exhibition ‘Mechanics of the Eye‘, 1992, which also shows the lights & rig that were funded by the Henry Moore Foundation.

Forming partnerships and collaborations with artists and art organisations was pivotal in the gallery’s development and helped create a robust programme. Over the 18 years the team worked with all the key organisations and festivals in Nottinghamshire, such as Dance 4, Now, Expo, Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Djanogly Art Gallery, Wollaton Hall… and many more. Hosting some of the best talent in the arts. 

I worked with some amazing artists and performers during my time, too many to count, who were based locally, regionally, nationally and internationally – I never did a head-count, but it must be over a thousand. One of our key success factors was our growing reputation for supporting artists where we would do all that was possible for them to produce their creative work. Mentoring was very important to me, to help artists develop their artistic ideas. We were always being flexible, understanding that work was fluid and the creative outcome could be very different to what was originally proposed.

Image from the opening of John Newling’s exhibition ‘Lost’.

Bonington Gallery was always a space for site specific and installation work. In 1991 John Newling installed his work, Lost. It covered the entire floor of the gallery with a map of Nottingham City Centre made from paracetamol laid on steel plates. It was a significant point for me – not only was the work powerful and thought provoking with a striking visual impact, it showed that the gallery was ideally positioned to commission site specific works for the space and not just hosting and housing wall and floor-based work.

Over the years we had some fantastic installations; David Wilkinson & Mary McIntyre, Ray Lee, Dunn & Dempster, Shelley Sacks, Ansuman Biswas (collaboration with NOW Ninety 9), Rosie Leverton, Tom Hackett, Lorna Green, Natasha Kidd, Lone Twins, Gobb Squad, Opera North, Bodies in Flight, Hancock and Kelly, Ivan Smith, Susie MacMurray, Mariele Neudecker, Richard Brown are just a few to name.

Image of John Newling’s ‘Lost‘, from the artists website

Dance was a significant aspect of our programme, and we held the first Dance Festival in 1991, organised by Nottinghamshire County Council. At this festival I was introduced to the company Salamanda Tandem. This was the beginning of a very long working relationship between us, lasting several decades. Isabel Jones, the director (a dancer, singer, musician and visual artist) worked in Bonington Gallery for many years and I became chair to the company in 2005.

Image from ‘Plank Rule‘, 1992, presented in the main gallery space as part of Notts Dance Festival.

The gallery was a host and collaborator for Notts Dance and Body Shape Image – two major dance festivals organised by Dance 4. We worked with Expo and Now (Nottingham City Council) presenting, co-commissioning and supporting performances. 

A promotional image for ‘Remote Dance‘ for the 2005 edition of Nott Dance festival.

Around this time the VC’s passion for the arts led to the establishment of a collection of artworks for the university, focusing on purchasing works from practitioners living and working in the East Midlands. Bonington Gallery was responsible for sourcing, hanging, caring and cataloguing the works. 

With an increase in our Arts Council grant, Future Factory was created by Professor Rober Ayers who was appointed as the first Artistic Director ever established at a university. This funding allowed us to commission new work and host our own performance festivals, Celebration NottinghamSensitive Skin and Body Space Image. We also ran artist fellowships ­– giving support, mentoring, opportunities and bursaries to help further their practice. Future Factory’s exhibition and performance programme was housed at Bonington Gallery and Powerhouse, Victoria studios (the site for the new DaDA building). This included a multi-disciplinary contemporary exhibition programme involving photography, film, video, sound and multi-media plus a live art and performance season every year.

When Future Factory was established, Bonington Gallery had a team of eight, including a marketing officer, marketing assistant, technician, education officers, the director and myself. This was an amazing time as it was the start of a feasibility study for a new contemporary art and performance space in Nottingham which was awarded to Nottingham Trent University. The outcome was a success, which led to a further award from Arts Council England to continue with a more thorough and detailed feasibility study working in collaboration with Nottingham City Council and University of Nottingham.

Image from 2007 exhibition ‘THE REDEMPTIVE BEAUTY OF LIFE AFTER DEATH‘, which was presented as part of the Future Factory. This exhibition was done in collaboration with New Art Exchange.

In 2003, due to staff changes, I was promoted to Exhibitions, Events and Festival Director to programme and curate exhibitions, performances and events in Bonington Gallery and 1851 Galleries (Waverley Building), Powerhouse/Basement performance spaces and other University venues. In 2004 I was seconded part time to Nottingham Contemporary as a member of the development team, attending project and client team meetings, stakeholder/sub board meetings and Capital Network meetings.

I have so many happy memories at Bonington Gallery… In the 1990s it was one of the locations for the TV series Boon. We had students exhibiting work in the gallery, including Sue Webster and Tim Noble and we negotiated a fee of £50 per student and a fee for the gallery. In addition, we were allowed to use the catering wagon which was stationed outside the gallery. It took a week for the crew and actors to film a 1-minute-long scene which was a confrontation of a student and a lecturer with a slap on the face! 

Images from from the TV daytime show ‘Boon‘ which was filmed in the gallery. If you study or work at an educational institution you can watch the episode here.

Having Tom Hackett’s Burst sculpture installation at the Gallery included sourcing, transporting and installing 70 industrial scale cable reels. I cannot remember how we got them in but I do remember the very long chats with the health and safety staff. The Gallery, over the years, has housed many other installations made from a wide variety of materials including bricks, books, fabrics, banana skins, radiators, and performances featuring bodily fluids, duration, audience participation and dancers performing with paintings and other media.

Stella posing with the cable reels at the Arnold BT depot. Photographer unknown.
Images of ‘Burst’ from Tom Hackett’s website. Courtesy of the artist.

On one occasion an external booking for a flower show had been taken that I was not aware of which clashed with a show I booked in – we had to temporarily take the show down for the weekend to allow the flower show and then rehang it again (not to be recommended!).

We held a Guinness World Record Breaking event. Matt Hand in collaboration with Leif Alexis and Ben Mawson-Harris broke the world record for the longest table tennis rally on their 16th attempt over a 24-hour period, reaching 5 hours, 8 minutes and 22 seconds.

Image from Matt Hand’s website, which catalogues this world record attempt, and the others which were part of eXpo at Bonington Gallery in 2001.

I worked with many students and graduates showing their work in the numerous associated spaces; from gourmet meals being cooked and served by two creative arts students in the Bonington Foyer, to tomato throwing in the gallery, to exhibitions, to awards (Margaret Bryan and Geoff Ball awards) and Expo which was started by NTU graduates.

In 18 years at Bonington Gallery we played host to many school and student placements and graduates. I enjoyed working with all of them, some as volunteers for specific events, others just working at the gallery as assistants supporting our staff and the programme.

I tried to give them an overall experience of what we did at the gallery, from curation, marketing, and education to the hang and finally the opening night. I am very grateful to all our volunteers without whose help it would have made our work much harder. There are so many of them I can’t remember all of them but you know who you are – a big thank you! I have been privileged to work with some amazing volunteers, many of whom have developed their own careers and I hope we played a part in it.

I feel strongly that the work we did at Bonington Gallery/Future Factory was the catalyst for what is now Nottingham Contemporary. Our input in getting the two feasibility study funds from ACE was initiated by us and NTU. Without the initial steer and the passion from Bonington Gallery and Future Factory, Nottingham Contemporary may never have happened. 

Image of the front of Nottingham Contemporary.

It was extremely sad for me and my staff to close the doors of Bonington Gallery in August 2007, our Arts Council Grant England Funding had finally been diverted to Nottingham Contemporary which was well on its way in the build and had a new Director in place. 

We left with our heads held high, knowing we had done our jobs well. I worked with some amazing people who contributed massively towards Nottingham Contemporary. Deborah Dean, friend and colleague showed outstanding passion and work. Professor Robert Ayres, friend and colleague demonstrated extraordinary vision and determination. NTU VC Professor Ray Cowell, for being such an advocate of the arts in all its forms.

And of course, my amazing team over the 18 years included Janice Britton, John Hewitt, Raif Killips, Stephen Fossey, Jenny Rainforth, Lisa Simmons, Haj Kaur, Sam Rose, Annette Foster, Geoff Litherland, Bo Olawoye… I hope I have not missed any names out!

Looking back, it is great to see Bonington has been repositioned back into the University and continues supporting research and development – something that we were also keen to support during my time at Bonington.

(It is to be noted this has been done by memory as I had no papers to refer to, apologies if I missed any names or organisations out, it was over 15 years ago!)”

Join us for a free tour of current exhibition, Karuppu by Osheen Siva, with BSL interpretation.

Alongside, discover more about Shahnawaz Hussain: My Nottinghamshire Perspectives in Watercolour and Peepshow: An Illusion Cut to the Measure of Desire in our extra gallery spaces.

Free, open to all

Book your free place now

Join us for a free tour of current exhibition, Karuppu by Osheen Siva, led by Deputy Curator Joshua Lockwood-Moran.

Alongside, discover more about Shahnawaz Hussain: My Nottinghamshire Perspectives in Watercolour and Peepshow: An Illusion Cut to the Measure of Desire in our extra gallery spaces.

Free, open to all

Book your free place now

Presenting over 120 works across a 35-year period, After the End of History: British Working Class Photography 1989 – 2024 brings together contemporary working class artists who use photography to explore the nuances of working class life in all its diversity.

Launching on Thursday 26 September, 6 pm – Book free launch tickets

The exhibition, curated by Johny Pitts, emphasises the perspectives of practitioners who turn their gaze towards both their communities and outwards to the wider world.

Instead of looking at working-class people, the exhibition will explore life through the lenses of working-class practitioners, who have not only turned their gaze towards their own communities but also out towards the world.

Eddie Otchere, Junglists, Roast (The Final Chapter) Stratford Rex Theatre, Stratford, 1997, © Eddie Otchere

The year 2024 will mark 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the symbolic end of Communism. The weakening of the Soviet Union in the 1980s prompted economist Francis Fukuyama to announce the triumph of Western Liberal Democracy as the only viable future for global politics.

The counter-cultural energies of the 1980s, very often powered up by the alternative ideologies embodied by Communism, produced a collective, coherent, politically engaged generation of working-class artists. But after the so-called ‘End of History’, what became of working-class culture? Who identifies as such, and why? What of the working class creative? What kind of images has working-class life produced in the last 35 years?

Serena Brown, Clayponds, 2018, © Serena Brown

After the End of History will offer a counterintuitive picture of working-class life today, from Rene Matić’s portrait of growing up mixed race in a white working-class community in Peterborough, to Elaine Constaintine’s documentation of the Northern Soul scene, to Kavi Pujara’s ode to Leicester’s Hindu community, and JA Mortram’s documentation throughout his life as a caregiver. After the End of History will explore the challenges and beauty of contemporary working-class life, in all its diversity today.

Artists in the exhibition include Richard Billingham, Sam Blackwood, Serena Brown, Antony Cairns, Rob Clayton, Joanne Coates, Josh Cole, Artúr Čonka, Elaine Constantine, Natasha Edgington, Richard Grassick, Anna Magnowska, Rene Matić, J A Mortram, Kelly O’Brien, Eddie Otchere, Kavi Pujara, Khadija Saye, Chris Shaw, Trevor Smith, Ewen Spencer, Hannah Starkey, Igoris Taran, Nathaniel Télémaque, Barbara Wasiak, Tom Wood.

After the End of History: British Working Class Photography 1989 – 2024’ is a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition curated by Johny Pitts with Hayward Gallery Touring.

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry: 29 March – 16 June 2024
Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea: 3 July – 14 September 2024
Bonington Gallery, Nottingham: 26 September – 14 December 2024

Header image: Eddie Otchere, Goldie, Metalheadz (Blue Note Sessions) Blue Note, Hoxton Square, 1996 ©  Eddie Otchere

As part of this year’s city-wide Transform festival, Talking Back is an interdisciplinary conference uncovering the power of shared testimony as an act of political resistance.

Book your ticket here

Inspired by bell hooks’ (1989) discussion of ‘talking back’ and speech as a radical force against the systemic silencing of marginalised voices, this one-day conference will present critical and creative work by creatives, writers, researchers, poets, and activists who challenge disciplinary and cultural barriers.

“Moving from silence into speech is for the oppressed, the colonized, the exploited, and those who stand and struggle side by side, a gesture of defiance that heals, that makes new life, and new growth possible. It is that act of speech, of “talking back” that is no mere gesture of empty words, that is the expression of moving from object to subject, that is the liberated voice.”

bell hooks, “Talking Back.” Discourse (1986), p. 128.

hooks’ ideas have inspired many movements towards the liberation of oppressed voices and groups, as well encouraging cross-cultural dialogue between voices from marginalised backgrounds and perspectives. Reflecting on hooks, we suggest that the action and impact of speaking out is achieved only when we are willing to hear the narratives of others. This one-day conference aims to contribute to the formation of collaborative networks of resistance with the potential for profound societal change.

This conference aims to bring together and amplify voices of marginalised individuals. It also aims to create a safe space that fosters collaborative thinking and discussions on representation and resistance.

Consisting of critical and creative approaches to decolonial activism, reclamations of culture and identity, and the transformative power of voice, this will include academic papers, creative workshops, and poetry readings.

We want to encourage cooperative discourse, centred narratives of representation and resistance. Speaking out together against their hegemonic constraints, scholars and artists alike will transcend both disciplinary and identity barriers to take part in an open and inclusive dialogue.


For further information please visit the dedicated Talking Back conference website.

Co-organisers

Keynote speakers

About Transform

Transform, a City Takeover – a ground breaking festival co-curated by 14 major cultural organisations across Nottingham in Spring/Summer 2024. Together, we’re celebrating the leadership, creativity, and stewardship of the Global Ethnic Majority in Nottingham.