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Join Bonington Gallery’s Deputy Curator Joshua Lockwood-Moran for a relaxed lunchtime tour of our current exhibitions, Somewhere Else Entirely by Emily Andersen in our Gallery, and Nottingham Women’s Centre in our Vitrines.

• The event is free to attend with limited capacity.
• Booking is required.
• Please meet in the Bonington Foyer at 12.55 pm for a prompt start.
• The event will last up to an hour, within the gallery.

Book your free place now

Join Bonington Gallery’s Director Tom Godfrey for this gallery tour of our current exhibition – Patois Banton by Cedar Lewisohn.

Tom will introduce Lewisohn’s artistic practice and the broad array of artwork on show, including a rare opportunity to peek inside several of the large-scale book-works displayed altogether for the first time.

• The event is free to attend with limited capacity.
• Booking is required.
• Please meet in the Bonington Foyer at 12.55pm for a prompt start.
• The event will last up to an hour, within the gallery.

Book your free place now

Join Bonington Gallery’s Assistant Curator, Joshua Lockwood-Moran, for this gallery tour of our current exhibition – Patois Banton by Cedar Lewisohn.

Josh will introduce Lewisohn’s artistic practice and the broad array of artwork on show, including a rare opportunity to peek inside several of the large-scale book-works displayed altogether for the first time.

• The event is free to attend with limited capacity.
• Booking is required.
• Please meet in the Bonington Foyer at 12.55pm for a prompt start.
• The event will last up to an hour, within the gallery.

Book your free place now

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.

To coincide with Cedar Lewisohn’s solo exhibition, Patois Banton, join us for a free online in-conservation event between Lewisohn and performance poet, writer and educator Ioney Smallhorne, and artist, graphic designer and singer Honey Williams.

As a starting point the panel will discuss the subject of Jamaican Patois, the English-based creole language spoken primarily in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora – exemplified by the poetry anthology Office Poems, published on the occasion of the exhibition and written in English by Lewisohn and translated into Patois by Joan Hutchinson.

Together, the speakers will talk about their own experience of patois and how it is linked more widely to subjects including identity, history, class, race and gender.


Cedar Lewisohn is an artist, writer and curator. He has worked on museum projects for institutions such as Tate Britain, Tate Modern and The British Council. He has published three books (Street Art, Tate 2008, Abstract Graffiti, Marrell, 2011, The Marduk Prophecy, Slimvolume, 2020) He has also edited and self-published numinous publications. Cedar curated the landmark Street Art exhibition at Tate Modern. He was the curator of the project “Outside The Cube” for HangarBicocca Foundation in Milan and in 2018 worked with Birmingham Museums on the project, Collecting Birmingham. He was curator of The Museum of London’s Dub London project and in 2020 was appointed as curator of Site Design for The Southbank Centre, London.

Honey Williams is a creative powerhouse, singer-songwriter, visual artist, designer, DJ, alt-choir director and educator. Honey’s art looks at decolonisation, identity, beauty, power, race and gender. The British Council invited Honey to be a Muralist in Kingston, Jamaica to honour the Windrush Generation. Honey won the Public Choice Award at the NAE Open 2019 for her piece ‘Big Black Truth’. Honey has created special commissions for the Bonington Gallery at the University of Nottingham. Honey has delivered many art and music-based workshops working with various organisations, in 2021, Streetwise Opera Nottingham asked Honey to produce a collaborative mural and weekly workshop for YMCA Nottingham with people who experience homelessness.

Honey’s recent work ‘Shrines’, a series of large-scale self-portraits and immersive afro-futuristic multimedia, live-art performance, and an autobiographical exploration of misogynoir and fatphobia. As a singer-songwriter, Honey has performed and collaborated with world-renowned recording artists, Klashnekoff, Roni Size, Natalie Duncan, Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Jazz Jamaica. Honey was invited to perform at the 300th Anniversary of Karlsruhe, Germany. Honey is the Creative Director of an alt-soul choir called the Gang of Angels that has performed all over the UK. Honey is currently an Associate Artist at City Arts in, Nottingham, UK.

Ioney Smallhorne is a performance poet, writer, educator, with a MA in Creative Writing & Education, earned at Goldsmiths University. She’s a Hyson Green, Nottingham native. Her artistic practice is ignited by her Jamaican heritage, fuelled by the Black British experience, and smoulders with womanness.

Shortlisted for the Sky Arts/Royal Society of Literature fiction award 2021. Winner of the Writing East Midlands/Serendipity Black Ink Writing Competition 2021, longlisted for the Jerwood Fellowship 2017, short listed by Caribbean Small-Axe prize 2016.

As a Spoken Word Educator she works across the East Midlands encouraging people to harness the power of poetry and is the Co-lead facilitator for Gobs Poetry collective in Nottingham.

For 2022, Ioney was the New Art Exchange’s resident artist July-September, where she was developing her project, Jamaica and Her Daughters, a collection of poetry and prose. For 2023 she has received Arts Council funding to translate this project from page to performance, a work in progress sharing will be at New Art Exchange 23rd February. Her short story, First Flight, appears in the first Black British speculative fiction anthology, Glimpse, published by Peepal Tree Press and Ioney has recently been selected for the Apples & Snakes/Joseph Coelho/Otter Barry Books Diversifying Children’s Literature programme.

Patois Banton is a solo exhibition by London-based artist, writer and curator Cedar Lewisohn. His recent work has focused on intertwining narratives within art history and the contemporary psyche; often done from a black British perspective.

Over the recent 2–3 years we have witnessed various historic museum collections being questioned for ethical reasons related to the obtaining of their artefacts. The mixing together of histories, locations, myths and hidden stories told through these collections has long been central to Cedar’s work. He has recently worked with objects from UK collections such as the British Museum, the Pit Rivers Museum, and the Petrie museum. Objects and artefacts that Cedar engages with are translated and re-contextualised through large and small scale drawings – often processed through wood-carving prints – that become the starting point for a practice that embodies book-works, printed matter, performances, VR experience and the written word.

The title of the exhibition is a fusion of two words that offer further insight into Lewisohn’s practice and his preoccupations. Patois as in Jamaican Patois – the English-based creole language spoken primarily in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora (Lewisohn took lessons in patois over the COVID-19 lockdowns from poet, writer and patois expert Joan Hutchinson), and banton, a Jamaican word meaning ‘storyteller’. Bringing these words together highlights Lewisohn’s interest in exploring Jamaican heritage from both an individual and collective perspective, and the complex and intertwined narratives that have formed as a result of historical events in this country and beyond.

The exhibition will present a range of new and recent works, several of which have not been exhibited before, including a newly commissioned book-work and a large-scale interactive virtual space.

Free Lunchtime Walkthroughs

Join Bonington Gallery’s Assistant Curator Joshua Lockwood-Moran for a free gallery tour of our current exhibition on Wednesday 1 March at 1 pm.

Office Poems

Cedar Lewisohn’s publication Office Poems is a collection of poems written from 2019 that share reflections and frustrations on working within an office environment.

These poems have been translated into Patois by Joan Hutchinson, a writer, storyteller and teacher based in Jamaica. Throughout the publication there are numerous drawings by Cedar, resembling doodles that are done when in tedious meetings. Buy a copy online or ask our gallery invigilator on your visit.

About the artist

Cedar Lewisohn has worked on numerous projects for institutions such as Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the British Council. In 2008, he curated the landmark Street Art exhibition at Tate Modern and recently curated the Museum of London’s Dub London project. In 2020 he was appointed curator of Site Design for The Southbank Centre. He is the author of three books (Street Art, Tate 2008, Abstract Graffiti, Merrell, 2011, The Marduk Prophecy, Slimvolume, 2020), and has edited a number of publications. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally for over twenty years and belongs to various collections. In 2015 he was a resident artist at the Jan Van Eyke Academie in Maastricht. Lewisohn has been included in numerous group exhibitions and had solo projects at the bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht (2015), Joey Ramone, Rotterdam (2016), in VOLUME Book Fair at ArtSpace Sydney (2015) and Exeter Phoenix, (2017). Most recently he participated in the group exhibition UNTITLED: Art on the conditions of our time at Kettles Yard, Cambridge where his work was named by The Guardian as “the highlight of the show”.

Header image: Cedar Lewisohn, Untitled, 2022, Lino print on paper.