Svg patterns
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 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.