Nottingham is currently playing host to the seventh incarnation of the British Art Show, an exhibition that will eventually travel to three other cities UK in the next year. BAS7 is the bringing together of current British art from the last five years, showcasing 39 artists at three different venues across Nottingham: Nottingham Castle, Nottingham Contemporary and the New Art Exchange.
The New Art Exchange
Hyson Green’s New Art Exchange is perhaps the most manageable of the British Art Show venues, featuring the work of just four artists.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’. With a running time of twenty-four hours, this painstaking project is stitched together from thousands of visual fragments that refer to particular times of day. Expect the unexpected as short clips from a vast variety of films appear in rapid succession, expertly edited so that the references on screen match the actual time of day. The ebb and flow of the piece is captivating, thanks perhaps to the use of overlapping music. For me half an hour slipped away unnoticed, but any more than this and you may start to get overwhelmed.
Next is Duncan Campbell’s ‘Bernadette’ – another visual collage that knits together 1960s archive footage of Bernadette Devlin, the young Irish political-activist-turned-MP, something which perhaps lost poignancy without some prior knowledge.
The 17th century castle is the perfect oxymoronic location for this display of modern art. As I entered, the light fittings hanging from the roof and Cullinan Richards’ art trash (a collection of trampled canvases and open paint pots) gave a sense of incompletion.
On entering the first room I had no clue as to what to expect, but was met by an indecipherable video on a projector screen. After ten minutes of watching it become clear to me – aided by a title page as the film started again – that I had been watching a walnut being burnt. Although bizarre, more shocking was that ten minutes had passed without my realising.
Around the corner I was met with Michael Fullerton’s masterful oil portraits and Sarah Lucas’ Nud Cycladic sculptures that looked like flabby limbs. My highlight of the gallery took centre stage in this energetic room: David Noonan’s untitled tapestry, a stunning piece of work with such intricate detail that should be impossible to achieve by textile. It was breathtaking.
Despite there being many installations that I simply didn’t understand, ultimately I thought it was wonderful and well-worth a visit, even if only to test your abstract comprehension abilities!
Sasha Morgan Manley
Despite setting aside my doubts about contemporary art, there were some things that worked and some that really didn’t. Maaike Schoorel’s beautifully simple oil paintings gave me hope that the medium which dominated the art world for centuries might be finding its way back into popular culture. Wolfgang Tillmans’ ‘Truth Study Centre’, full of cultural noise in a museum style presentation, was definitely thought provoking, whilst his other piece, worlds apart, ‘Freichswimmer’ was simply stunning.
Haroon Mirza’s ‘Regaining a Degree of Control’ which focussed on Ian Curtis of Joy Division frustrated many as everyone seemed to struggle as to how they should go about viewing it, to understandably comic effect.
This I can say about BAS7 at Nottingham Contemporary: there are certainly some pieces which have the ability to stand alone whereas some need BAS7 as a crutch to validate their existence. And though these pieces do not bring down the integrity of the show, I can’t help but wonder: do the public stream into this exhibition for its high profile publicity or for its quality?
Editor’s Comment: Public Reception to Public Art
With funding being such a hot topic for British art at the moment, Impact asked members of the public for their impressions of the exhibition, to determine whether it really did achieve Art Council UK’s mission statement of ‘achieving great art for everyone’.
Whilst some pieces of art were repeatedly praised, particularly ‘Freichschwimmer’ by Wolfgang Tillmans at Nottingham Contemporary, one recurring comment that was stressed was how it was essential to have the interpretive guide to hand when observing the art. Indeed, without it, some projects could not be fully appreciated, and others could not be understood at all.
What is worth noting, however, is that this is an opportunity to see iconic, world-renowned art free of charge. With many people coming from far afield to visit the exhibitions, and many other participating cities impatiently awaiting the arrival of the show, we are privileged to be such a short walk or bus ride away from a truly unique experience. Just be sure to pick up a guide book on entry!