Sunday, 19 November 2017

Art in Nottingham

Exhibitions that BFTF has liked in Nottingham...


Dec 2019 : "When the Snow Melts : The Great War, Empire and Muslim Soldiers"

"Nearly four million Indians were -'volunteers' in the British Army during the two World Wars. The Great Wars were truly global events, yet the process of public remembrance is often performed through the prism of national identity.

Working in collaboration with local Muslim families with connections to the Second World War, artists Jagdish Patel and Farida Makki have used personal memory and archival material to pose questions about the process of war memorialisation, empire and its interconnections to our present-day identities. When The Snow Melts [at the NAE] is part of Himmah's Heritage Lottery Funded, Muslim Memory Project. This charts the stories of Nottingham's Muslim communities involved in the Second World War and will lead to the production of a substantial publication in 2020."

The "When the Snow Melts" exhibition

Jagdish comments, in the introduction to the exhibition guide, that:

"Millions of soldiers and civilians were recruited to theBritish Army from Asia and Africa during the two World Wars. These wars were global events, and although the role of black and Asian soldiers was widely reported, after the wars ended their presence disappeared from the public gaze. This is perhaps a reason why society at large assumes that black and Asian people arrived in the UK after war ended, rather than when the Empire began.

The Empire was multicultural, and the battlefields reflected this reality. During wartime, soldiers from different parts of India, Africa, and the Caribbean met for the first time. Black and Asian colonial subjects sat alongside young white working class men from Europe, and they talked as equals. The Senegalese film maker Sembene Ousmane, who served in the French colonial army during 1944-46 once wrote, ‘In the army we saw those who considered themselves our masters, naked, in tears, some cowardly or ignorant…When a white soldier asked me to write a letter for him, it was a revelation – I thought all Europeans knew how to write. The war demystified the coloniser; the veil fell.’ (Fighting for Britain: African Soldiers in the Second World War, Killingrey and Plaut 2012). In this project we are collecting the stories of local (East Midlands) families who were affecting by the Second World War. "

Inayat Ali, Nottingham citizen
and WW2 veteran (Indian Army Corp of Engineers)

Muhammed Khan, serving grandson of WW2 veteran Muhammed Khan

A few other points that caught the attention of BFTF:

The exhibition guide comments that the large numbers of black and asian soldiers resulted in the lifting of a "Colour bar" which prevented black and Asian soldiers legally shooting white soldiers in battle.

Demobilisation in 1918 "came at a time of recession, resulting in race riots across the country". The Mayor of Liverpool wrote to the Home Secretary regarding "Six hundred African British subjects [who] are stranded here in the city of Liverpool, they are anxious to return home to Africa as their treatment in the city by the locals is tantamount to cruel...Companies won’t employ coloured men as employers and the trade unions conspire to up hold segregation in the work place integration is not what they desire."

The 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium attracted 27 million visitors and led to a trend of retailers bringing people and animals from the colonies to sit on shop floors as decoration.

A "real Indian Village", Nottingham 1931

The exhibition guide also comments that "After the war ended, the role of black and Asian soldiers would be sidelined. Caught between the climate of Independence celebrations in India, and, at the end of the war, Britian underplaying the role of colonial armies, their part in the Second World War did not neatly fit into either countries' narrative for bulding a post war nation, so would be largely forgotton."

Rehabilitation of war wounded in India


Dec 2019 : Mimesis: African Soldier

Commissioned by NAE with 1418-Now and launched at the Imperial War Museum, London in 2018, this multi-screen installation by artist John Akomfrah remembers the millions of African and colonial soldiers, labourers and carriers who served in the First World War. Projected onto three screens, the artwork combines newly created film, shot by Akomfrah in locations around the world, a powerful sound score and historic footage that speak to the African experience of the First World War.

"The First World War was waged between empires that were global in their ambitions and reach. Between 1914 and 1918, millions of African and colonial soldiers served in long campaigns that spanned the whole of the African and European continents, contributing to victories throughout the First World War. These soldiers from British and French African territories were brought to Europe's western front, where hundreds and thousands lost their lives alongside unknown, unheralded and undocumented African labourers and carriers. Mimesis: African Soldier seeks to commemorate these Africans and colonial soldiers who fought, served and died during the First World War."
Really interesting exhibition, highlighting the sacrifice of so many millions from the British and French empires.

Mimesis : African Soldier

Mimesis : African Soldier

Mimesis : African Soldier *****************************

Bit cheeky, I know, but it does look very nice!

Arty thing by Mrs C


Sep 2018 : Trix and Robert Haussman Retrospective 14Jul to 7Oct

Nottingham Contemporary describe this exhibition as the "first UK retrospective of Trix & Robert Haussmann – one of the most significant and intriguing Swiss architects and designers of the twentieth century. The exhibition celebrates the duo’s playful innovations, concerning illusion and ambiguity." You can read more about the Haussmans here. Images of some of the items that particularly caught BFTF's attention are below....
"Chair Fun" - chair merged with a stringed instrument

"Chair Fun" - "melting" plastic chair

"Chair Fun" - a neon chair too fragile to sit on

"Chair Fun" - intersecting Thonet chairs 

"Chair Fun" - Eames chair fitted with spikes

Lehrstucke (Didactic Pieces) - Each "stone" is actually a drawer

Haussman Tables

Lehrstucke (Didactic Pieces) - This is not what it appears. Each side of the object is flat.
There are no recesses! The illusion is created by the clever use of marquetry and different sized mirrors


Dec 2017 : From Ear to Ear to Eye at Nottingham Contemporary

Sponsored by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), the exhibition runs until Mar 4th 2018 and is described as " exhibition that explores sound, music and listening in myriad forms. It traces the acoustic lives of different cities and places across the Arab world, bringing together almost 20 artists and researchers working in the region and elsewhere."


Some of the exhibits are described below...

The standout exhibit, described by the Guardian as "art gold dust" is titled "Earshot" and was developed by Lawrence Abu Hamdan a year after completing his gunshot acoustic analysis report of a 2014 incident in the Occupied West Bank where Israeli soldiers shot and killed two teenagers, Nadeem Nawara and Mohamad Abu Daher.

Abu Hamdan, working with Defence for Children International and Forensic Architecture, had used the acoustic analysis visualisations to establish that the soldiers had (illegally) fired live rounds, and moreover had tried to disguise these fatal shots to make them sound as if they were rubber bullets. These visualizations were later critical in forcing Israel to renounce its original denial.

Video in "Earshot" installation

Acoustic Analysis representations

Also very moving were a series of embroideries by Mounira Al Sohl based on conversations with refugees, one of which is shown below, together with its associated description:

Mounira Al Sohl embroidery

"We came to Lebanon about a year ago. We trade in cars. We have Mercedes, Daewoo and many other kinds. I am renting them in Lebanon actually. They all have a Lebanese number. They are all legal of course.
The Child in the lap of the man is the son of his friend. His uncle was massacred by ISIS lately. The grandmother of the boy had lost not only her son, but also when she gave birth in Damascus 30 years ago, her newborn daughter was stolen from the hospital by the doctor. I made a separate embroidery for her"

The video "This Lemon Tastes of Apple" (Hiwa K, 2011) depicts one of the 2011 anti-government protests in Iraqi Kurdistan. The title references the fact that the poisoned gas used against Kurds by Saddam Hussein was reported to smell of apples, while lemons were used by the 2011 protestors to reduce the effects of tear gas.

This Lemon Tastes of Apple

Marwa Arsanios' video "Falling is not collapsing, falling is extending" looks at the way refuse dumps in Beirut were strategically sited by property developers to devalue land so that it could be purchased cheaply - and then developed for profit.

"Falling is not collapsing, falling is extending"

From Ear to Ear to Eye is on until 4th March 2018


Dec 2017 : Sarah Turner at Cafe Sobar

Loved the eco-art works by Notts based artist Sarah Turner on display currently at Cafe Sobar. The pictures below really doesn't do them justice - check out Sarah's website at :

"Up-cycled" eco artwork by Sarah Turner

Up-cycled foil dragonfly artwork by Sarah Turner

Nov 2017 : Paul Dexter at Cafe Sobar

Whilst enjoying a pretty much perfect chunky chip cob and a coffee at Cafe Sobar, saw that there was a small exhibition by Charnwood Arts of works by Paul Dexter

Paul will be one of the artists exhibiting at the forthcoming Albert Street Artists "New Works XI" exhibition at the Tangent Gallery in Loughborough. Here are a few of the works that were on show:

"Major Tom" by Paul Dexter

"Aquarium" by Paul Dexter

"Shuttle Polarised" by Paul Dexter


Nov 2017 : "Thinking Room", Djanogly Gallery

Rather charming graphic novel / exhibition on at the moment at the Djanogly Gallery (University Park) by Carol Adlam called "Thinking Room". The exhibition is based on the many and varied artifacts in the UoN Museum of Archaeology, where Carol was Artist in Residence. As well as the story in the exhibition, there are also some explanatory artworks that look into the museum artifacts in more detail.

Graphic Art Story by Carol Adlam
(only noticed the Octopus when editing the picture!)

Detail from a separate, beautiful, set of explanatory drawings

Images : BFTF's own *****************************

May 2017 : "The Place is Here", Nottingham Contemporary

Interesting exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary a while back entitled "The Place is Here". BFTF had a walk round and learnt a lot!

The gallery describes the exhibition thusly :

"...This exhibition traces some of the urgent conversations that were taking place between black artists, writers and thinkers during the 80s. Against a backdrop of civil unrest and divisive national politics, they were exploring their relationship to Britain’s colonial past as well as to art history. Many artists were looking to the Civil Rights movement in America, Black feminism, Pan-Africanism, the struggle over apartheid, and the emergent fields of postcolonial and cultural studies..."
and was also covered by the Guardian. Nice review here too.

Here are some of the works that most caught BFTF's attention.

GLC Anti-Racism Mural

An example of the Greater London Council's (GLC) anti-racism murals had BFTF going on-line to learn more - which you can check out at A London Inheritance, AliceRoseBell and the London Mural Preservation Society. The specific mural above (located on Lowood Road, E1), however, has not been mostly erased, as can be seen in this GoogleMaps image

The Anti-Racism mural as it appears today

BFTF wonders how many murals there are in Nottingham, how many have been lost, and where there is any Nottingham archive of this artform.

Rasheed Araeen "For Oluwale" 1971-75

It was disturbing to learn, in Rasheed Araeen's montage "For Oluwale" about the 1970s dictatorship in Portugal, who continued to hold onto their colonial "possessions" Angola, Portuguese Guinea, Mozambique and Goa well after the UK and France had granted independence to theirs. The Portuguese authorities became increasingly brutal in their attempts to quash independence movements such as FRELIMO - resulting in massacres such as that at Wiriyamu which was reported in the Times just prior to the 1973 visit by the Portugese Prime Minister Marcello Caetano to the UK.

You can read about how India took back the territory of Goa here; and about the African Portuguese Colonial War here.

Separately, but importantly, the "Oluwale" in the title refers to David Oluwale, who was beaten on multiple occasions by Police in Leeds, eventually dying trying to escape a beating in 1969. You can, and should, read about his story here.

David Lewis "The Game " 1985

This image by Dave Lewis, entitled "The Game", needs no commentary.

Toussaint Louverture artwork

Have you heard of Toussaint Louverture? Until this exhibition, neither had BFTF.

Gavin Jantges - A South African Colouring Book (1974-5)

Another exhibit entitled "A South African Colouring Book", by Gavin Jantges (1974-5) laid bare the ridiculous contortions that South African Apartheid had to tie itself up in; given that skin colour is a spectrum - not a series of discrete shades.The Population Registration Act of 1950 states in section 1 that :

"(a) a "white" person means a person who in appearance is, or who is generally accepted as, a white person, but does not include a person who, although in appearance obviously a white person, is generally accepted as a colored person"

over a period of time, this definition seemed to be allowing too many brown skinned people to be classed as white the definition was changed in 1961 to:

"White person means a person who, a) in appearance obviously is a white person and who is not generally accepted as a Colored person; or b) is generally accepted as a white person and is not in appearance obviously not a white person."

However, this also proved to be insufficently impervious to "misapplication", one notable case being that of a child who was darker skinned than her ("white" siblings) and was placed in the "coloured" category, meaning that she could only live at home as a domestic servant.

So it 1967 further legislation used, predictably complex, wording which included the following:

" deciding whether any person is in appearance obviously a white person or not a white person within the meaning of the definition of “white person” in subsection (1), his habits. education and speech and deportment and demeanour in general shall be taken into account; (b) it shall, in the absence of proof that any person is generally accepted as a white person or a Bantu, be assumed that he is generally accepted as a coloured person except where such person is in appearance obviously a member of an aboriginal race or tribe of Africa;
(c) a person shall be deemed not to be generally accepted as a white person, unless he is so accepted in the area in which or at any place where he—
(i) is ordinarily resident;
(ii) is employed or carries on business;
(iii) mixes socially or takes part in other activities with other members of the public,
and in his association with the members of his family and any other persons with whom he lives;"

This was by no means the limit of ridiculousless that Apartheid legislation reached - see here about "Honorary whites"

Lumaina Himid "Thin Black Line(s)"

Lastly but not leastly, an interesting "underground" map of Black artists by Lumaina Himid


Update Jun2014
Saw this rather awesome mural at the Great Notts Bike Ride....

Awesome mural at the 2014 Great Notts Ride

Update May 2016
Been meaning to get a picture of this mural in Forest Fields for a while now....

Mural in Forest Fields, Nottingham

Update Oct 2017
Mural by Nottingham Railway Station

Nov 2013 : Nottingham Tiltshifted

BFTF has been entranced by the "Tiltshifted" images that have appeared in the media over recent months, and can't quite get over how they mess with your mind.

So, here a few pics of Nottingham taken by BFTF, and then tiltshifted via TiltShiftMaker so that they make Nottingham look like a dinky little model city! (All pics can be clicked to enlarge)

Motorway, not near Nottingham, 2017

Rowers, Trent, April 2017

A60 Mansfield Road

Nottingham Canal

The Embankment


British Waterways Building


Ring Road

Rushcliffe Country Park

Wollaton Park


Nov 2015: Michael Powell Exhibition, Surface Gallery

Checked out a really interesting exhibition of the work of Michael Powell at the Surface Gallery recently.

BFTF was particularly glad to see these paintings as a counter to pretentiousness being strong in a number of Nottingham's other galleries that day....

Michael's paintings ranged in size A4 scale up to wall sized and were quite mesmerising. BFTF was really impressed by the way Michael had managed to make the tones transition subtly from one colour to another. As BFTF's eyes moved across the paintings the colours would sometimes hit a "trigger colour" that caused a long lost memory to surface - a particular shade of crayola crayon perhaps; or the characteristics colour of a fruit maybe...

"Conviction" - a wall sized painting



"Plunge" detail

Nov 2016 : Fighting Walls - Street Art in Egypt and Iran, New Art Exchange

Remarkable exhibition on at Nottingham's New Art Exchange (until 18th Dec 2016) called "Fighting Walls : Street Art in Egypt and Iran".

The exhibition describes some of the politically motivated graffiti that has appeared in these cities during times of civil stress.

General view of the exhibition

The "No Walls" campaign was initiated by Salma El-Tarzi in response to the barriers placed on major streets around Tahrir Square. This particular "opened wall" was painted by Ammar Abou Bakr

The barriers had a significant adverse effect on daily life and breaking them down only resulted in the authorities rebuilding them even stronger.

So artists "opened the wall" in a different way....

Opened Wall by Ammar Abou Bakr

A number of Egyptian protesters lost their eyes to rubber bullets and shotgun pellets fired by police. One victim, Ahmed Harara, lost the sight in both eyes in separate incidents and became named "The Living Martyr". In another case, video footage showed a policeman sniping at protester and being congratulated by his colleague on hitting someone in the eye "In his eye! It was in his eye! Bravo boss!". Activists promised a reward for the identification of the "Eye Sniper" and he was eventually found to be a Lieutent El-Shenawy and was sentenced to three years in jail in 2013

Various Graffitiof protestors who have lost an eye

Graffiti protesting the death of Sheikh Emad Effat, an Al-Azhar scholar who had joined the protests and died from a gunshot wound.

Graffiti protesting death of Sheikh Emad Effat

This image, by artist Ammar Abo Bakr, in 2011 is of Major General Mohamed Al-Batran, Head of the Prison Investigations Department who was found shot dead at the prison. His sister reported that Al-Batran had refused to allow prisoners to flee the jail. After his death som 24,000 prisoners were allowed to escape from prison.

Graffiti by Ammar Abo Bakr

"Faryad", meaning "scream" or "shout", and written in persian script in the swirling hair, was painted in 2010 by artist FRITZ as a commentary on public anger and shock at the outcome of the 2009 election, and its aftermath when the police cracked down heavily on protests.

BFTF is really impressed by the way the artist has painted the "tiles" onto the plain wall, and the way the colour scheme erratically changes. Could look at this for a long time!


Pretty clear message in this work called Hidden Reality by artist MAD in Tehran, 2011

Hidden Reality by MAD, 2011

There was also a computer game called "1979 Revolution: Black Friday" in which the player is a character who is involved in the events of the Iranian revolution and has to make decisions in order to survive.

1979 Revolution: Black Friday

Many buildings in Iran are covered in state sponsored murals, a number of which were shown in postcard form in the exhibition.

Iranian State sponsored murals

Oct 2015 : Street Art Exhibition,Surface Gallery

Brilliant "Street Art" exhibition at the Surface Gallery in Hockley, Nottingham a while back...

Lots of interesting stuff

Lovely work by Lee Hendserson entitled "Hosier Lane Graff Alley" which references a narrow, graffiti covered, lane in Melbourne, Australia.

Hosier Lane Graff Alley - Lee Henderson

Another item by Mr Henderson that caught BFTF's eye was this painting called "Goshawk":

Goshawk by Lee Henderson

The lovely copper coloured work below turned out to be by an artist called "Inkie", who appears to be something of a street art phenomenon, check out his Wiki entry to see why...

Desire by Inkie

Really liked this rather large stencil by Maseu....

Stencil Life by Maseu

Also liked this incredibly detailed papercut artwork by Nottingham based artist Michael Lomax, who you can find out more about here. And is a place you may want to visit to find other examples of these painstakingly produced artworks.

Butterflied by Michael Lomax

A sucker for bright colours, BFTF was transfixed by this work entitled "Cloudy with a chance of colour" by Nottingham based artist "Jefe" (see also here). BFTF still isn't quite sure how it was made, the catalogue describes it as "crayon, spraypaint" but seems like there is a little more to it than that. Anyway, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

Cloudy with a chance of colour

Finally, let's big up SEND and their community art projects....


Nov 2015 : Recreation of the 1960s, New Art Exchange

Loved the recreation of a 1960s-1970s decor in an exhibition for Black History Month...

Loved this !

A Music Station

The form that inspired the band...


Mar 2016 : "Simon Starling", Nottingham Contemporary

BFTF and No3 Son recently saw a fascinating exhibition of work by Simon Starling at Nottingham Contemporary (see also here). Simon is an alumni of Nottingham Trent University and has won many awards, including the Turner Prize in 1995, for his work.

Below are a few notes on some of the items that particularly caught the attention of BFTF, together with a bit of added bloggage...

The Nanjing Particles (2008)
A big hit with BFTF and No3 Son, this was originally displayed at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (whose history is fascinating in its own right btw), the sculptures are million-fold magnifications of silver particles extracted from an image of Chinese strikebreaking workers at the Sampson Shoe Factory in Massachusetts. Ironically, it was too expensive to make the sculptures in the US, so the job went to the Shanghai State Art Foundry in Nanjing (more info here).

The strikebreakers at the Sampson Shoe Factory, 1870 (via Wikipedia)

1,000,000 x magnified Silver particles

So many questions.... How did the silver particles get extracted? What did the electron microscope image look like? How was it converted to a 3D form? I guess to find the answers to these questions, one will have to buy the book (don't like to link to tax-avoiding Amazon, but that's the only place BFTF can find it).

The Alchemist and Recursive Plates
An unusual take on the "science meets art" genre, this part of the exhibition showed Joseph Wrights original "The Alchemist" together with a recent Daguerreotype of the same painting.

The Alchemist (1771) is a famous painting (definition of "famous" : "one BFTF has seen before") but BFTF was surprised to find that it is normally found in Derby Museum and that Joseph Wright was a son of that nearby city. Alchemists were the predecessors of modern chemists and the painting shows an alchemist producing phosphorous from boiled down urine. This was actually done by German Alchemist Hennig Brand around 1669. The glow is caused by phosphorous vapour reacting with oxygen in the air. Indeed, the word "phosphorous" means "light bearer". Alchemists, however, were unaware of the actual chemistry that was happening.

The Alchemist (via Wikipedia)

In contrast, the Daguerreotype, one of the first photographic technologies was developed when chemistry was better understood (although discoveries of the electron and atomic nucleus were still to come). Daguerrotypes are produced on a silver plated metal sheet and are very fragile. In the image below, one can see reflections of the room (in colour) and also a faint, reversed, image of The Alchemist painting.

Modern Daguerreotype of "The Alchemist" 

"Project for a Rift Valley Crossing" (2015-16)
This remarkable project, specially produced for Nottingham Contemporary, is still in progress. It involves taking some 1900 litres of water from the Dead Sea (which contains ~0.05% Magnesium), extracting the ~90kg Magnesium from it to make a canoe, and then rowing across the Dead Sea in that canoe.

The inspiration for the project came from the story of magnesium bicycle maker Frank Kirk, who extracted ~2.5kg of Magnesium from ~1.5m3 of seawater and made Magnesium bike frames.

The Industrial Bulk Containers (IBC's) that had contained the water were on show (each holding about a tonne of water) as was the resulting canoe - but the trip across the Dead Sea is scheduled for some point in the future.

Two IBC's, each capable of holding ~ 1 tonne of water

Canoe made from Magnesium extracted from Dead Sea water

Close up of Magnesium welds

La Source (demi teinte) (2009)
Another hit with No3 Son, this display took a section from a half-tone image and converted the dots into glass balls. Nottingham Contemporary even provided a raised viewing platform to get a good view from!

La Source from viewing platform

La Source, close up

All technically very clever, from the manufacture of the glass balls to the laying out of the balls to form the image.

D1-Z1 (2009)
No3 son thought that the 35mm projector running a film loop was "pretty cool", but for BFTF it was seeing what was projected - footage of one of the earliest programmable computers, the Z1, which was designed by Konrad Zuse in Germany in 1936. Remarkably, it was of a mechanical design, which leaves BFTF wondering whether this is the direction things could have taken in a SteamPunk world.

35mm projector showing footage of the Z1

Close up of the 35mm projector

Z1 mechanical computer (via Wikipedia)

Final note...
Perhaps worth repeating that there was a lot of other stuff on display that is not covered here and also that the plum cake in the cafe is very nice.

Mar 2013 : Piero Gilardi and John Newling, Nottingham Contemporary

BFTF was picking Sons No1 and 3 from a Scouts trip to Notttingham Contemporary recently and was fascinated by the rather wonderful exhibitions Piero Gilardi and John Newlings work that were being shown.

But before talking about the exhibition, it is perhaps worth mentioning something about the architecture of the gallery itself.

On this particular occasion, unusually, BFTF approached the gallery from the south side and noticed that the concretework on the sides of the gallery had a beautiful lace pattern. If you haven’t seen this, it is worth passing by the gallery next time you are in the town centre just to see the beautiful and intricate design.

Nottingham Contemporary

Close up of panel

Even closer up on lace detail

Piero Gilardi
Gilardi was a key figure in the development of “Arte Povera” (poor art) which attacked the corporate mentality with an art of unconventional materials and style.

Much of the work at Nottingham Contemporary was made of brightly coloured Polyurethane Foam, carved and formed into the shapes of everyday natural objects.

'Angurie'/'Watermelons', 1967

BFTF liked it tremendously. In particular the technical skill of making the cartoon-like artifacts, the brightness of the colours used and the playfulness of the works really entranced BFTF.

A relaxing rock and pebble artwork

Domestic Totem, 1964. Apparantly, when originally exhibited, people were encouraged to lie under the work, with the rock swinging gently above them

Nature Suit

The staff explained that the works had originally been designed to be touched and that people were even encouraged to lie down on them. Whilst this was no longer allowed, due to the fact that the works were now quite valuable and the artists wasn’t making them anymore, the gallery did have one piece that was specifically designated as being “playable” do BFTF did !

This "hands-on" piece could be taken apart and the rocks arranged to your hearts desire

Gilardi was a very political artist and in the 1960’s he became a “creative facilitator” for a range of radical causes.

A political artwork used in demonstrations

Angela Merkel not happy

John Newling
Nottingham based Newling is interested in public art with a social purpose and has recently retired as Professor of Installation Sculpture at NTU.

The “Miracle Trees” exhibit particularly attracted BFTF’s attention. In this work, Newling is growing Moringa Oleifera trees - these are plants that have the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and support sustainable landcare.

Miracle Trees growing in a sealed environment

But some of the other work rather went over the head of BFTF, For example the piece “Common Sense” (2011) is described as being :

"…A pyramid of “constructed soils” is stacked on top of a pile of copiesof the Rights of Man. The soils are made from composted copies of the same book…by composting Rights of Man… Newling suggests that it can nurture the groth of new ideas. The work also addresses an idea fundamental to his most recent body of work - that of humans co-existing in greater harmony with nature. Perhaps another revolution is needed, he seems to imply…"
"Common Sence" - didn't work for BFTF

New architecture 1991 (casts from cash points)

May 2011 : Jean Genet, Nottingham Contemporary

The Nottingham Contemporary Gallery has had some interesting exhibitions over the last year or two, and a recent feature on Jean Genet (see here) was certainly one of these.

Jean was an artist and civil rights campaigner, the latter most notably for the Palestinians and for the Black Panthers (a Afro-American rights organisation that believed that the non-violent methods being used by Martin Luther King would not deliver results). The exhibition contained work by artists related to both these causes.

Art is a funny thing, as it were.

On the one hand, BFTF feels that any art that could easily be done by your average layperson probably isn't really art - but on the other hand Latifa Echakhch's piece provided food for thought, and this work simply comprised which comprised large two or three digit numbers that had been drawn on to the gallery walls in charcoal, each number being a UN resolution on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Installation by Latifa Echakhch

But back on the first hand, one of the exhibits by Mona Hatoum, which comprised a table of pottery hand-grenades did not really move BFTF at all. Surely a table of real (disarmed) grenades would have caused a greater reaction in the viewer, and made them really think about the devastation that these weapons cause, or a picture of the injuries that they can cause, or testimony from people who have used them, or a diagram showing how far their lethal fragments travel - all of these alternatives would seem to have the potential to do a better job of provoking a reaction in the viewer.

Given that sculpture of people and animals is frowned upon in the Islamic tradition, it was interesting to see the work of Abdul Hay Mossallam. His distinctive bas-relief work is clearly 3-dimensional, yet has been acclaimed in the Arab World, where he has had over 20 solo exhibitions. You can find out more about him and the conditions he has worked under here.

Exodus from Beirut to the Sea, Abdul Hay Mossallam, 1984, sawdust mixed with glue on wood.

The most interesting part of the exbihibition, for BFTF, was a selection of Black Panther newspapers from the 1960's. It was fascinating to read the soviet-style revolutionary language, the open support for armed action, and the clear grievences regarding Police brutality. In a great example of all that is good about the internet age, you can read them yourself online (see here).