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Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Open Exhibition

4 January 08 words: Amanda Young
Truth, beauty and freedom, a review of Nottingham’s annual open exhibition

Vintage Rave by Massey and Rogers

It is difficult to represent a place with any selection of artworks but the panel of judges at the Nottingham Annual Open have done a good job. The exhibited works are of a very high standard with no images of gun crime or Robin Hood statues! This is an exhibition, which celebrates the great and the good of East Midlands artists, proving that its contemporary art scene is very much alive and kicking. The panel set out to select work which represents the diversity of the region and I think that this has been achieved, in particular with an exhibition prize from the New Art Exchange, the UK's only gallery outside London dedicated to black and Asian artists, due to open in 2008 in Hyson Green.

The selection of venue, the ex-Angel Row site adds to the contemporary and coherent feel to what might have been a very disjointed show. The hang is excellent and it is good to see the galleries in use again providing arguably a better setting for the work than the Castle. The exception being Ria Hill’s ‘Lady’ paintings, Stella Vine-like femme fatales with blood splatterings of paint bejewelling ‘come to bed’ eyes and hair. These postmodern pre-Raphaelites would have hung very well in the long gallery of the Castle alongside the Rossetti.

The standard of the work is generally high with a good range of mixed-media and floor based work. No ‘paint by numbers’ pictures here. But how far did the selectors own practice influence the choice of work? Sandria Simons’ interestingly beautiful work ‘Grandma Guest’ did reflect the object and decorative based work of artist Hew Locke and the numerous selection of craft items, such as Hannah Lobley’s outstanding ‘Paperwork’, was perhaps swayed by Deidre Figueiredo’s background as Director of Craftspace Touring.

Parlement of Fooles by Stuart Parkinson

However, it was the raw talent, not the selectors tendencies that shone through in the four prizewinners in this year’s exhibition. Most notable and deserving of a prize is Rosalie Wiesner’s two small photographic lightboxes ‘Room’ and ‘Gate’. These two intimate model scenes explore a magical land, an enchanted forest that floats between fact and fiction and more generally reflect the excellent standard of photography in the exhibition.

Winner of the New Art Exchange prize is Elshaday Berhane with her beautiful installation wrapped around a column of the Angel Row Gallery on simple round black plinth. Her piece previously shown at the Surface Gallery is a playful, patterned, dancing work with silver morphing figures inviting you to dance and join their magical world, whilst casting fairytale shadows on the column with the odd nipple thrown in for wonder. Berhane’s bohemian ideals of truth, beauty and freedom beam from this work filling the viewer and the gallery.

Nottingham Castle Annual Open 2007 in partnership with the New Art Exchange was showing at the former Angel Row Gallery, November 24 – December 20 2007.

Nottingham Open Exhibition


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