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Portraits of a City

2 August 10 words: Frances Ashton
It was enlightening to see who had come from and what had been achieved in Nottingham
Matthew Horne, 2010, Linda Brownlee

It’s utterly refreshing to see Portraits of a City: Nottingham Names and Faces from 1600-2010 celebrate those born and bred on Nottingham’s streets and made the city what it is today; the vast and varied selection of scientists, innovators, pioneers and artists who achieved success all under one roof. It not only displays the array of Nottingham talent over the centuries, but also examines ‘the portrait’, from the rich oil painted canvases posing in grandeur and wealth to contemporary photography capturing mood and personality in an instant moment.

Portrait of General William Booth, Noel Denholm Davis, Oil on Canvas, NCMG

More classical portraits such as the poet Byron and childhood sweetheart Mrs Musters sit side by side. General William Booth, founder of Salvation Army stands tall and proud in Noel Denholm Davis’s oil canvas whilst Sir Paul Smith is seen smiling wryly from behind a roll of fabric by James Lloyd. The dark and mysterious ‘Portrait of a lady called ‘Countess of Nottingham’’ by John de Critz, elder, unlike the other portraits is unaccompanied by any background history of the subject or artist.

Two stunning self-portraits of Steven Dilks and Hetain Patel sat next to each other yet equally stood out to me. Dilk’s portrait incorporates himself surrounded by his passion of graffiti, unable to be apart from it. His internationally recognised work as an urban artist has seen him set up the first graffiti shop in England, along with workshops and organisations in support of his artform. 'Mehndi' is the award-winning artist Hetain Patel's look at his British-Asian identity; an intense, open and beautiful image of the artist covered in henna art as he delves into his heritage.

Acclaimed director Shane Meadows and actor Paddy Considine, photographed by Gary Calton, has the subjects up close and in your face as Meadows points straight down the lens; let’s just say I’m glad the 3D photography craze hasn’t caught on.

Alan Sillitoe, 2009, Edward Sellman, Oil on Canvas.

Alan Sillitoe, who sadly died in April this year, is given his tribute. Mark Gerson and Fay Godwin show the influential writer in his younger years, whilst our very own Dom Henry’s more recent photo shows Sillitoe chilling out in style at the Broadway cinema. Dom’s second portrait in the exhibition is Michelin star chef Sat Bain’s surrounded in the cool atmosphere of his kitchen, wielding a large cleaver, looking you square in the eye. Again, quite grateful of no 3D photography.

The final room houses Nottingham-born Jo Metson Scott’s delightful collection of everyday people of Nottingham and their achievements. First observing the photo, you then get drawn into the subject’s story below, before revisiting the photo with a different light. Such as Geoffrey Oldfield gazing out the window; his coffee table is adorned with photos to then discover his many works in photography and books on Nottingham have earned him an MBE. And the subtle picture of kids hanging on a street in the summer sun, are then revealed to have produced posters challenging perspectives of young Muslims being shown around the country. It’s simple and effective storytelling; you just never know who the passer by in the street is.
 
After discovering new influential faces as well as many known characters, it was enlightening to see all that had come and been achieved from Nottingham. A proud moment for any local; as I stepped out of the castle and gazed out onto the city I almost felt like clenching my hand to my chest and singing the Nottingham national anthem – if we had one, that is...

Front page image: Hamish Brown, 2010, Jo Metson Scott.

 

 

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