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TRCH The Da Vinci Code

Street Art at Nottingham Castle

2 August 11 words: Jared Wilson
Banksy, Abrazo, Fefe Talavera, Pablo Picachu, Smallkid, Ging and more take residence in the Castle
D*Face's Feels So Good

D*Face's Feels So Good

Street Art is part of a Nottingham-based summer programme focussing on, for want of a better word, contemporary urban work by a selection of local and international artists. The centrepiece is a selection of graffiti, stickers, prints, posters and pastings housed on the first floor of our very own Castle. This is complemented by talks and tours, several films, community wall painting and an open salon submission event in which “if it fits, it will be accepted”, to quote the brochure.

It's all very well chosen and presented, a tastefully left-wing selection from the likes of the ubiquitous Banksy and several less worn artists such as the Moorish stylings of Abrazo and Fefe Talavera. The international flavour of the pieces is engaging; Miss Tic's Nous Sommes tous en situation irreguliere and Pablo Picachu's redux of Guernica sit alongside sledgehammer political pieces such as Americans Working Overhead. The variety of expression is also refreshing, everything from altered cartoons (D*Face's melting Superman in It Feels So Good) to Graeme Nimmo's Nemo, which is halfway to a traditionally beautiful portrait. There is the expected sense of humour and irreverence at work, Pure Evil's take on the Sergeant Pepper's cover with dictators rather than celebrities raises a smile, although Lennon did want Hitler and Jesus on the original so this may be more of a … remaster. Jamie Hewlett, instantly recognisable from his artwork for Damon Albarn's Gorillaz, is also featured in big sponge finger.

Smallkid and GING preparing their work at Nottingham Castle

Smallkid and GING preparing their work at Nottingham Castle

 
Local sentiment is represented in terms of exhibition as well as the public contributed scrawling wall  in the long gallery that displays as much latent hostility as it does hidden talent.  There is a large piece by local artists smallkid and GING at the entrance at the bottom of the stairs, a bright burst of colour that prepares the entrants for the cavalcade above, as well as a burger motif planted in grass outside, in which street art becomes garden art.

Fellow Nottinghamian Amy Blackwell has created a corridor of cats between two of the gallery rooms in her usual playful, yet slightly terrifiying style. Also internationally renowned and formerly Nottingham-based 'doodler' Jon Burgerman has been invited to create a unique and experimental world of cartoons in the South Hall stairwell. 

As attractive as this collection is I do have a few objections. Firstly, the Street Art in the castle is a collection borrowed from the Victoria & Albert museum in London and therefore features fewer local artists than it could have, which feels like a missed opportunity. However, the inclusion off the four artists mentioned above - as well as the series of fringe events being run around the city (including an exhibition at the Lace Market Gallery from father of Nottingham graffiti Dilk) does help to remedy this.

Secondly, graffiti is the ability to place current and creative work into a specific geographical situation without the approval of any kind of sanctioning body. The choices made in this exhibition conflict rather than reconcile this. Some of the wilder pieces have a naturally kinetic expression that is inevitably dimmed in the static setting of our local fortress. Nottingham has so many great art spaces for this kind of work that the choice of the castle seems slightly jarring to me. Also the season is sponsored by POSCA, the makers of marker pens, which is something I'm sure the local council might reconsider if they start getting people's names signed around the walls of this heritage site.

Nottingham Castle website
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