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Culture Cloud at NAE

1 August 12 words: Thomas Norton
The competition heats up in the finals of this exhilarating multicultural art show
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It is with a sigh of weariness that the word multiculturalism seems to have been ingested particularly in the light of ‘lympics. Exploited both as a polemical buzz-word alongside a claxon of societal breakdown, neither of the most outspoken proponents or opponents appears to have a clear idea about what it really means.

You’d hope it’s about stripping all that nonsense jingoism to alternately bask and give in the richness of history and experience of tonnes of other people.

Now for most of us that should at face value just sound like a right old jolly but who knows, there could still be one or two struggling with this fabulous picture.

No need to mither though – the keen beans at Culture Cloud have tailored just the cure-all for you. What started as a competition with over 900 entries has been whittled down at the NAE for their newest exhibition, a celebration of both remarkable global talent and a reflecting pool of worldlier outlooks.

While there’s no doubt that the artists who made the cut must be as thrilled as pigs in blankets, this show isn’t for selfish swine. Even if each of the works here are a marvel in themselves, they’re elevated by sharing themselves among their international peers. There’ll be a Best of Show later this year but for now, the harmony’s here to stay.

The arrangements Culture Cloud have created have a huge part to play in these relationships. One shining example is the photographer’s corner extending around the south west corner of the gallery. It much like the rest of the show introduces one artist with a clear and stark message that’s shared by their surrounding companions, pulling a collective response together and reinforcing their pan-global bond.  Matteus Dominigo’s Fall part 1 (date) among the other photographers, sets series of moody, barren shots of loneliness of a man, to highlight each artists’ interpretation of isolation. As Roshina Rubin-Mayhew’s dusty prints sees solitude as the deliberate aftermath of desertion, while Gaylan Nazhad sees it resulting out of solipsistic obsession, his protagonist buried in the scaffold of a busy kitchen. There’s even more to unearth on your visit but this perceptive organisation allows each viewer to see universal themes as a guardrail to guide them through and connect to the sprawl of landscapes and stories.

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Culture isn’t defined here as simply ethnicity either with a background of feminist and matriarchal artists, something that’s too often not the case among these kinds of events. There’s no ignoring  Sarah Maple’s 6”6 painting “Menstruating With Pride” as you enter but its excising on the censorship of femininity is an already well-worn point and perhaps serves better as a springboard for those less prominently featured. Ed J Brown’s “The Bad Girl and the Bayou” print confronts the contradiction of portraying feministas as butch heroes in a vivid, exploitation era comic poster. The hilarious “Come. And Be My Baby” by Harjeet Kaur’s photography meanwhile further magnifies those gender roles in sex, a post-climax couple caught on film with Mrs shown in simultaneous appreciation and simmering frustration of her partner’s smug come face.

What makes Culture Cloud a success though is that rather than flat footedly battering the viewer into hazily interpreting the motives and history of each nationality, it invites you to look at ideas that have no borders and see how someone round the block might think differently. It’s not about presenting our neighbours as living in a world beyond our but instead as a set of partners that provide accumulative wisdom. The delight here’s finding something (and you will) that’ll twist your thinking and show you that what’s home-grown isn’t always the best batch.

New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud runs until 25 August

Photography courtesy of New Art Exchange


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