It’d be remiss for those with even the most fair-weather interest in contemporary art not to make the short trip by tram to visit Lakeside Arts on the University of Nottingham campus, which is currently home to an exhibition of selected works from The Arts Council Collection - the largest collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world.
Featuring prominent artists from the sixties, Kaleidoscope studies the movements of Op Art, Pop and Constructivism, through pieces that experiment with the bold use of colour, warped surfaces and imposing forms, commonly arranged with a sense of order, rhythm or symmetry.
Upon entry to the gallery and beside Anthony Caro’s Slow Movement, magically rising from the wooden floor, Tim Scott’s huge but delicate abstract sculpture Quinquereme scythes through the centre of the space. The impact of your entrance upon this piece is only limited by the gallery space itself – it’s difficult to get far enough from it to appreciate it as a whole.
In the largest of the three rooms which hold the exhibition a huge, upright blue ring has an interesting effect on your perception of other works in the space by providing a changing frame depending on where you stand. The piece itself, aptly named Blue Ring by artist David Annesley, is the orbit of the artists outstretched arms realised in blue-painted steel to fool the spectator as to its heavy, industrial construction.
Beyond the steel ring, Point X shouts the loudest. Philip King’s abstract sculpture feels as though it does not belong in either the gallery or the sixties. The fiberglass and polyester construction of violent geometric forms arranged around a central axis, edged in fizzing lime are as though you caught an explosion happening in the corner of the room red-handed, and frozen with guilt.
Perhaps Britain’s best-known abstract artist of the era, Bridget Riley, is represented of course. 1961’s Movement in Squares is an example of the unsettling, optical illusions Riley effected with simple and repeating black and white geometric forms.
Although not universally applicable to all the pieces on show, there was a tension within and between certain work, manifesting as a feeling of uneasiness. It’s worth seeing for yourself because the words on this page will fall short of sharing the positive or negative (but always welcome) emotional responses that art should evoke. How will Jeremy Moon’s Cape Red, a vast and imposing, blood-red canvas hung at 45-degrees, make you feel as you explore the pieces lying under its gaze? Let me know if you think I’m being artistically paranoid.
Kaleidoscope runs at Nottingham Lakeside Arts' Djanogly Art Gallery until Sunday 24 September before it heads off to Warwick and Liverpool, and you can catch it all for free.
Nottingham Lakeside Arts website