One of the last things we did before the world went all Walking Dead was to appoint two brand-new Art Editors. But sadly for us, them and the entire artistic community in Nottingham, all of the galleries in the city closed their doors soon after. So by means of an introduction, we thought it might be nice for Laura-Jade Vaughan and Rachel Willcocks to write about an exhibition that made a big impression on them...
In 2007, a school trip took me to Andy Goldsworthy’s exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I was studying Art History on a bit of a whim – I had purposefully chosen obscure A-levels in a tactical attempt to get accepted into a college with a great contemporary dance programme. While convenient choices may have led me from my hometown of Essex to this haven in Yorkshire, when I stood in front of Goldsworthy’s sculptures, I felt I was where I was meant to be.
Goldsworthy’s Leaf Stalk Room was a white cube space divided by a delicate curtain of thousands of twigs, painstakingly pinned together by thorns. I was fascinated by how Goldsworthy’s large sculptural installations embodied the fragile relationship between nature and artifice, object and experience, time and preservation. It left me thinking, what could a gallery tell me about a natural environment, and vice versa? I am still really interested in the relationship between contemporary art and its environment – how art functions outside of galleries, and how art can intervene in our experiences of everyday spaces. I have returned to these questions through various curatorial projects and my writing.
My visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park inspired me to study Art History at uni – that’s how I came to live in Nottingham. I’ve loved being part of such an exciting arts scene. We have such a diverse range of art spaces, and I’ve found there’s a real openness to experiment, initiate projects, and form collaborations. My first job was at Nottingham Contemporary for the grand opening, and ten years later (with a few years hiatus in the middle) I am Marketing Manager here. Each day I get to creatively interpret ideas in the art for a range of audiences, and I always hope that my work might persuade someone to take a chance and visit an exhibition – and you never know – it might make for a meaningful, or even life-changing, experience.
I have always thought that Nottingham’s lucky to have LeftLion – a platform that celebrates the diverse creativity of our city and represents a range of local voices. I am really looking forward to being part of the team and getting to delve deeper into Nottingham’s arts and culture.
Discovering a big black 'weird-looking' building in Hyson Green influenced me to pursue a career in the art sector, and made me realise how much I, and all of us, can connect with art. Funnily enough around the same time, I found LeftLion!
Fast-forward ten years later and, after a stint in the youth theatre, and a Journalism degree at University of Arts London, I'm back at the big black weird-looking building – also known as New Art Exchange, working as the Marketing Officer. I had no idea I'd be working in the 'art world', but it feels oddly perfect that I've gone full circle and ended up where I first discovered art and what it meant to be creative.
My first exhibition working at NAE was The Path by Hassan Hajjaj – a show that was the perfect welcome into the job. Walking into the gallery space was therapeutic: seeing the bright sunshine colours and bold patterns bursting with vibrancy; listening to the range of musicians and singers dressed head-to-toe in rainbow-coloured outfits, in different locations yet brought together with succinct synchronicity nestled into the film and its structure; touching the tables and frames put together from old Coca-Cola crates and painted tyres. This show felt alive, and its energy hit me hard and affirmed my decision to work with art.
The show combined photography, film and immersive space. Exploring each piece, questions on cultural identity, globalisation and the instilled perspectives we all carry popped into my head. The Dakka Marracekchia series challenged all those questions – photographs of women in hijabs posing like supermodels, their stance and style challenging the Western stereotype of Islamic women as suppressed and disempowered. I realised that it was the perfect example of how imagination and creativity can open up new worlds and new knowledge, concepts, feelings unexplored. Who knew art could do so much?
I've come a long way since my youth theatre days. Although I was terrible at Art in school and never thought I'd get an opportunity to put my Journalism degree to good use, I'm delighted to be a part of the LeftLion team. Nottingham's creative scene has so many stories to tell, and I can't wait to write them and keep this legendary piece of Nottingham's past and present engaged in art.