10 years pricking the art voodoo doll 2005-2015

Category: nottingham art scene (Page 2 of 3)


a comment posted on Jonathan Jones blog

‘Could the economic crisis affect art?’


As I live on another planet to the London-based coterie the notion that the art world around here will change at all is an amusing one. You won’t miss what you never had comes to mind. The only money spent on art in the East Midlands is Arts Council money and most of that now curtailed. In my opinion a good thing because most of that money wasted on vain glorious local artists who seriously deluded about their own importance. After the ‘golden decade’ of lottery money there not one East Midlands artist who could be truly be shown as part of the ‘elite’ earners pace Hirst and Co’s banker friendly cohort.

We do have some ominously empty ‘centres of excellence’ though to keep these vanity artists alive though so the cracks will not show for a few years yet…not until the squeezed taxpayers call a halt to their running costs….maybe sooner rather than later round here..

So far from worrying about the ‘crunch’ ( we been in crunch for years) the main problem is that the illusion of some fairy godmother capitalism that there to aim for awaiting our cutting edge heroes with open arms ..well it shattered…..thankfully…..

So now the question is what do we replace those bubble fuelled illusions with?

Teaching skills again in art-schools or at least transferable skills instead of left-wing delusions and right-wing dreams? We have to tell our young students something truthful instead of leading them down the garden-path….admittedly a well-paid path for some but a heap of nettles for others.

Capitalism will not collapse, ailment a squeeze only a pinch at the top and a crushing weight at the bottom.

I hope the ‘crunch’ (sounds like Kellogs advert already) will at the very least awaken a sense of realism in those provincial capitals hell-bent on being the next Miami or Venice Biennale…..

It’s over…if it ever started…..time to clear the decks, cheap use your heads and start ignoring the cloud of deceit called the International Art World and concentrate on basics. I wouldn’t call that new labourism, conservatism or marxism..I’d call that common sense. There are some very hard times ahead and no ‘bounce’ is ever going to smokescreen that…art is not going to be top of anybody’s agenda….

Least of all the taxpayer worried about bills, council tax rising and losing a job…..are they to be comforted by the latest cutting edge show of relational puff in the multi-million pound arts centre…..

No of course not……and rightly so.

The banking bubble has burst..next the panacea of regeneration through art will explode too….and we will be working in the ruins for years to come.

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

In that desert many strange blooms will thrive both right and left-wing let us hope some do not thrive…

nfasp report – creating benefit

A detailed report on the Eggerton and Oldknows Studios in Nottingham and the public benefit of artists’ activities has just been published. Written by nfasp (National Federation of Artists’ Studio providers) member Michael Cubey (London) it features Connect member Shaun Belcher and former Connect mentor Chris Lewis Jones.

Download by clicking on link below (warning large pdf 1.6MB in size!)


Click on link (requires Adobe pdf reader)



The New Victorians


Dear Gentle Reader

It may have come to your attention that I have been less than impressed with what the Arts Council, viagra Academia and artists in general have come up with in the years that I took a Rumpelstiltskin-like snooze from the ‘Contemporary Art’ scene. I’d say my detour down the highways and byways of literature and music coincided with my moving to Edinburgh in 1993 coincidentally just as the ‘BRIT ART’ boom kicked in on the ‘paved with gold’ streets of London (how many ‘Brit Artists’ are actually from outside London is a sore point the further North one travels).

Now there are many in Nottingham and further abroad who will not like the tone nor the content of the following piece but that hardly my concern. I have watched the efforts of the good and great of this city to ‘rebrand’ ‘hype’ and generally convince themselves and others that there some kind of ‘art boom’ happening here. This has been co-ordinated and reached its culmination in the frankly damp squib Brit Art Show of 2006. My contentions then were expressed in a piece written for The Nottingham Evening Post but declined by that august journal as being a little too ‘off message’ for a city still hurting from the ‘binge-drink’ and ‘suicide art’ fest the local and national press had visited upon us. For people’s information I and many others feel far safer in Nottingham than we ever did in parts of London like Harlesden where I once resided. Nottingham was unfairly slated and I do not want to add to the harbingers of gloom there. However hand in hand with this there seemed to be a blind devotion, click especially amongst those parties with most to gain, to talk up our wonderful art scene.

That the majority of people with most to lose were middle-class arts administrators and community arts people was not lost on myself or a good many others. The actual artists remain the most unrewarded and badly treated group in amongst all these ‘parades’ or as I believe better titled ‘bread and circuses’ of recent times. A year on and because of the double blow of central government arts funding cuts to pay for the Olympics and more local ‘housekeeping’ – i.e. if you want a shiny new arts venue (CCAN) you have to lose your only two significant contemporary arts venues in the meantime. Costing approx 13 million quids it seems pretty good value seeing as my little old hometown of Didcot in Oxfordshire is spending 7 million on a simple arts centre. Suddenly cutting edge and feted architect for £15 million plus (it always goes up) seems a bargain..shame most of it will be hidden under a hill then…

for full bill see arts council document

A year on and those who gained most from the Brit Art show have either moved on or are busy re-casting their Arts Council evaluation forms to convince their patrons of the whole shebang’s worth. Major art events have always been a stepping-stone for the sharp-eyed arts administrator to ‘progress’ which usually means taking what they can and getting the hell out later. For those who want to criticise this contention I’d point to stints at Festival Hall London and watching Southern Arts in Oxfordshire as proof of this in the past. One poor old helper in my little old home town (now site of that brand new arts centre I mentioned) was moved to brand this activity arts ’empire-building’. Nothing is ever likely to change there especially with less pots of gold to administrate. My point is not that this practice harms the local ‘art economy’ but that generally it hardly ever touches the life and soul of our poor local artist. For him or her life remained pretty similar i.e. plenty of cheap factory space to ‘practice’ in but nowhere to actually sell or exhibit.

Nottingham is blessed with a thriving ‘creative industy’ apparently and indeed there is a plethora of studios and artists all beavering away courtesy of a depressed property market and a manufacturing industry which collapsing and providing new spaces every week. With all this cheap space one of the overwhelming achievements of the East Midlands Arts Council has been to never furnish artists with a decent exhibiting space (Angel Row’s Parade was too little too late) which would have come at little cost if commenced years ago. Instead noble projects like the Oldknows Gallery (closed 1995) were ‘let go’ and funding when it did return in the ‘golden shower’ of the lottery was diverted to those most savvy at form-filling and buttering up or bamboozling their ACE officer with artspeak ( for general public this is known as bullshit). Instead of a vital and artist-led space we got a hundred projects ranging from the blindingly dull and stupid to the quite good. The artist’s talents were immaterial as tickboxing ensured target audiences and other such claptrap obscured whether any of this was actually any good at all. The same can be said of the arts demon twin ‘community arts’. The number of ‘hoodies’ and ‘alcoholics’ saved by t-shirt printing and rapping would, if you believed art council evaluation forms, mean that there were no social problems left in the city at all such has been there impact. As Jonathan Meades pointed out recently in his T.V. series no amount of ‘juggling and street theatre’ ever stopped people drinking themselves to death or pissing in their estate stairwells.

One of the great lies of the whole ‘community arts’ industry is just this. I salute Gordon Brown for axing the golden eggs for some of these organisations which were no more than scam machines that bled European funding directly into the pockets of well off middle class administrators and managers without ever touching the lives of the people it supposedly was meant to change. It smacks of the Victorian ‘do-gooding’ and temperance societies with no amount of evangelical artists armed with knitting machines, paper mache masks and digital cameras saving people’s souls.  The importance of this industry was not its outcomes at all but was how extremely good it was at papering over the social ills that still affect us and  keeping a good part of the ‘chattering classes’ quiet or at least funding their sons and daughters whilst Blairism privatised national assets and participated in doubtful wars. It is not coincidental that the more frugal Brown hit the ACE bill first…..even before stepping into power. As Blair stood in a gallery and boasted of funding the arts in a typical piece of doublethink to caress his bruised ego over Iraq those who were in the know could see the cuts coming.

So what are we left with post-Blair, post-funding ( these measures may get worse if spiralling costs for the 2012 Olympics take hold as they surely will?) Do we knuckle down and celebrate our ‘thriving international’ art scene and join in with the ironic ‘national debate’ on funding and the Arts Council just as they debilitate most of its funding? Of course we do – those artists still operating in a financially restricted climate are more circumspect than ever at speaking out in case they lose what little nectar left in the ACE flower for the little hummingbird’s beaks.

What artists are loathe to do (having forgotten how to) is join togther and use that reduced budget wisely and for the common good. After twenty years of competitive arts council funding applications where one group was set against the other collective action in art circles has become a dirty word. This has lead to some of the less scrupulous artists grabbing as much funding as they could by constant ‘reinvention’ and form-watching and some of these even attained a certain ‘glamour’ for their ability to do so. When art students leaving college are impressed by such activities and are not even considering the trivial and amateurish nature of what that money used to fund we are in a bad place. Thankfully as real-world economics and the pot of gold at the end of the overseas student rainbow diminish even the Academic world is coming to its senses.

In this environment where ACE funding reduced and its laughable ‘hands-off’ ‘democratic’ policy re. artistic merit is exposed for what it truly is i.e. a means to reward those most able ( pace the middle class on hospital services, property and just about everything else) to access that funding then maybe ‘artistic meritocracy’ might actually be reborn.

Casual feminists and those with hands on tiller of power will argue that any notion of ‘elitism’ (their words not mine) or artistic standards smacks of a paternalistic and Oxbridge dominated art world of yore. Well yes it was just such types that invented the Arts Council. I think more sense could be got out of that old group…Raymond Williams, F.R. Leavis and Philip Larkin for instance ( yes all men but I’m sure there a A.S.Byatt for every John Carey there too) instead of the pc focus groups and research students who will lead the forthcoming ‘debate’ in London. A debate further more that only those able to attend two nights in London and pay fares down can attend ( refer to the Brit Art comment and  the north above..plus ca change) of course even here Orwellian doublespeak is at play as some ‘invited attendees’ will indeed be paid to attend. Every one is equal but not that equal then…..

To me the whole debate is irrelevant for the real power is in the former chancellor’s hands and thrifty as he is when he notices that nothing appreciable happens to the great and good of this island without funding and indeed he may never return that largesse to its former proportions. A damn good thing too in my opinion. A conservative estimate of 6 billion pounds was distributed by the Arts Council in the last ten years (if somebody has actual figure I’d be pleased to alter it). If that money had ben invested in the NATIONAL health service not PFI’s with lovely batik and textile strewn corridors, if that money had been directed to skilling large swathes of under-employed working class male youths instead of frittered away on self-aggrandising art schemes then maybe the country would be in even better shape than it was twenty years ago. My father was a lowly builder but a keen observer and he noted how many people on his daily travels were sat in warm offices administrating things whilst there fewer and fewer skilled labourers to do the basic jobs like sewer maintenance and cable-laying….those jobs now done by ‘imported’ (legal or illegal) labour. As the middle-classes bathed in the Blairite benefits be it PFI management blowouts or arts council jollies abroad the working class slipped lower down the economic food table to the point where some actually fell below the table-top.

I have no time for the apologists of the Blairite regime they have done very well from those years and with escalating property prices have never been better off. The net effect of this has been a ghettoisation of our cities where these people have walled themselves into whites-only comfortable estates whilst the rest…black, asian, bottom rung whites are left to flounder. Significantly it just these groups that no longer represented at the educational establishments. Grant cuts (thanks Tony) and failed schooling have meant that many of the groups I and a lot of my fellow students in early 1980’s came from – white working class and ethnic minorities – simply have no chance of getting to university. This has reinforced the class divide and barring the occasional very gifted student (Hirst and Emin take a bow) this cultural apartheid has got worse.

The majority of arts graduates ( have a look at facebook for a snapshot) are now white middle-class and/or new rich and female. This has had a major impact on arts administration posts (Arts Council but one amongst many) and the kind of people who can become artists. Social groups bind like to like so the more middle class women become curators and even those not enthused by self-fighteous feminist idealism will be default tend to employ, show…and yes debate with like minds and social group members. Perhaps the Arts Council should do a survey of class background instead of tickboxing ethnicity and sexual orientation. Because this process is well advanced and even the most ill-equiped have used it to progress up the academic ladder it will be a major problem to try and put right this nepotistic and classist impulse in the arts.

Artists and ‘cultural producers’ are notoriously opinionated that their ‘ways’ right and can manufacture quite successful ‘in-groups’ that exclude others. Sometimes language and background are signifiers that lead to this exclusion before a picture painted or a book written. Good people have worked hard to stop this but it still exists as long as we live in a class-based culture which we do. Sorry Tony your only revolution was to replace one elite with another looking and speaking the same. In other words there was no New Labour revolution at all. In fact this chimes perfectly with the Saatchi driven Brit Art revolution which also was not New or British or particularly revolutionary unless being beholden to a full-on capitalist advertising executive who good friends with that old Queen of Art funding Margaret Thatcher was what left-leaning artists had dreamt of all along. Funny how a wad of cash can silence the most ‘political’ of artists when they see the palm crossed with silver. Bell and Langland….socialism is only skin-deep then..

Brit-Art, Lottery funding, Hubs of excellence…the hype merchants can spin most of the last ten years into a veritable art banquet. Nothing could ever dent this facade of artistic wellbeing could it? That is one version.

My version is slightly more jaundiced and maybe the truth somewhere in between. What is true is the arts schools facing a funding crisis, artists ..community or otherwise (those who lucky to have cadged any that is) are facing a funding crisis. Here in Nottingham we have a rather splendid council who funding not one but two major art galleries with the noble intention (as revealed by new manager Alex Farquharson) of ‘creating a regeneration alley through a moribund city and promoting shopping’…I kid you not we were all sold a pup it isn’t about art at all…so blockbusters it will be and lots of London advertising to draw social groups A & B here to shed lots of cash on our poor huddled masses. One could truly not make it up……when did digital installations and site-specific projections become the generators of high class shopping experiences I wonder….or maybe they were all along and those of us who thought art meant something and had intrinisic value were just deluded. On a side-note the advetising for CCAN awarded to Fresh Communications ( see the news document credit) who proudly re-launched Paddy Power recently….seriously…..it all fits.

Last year’s mighty ‘Underscan’ flop was just paving the way…. no pun intended our lucky Mexican-Canadian artist pocketed over £100,000 for showing pictures on the pavement which but a small part of the consultants fees for setting it up…).Little did those leery chavs pissed  up on white stripe on their way home realise that the projections they vomited and pissed in on the way home were  not art but forerunners of this years talking surveilance cameras and £500 fines for dropping a cigarette. Art as social control and intrusion and cutting edge technology ..the boundaries of where artwork stop and social engineering start have been blurred…those lacklustre community artists trying to stop some poor begger pissing his  life way were just the forerunners after all of something far more sinister. It is not such a giant leap from potato prints and grafitti murals to directed ’employment’ and state surveilance after all….is it.

Meanwhile those artists stupid enough to plow on with redundant technology like pencil, paint and brush can have no part in the brave new world of ‘spectacle’ and circus. As long as it cleans up our city centre and pushes the human trash out of sight it worth backing….it must be the consultants told us it was for the best and no-one argues with a consultant.

In Apocalypse Now there a famous scene where the Marines shoot up a civilian boat. then medics go in to repair the damage. Its described as ‘machine-gunning’ a people in half then administering a ‘band aid’. That in my opinion is what new developments in Nottingham will do to its art scene, and I not alone, when CCAN and Art Exchange are finished the same ‘able’ few will coin their shining coins and the rest will be given band aids. It is a salutory lesson in misguided interventionism. Everybody has right intentions. Ask Tony..he had more than most….

Moving the furniture around


‘Muller’ IKEA 2007: Shaun Belcher Readymade exhibited at numerous locations around the country see Gallery page.

In an act of humility and contrition Moogee is going to go gently on the next exhibition at Angel Row…’Cutting Edge Flagship’ of the city of  Nottingham the home of the fresh and the brave….yeah right……NOT

The next show is titled ‘Business as Usual’ and never has this been more appropriate. Following on from the Parade …well…brisk walk..of the local luminaries we have an exchange show return from Zagreb…the jury is out on that one but it looks interesting…and this…. To say the ideology and curatorial positioning similar to some of the work in Parade shows is a given ..

I quote from Edward’s Axis page….

Sean Edwards’ sculptures set up situations that lead you into examining your viewing habits. Through a formal analysis of both the real and the fake, search often employing a notion of absurdity in the process, here Edwards aims to expose the machinery of our take on reality and to lay bare an object’s function and use value.

Already a prize winner for such cutting edge ‘interventions’ as painting the Slade School of Art doors orange…woo hold me back that is radical….sorry but sometimes this kind of pretentious and earnest research led ‘work’ just makes old Moogee laugh. Of course that work questioned notions of seeing…..hmmmm of course nothing flamboyantly self-advertising about it was there..no silly me….

We seem to be caught in a decade of furniture removal artists..forget trad materials young artists you want to get ahead these days just get yourself some furniture..it so cliched already it become almost laughable. I know art students are up to their eyeballs in debt but please somebody loan them some pencils, thumb paper, paints and wood and stone for god’s sake or we’ll all be sitting around rubbing our chins at another generation of furniture shifters…in twenty years time….

Funniest of all is the fact that these ‘FURNERS’ are always using slightly ‘retro’ chic furniture it seems poor old IKEA is just no good for a badly thought out readymade these days..maybe it’s the lack of a patina of age…or simply that using new furniture would not mean it looked conveniently distressed. In this show (and no I will not see it or enter the gallery – if they can be so boringly oblique why should I bother walking round what is basically a set of illustrations to a thesis) we also have research student..Professor Pathway Intellectual grade 3 reverse somersault..(extra points for research) in C.V. Maxine Bristow.

Dull theoretical base and her ‘surgery’ located in a ‘Centre for Practice as Research’ at University of Chester…woo more avant-garde fun and frolics I bet …(no Bowery aesthetics here, no Warholian underground no its Chester:-) Seriously the website says it all (in copious amounts) this is art as academic living and good luck to her it pays the mortgage. Portfolio reveals handrails, towels, bags..very post-feminist research etc etc ….to be fair looks a little IKEA so maybe unfair to apply retro tag. Again her own spinning yarn says more than I ever could…very successful she is too but I’d rather watch paint dry..literally…

 …through her own work which establishes a dialectic between the processes, materials, and accompanying discourses of needlework/plain-sewing and the visual and conceptual concerns of minimalism, she provides a model of practice which aims to challenge perceptions and generate new practical and theoretical perspectives and thereby open up a critical space for making which acknowledges textile traditions and conventions.

So there you go …to be honest I found the recent exhibition at Castle Nottingham by Catherine Bertola to be far more interesting take on this area with far more than its own thesis to air…indeed it may have been one of the most locally relevant and crafted shows of the year.

Finally and courtesy of the Seventeen Gallery London a couple of art stars ( U.K. South Conference League division two) of which I far prefer David Ersser’s rather amusing (first time) reconstruction of everyday objects in balsa wood. A kind of little boy’s rebuilding of the adult world instead of just a few gliders that invariably crash back to earth. Similarly the elegance and dare I say it ‘craft’ of his work is charming but once you have scanned through all the variations it does become rather wearing like seeing the same joke told again and again (never harmed Julian Opie or Prince Hirst the First) but that’s it…….he makes things out of balsa.

Check the seventeen gallery at http://www.seventeengallery.com/?p=2&id=4

One thing you can say about the ‘Furner’ Generation is they do look lovely at jpg level on the web and maybe that is what all this is all about. This generation are profferring ideas which only incidently need actual realisation. Lacking the finances to set up in studio spaces (average price in London currently £300 a month) they have opted for a practical but finally dehabilitating irony and distance that is driving them farther and farther away from the tactility of material interaction. We may soon see a reaction to this divorce from materials and technique and a lessening of the intellectual gliding. As grant cut-backs impact heavily on artist’s incomes a lot of the hangers and runways that coddle these flights of the ephemeral will disappear and a good many gliders will simply crash back to earth.

Moogee is getting known for his joking and revisionist approach to the nature of contemporary art but do not dismiss because they are jokes..they are serious jokes. I do not throw these comments out lightly. I believe there has been a lack of rigorous intellectual approaches and a good deal of what we see tagged with the fashionable and flighty word ‘successful artist’ will disappear and quickly. I witnessed this kind of irony and intervention many years back e.g. Richard Wentworth but then he was in the minority. Now every degree show has its ready-mades practitioner and to be honest isn’t it all getting a bit boring. Modern Art, or as it has lovingly been re-branded post-Saatchi, ‘Contemporary Practice’ (as if ashamed that anything to do with an advertising executive could be called ‘modern art’) has drifted down a cul-de-sac of its own intellectual construction. The worst and brightest offenders are the post Polytechnic university cohorts (a word derivitive of their original purpose – to fabricate engineers and crafts-people) who have created a monopoly on what does and not constitute the ‘cutting edge academy’.

However they are no more the inheritors of radical practice than Blair was an inheritor of the Luddites. It is a be-calmed ocean of theoretical limpitude…….I threw that in to show even a barking dog can engage in ‘critical discourse’:-)
A bit more intellectual and theoretical Luddism will be needed to throw off these shackles and enter a genuinely wider debate.

For every Susan Collis (our final participant in Business as Usual – 17 gallery again) whose blurb is almost supremely special….

Collis’ practice involves a subversion of time frame and visual perception through the manipulation of everyday objects. In the piece ‘Paint Job’, what initially seems like a collection of careless splashes and stains upon the fabric of utilitarian worker’s overalls are, on closer inspection, meticulously stitched marks replicating the accidental and spontaneous moment.

It’s almost like Spinal Tap for art when blurb after blurb repeat the same Derridaesque formulas….on and on it goes and where will it all end…..how many interventions in furniture can a small island like ours take?

The ‘fabric of utilitarian worker’s overalls’ sounds like a Virginia Wolfism on being confronted by these dreadful worker types….oh how simply awful ..I mean real workers….indeed perish the thought. Is this 1920 and we all off to Henley after this art larking over???

I am not asking for the Angel Row to fill itself with paintings of victorian children, Jack Vetrianos (who I actually think stronger than the arts elite will allow) and god-forbid …..landscape artists…but for every dull ‘new acadamy’ show like this there an equal show of painters, sculptors using more traditional methods who have been and are continuing to be ignored. I challenge the Angel Row to let Moogee curate a show of the ‘outsiders’ and I bet I can find work as interesting and as founded in literate theoretical positions and ambition as any of this.

I do not blame the Angel Row staff or have any special reason for focussing my criticisms on them in particular they very nice people and they simply doing their job as advertised. They are operating in a wider art world of funding cuts and general indifference to the visual arts which not stuck in a cheap frame at IKEA .

What I am highlighting is the fact that several generations of artists have gone unseen, unheard because of such obvious fashionistas…The reason? Well its all about a production line these days.

Colleges of art are producing more and more able graduates in all fields and one of the most over-subscribed is the arts especially, as Grayson Perry pointed out, it becoming a ‘finishing-school’ for the sons and daughters of the middle-classes. It may or may not be all ‘croissants and the guardian’ as he stated in a Times article but it is becoming a default option for young students who intellectually bright but who do not fancy getting a real job…..yet. For them a decade of moving the furniture does not mean housework (male or female)  it means making art…when not too intellectually or physically heavy.

There is an imbalance that needs redressing but does ideologicaly compliant art necessarily mean good art ? As for art schools reflecting the wider make-up of our society just go to any degree show. At any one time there are more Korean, Japanese overseas students on courses than home-grown minority students….it is not the white middle-class who losing out it is the Asian and Afro-Caribbean youth who missing the gravy trains….

My detractors, and I expect they already many ready to dismiss me as a ‘Peter Fulleresque Ranter’ , miss the point. Our art schools are not in as fine and dandy a state as the PR departments would like us to think. The quality of art-teaching and artworks is not as consistantly high as the same highly glossed advertorials in brochures (sorry Prospecti) would have us believe.The dreaded bottom line and financial implications mean some standards have been eroded, possibly terminally’ by these ‘advances’.

This ‘review’ did not need to attend the show which in fact not even open yet to address these fundamentals. The quotes above depending on your point of view corroborate or deny your own entrenched views on where that art world (international or otherwise) truly is. I am simply trying to prise some of the debating ground open so that the other side of the coin can be seen and allowed to shine a little. I and many artists like me have been sidelined because of it and in many cases quite unfairly. Balance may not be possible but surely every artist should be allowed to fly their kite/model aeroplane.

Remember the academy thought they were right in France in 1899 and look what happened there…nobody has an exclusive handle on the truth. Nobody is immune from being crap too…….whatever they may say….
As a beautiful postscript to these thoughts I suggest a singularly wonderful track by The Handsome Family an americana duo from Chicago now resident in the Mojave Desert. Their song ‘Moving Furniture Around’ says more than all the above ‘artistes’ with dare I say it more compassion, craft and genuine talent…but then they just travelling musicians…not academics or professional artists. Artists studios used to resemble workshops full of rebels..these days they operate more like architects practices…

p.s. amusing footnote – this show also uses the previously hidden and obviously fascinating space of the Angel Row store-room……just like Mr. Russell did in Parade….bit like babies and cardboard boxes at Xmas that one then…I wonder if it so rivetting why they don’t just open a storeroom up as a gallery and save on building CCAN for £15 Million it would be a hell of a lot cheaper…….

A Fairy Tale of Snottingham


Once upon a time in a far off land where the rivers ran with gold and hummingbirds darted between the lovely flowers and every house was bathed in a golden glow there came to a city a wandering stranger who had no name, malady just the clothes he stood up in and a head full of ideas. The city was called Snottingham and it was a good place full of good people and all was as it should be in the best of all possible worlds.

He was welcomed with open arms by the cheerful inhabitants and immediately given food and shelter and a place at the table in the grand hall.
When his mead was all drunk and his belly full he sat back and watched as a gallery of weird and wonderful artists paraded their wares before him. There were clowns and jugglers, acrobats and painters, poets and sculptors and even some artists so strange he could not discern what art they were actually presenting..some even said that not presenting their wares was the artwork itself. This bemused our happy traveller and he thought no more of it. All was good and in the best of all possible worlds such a bewildering array of talents was for the best.

Later as he slept the soundest sleep of his life he began to be assailed by strange demons that leapt around his head and taunted him. He saw the hall again but this time the artists, the clowns, the jugglers had all gone and instead he saw only the unhappy faces of the people and merchants grabbing their silver coins and hopping off down the stairs. The wonderful music and paintings disappeared and a moaning and a lamenting filled his ears and the ears of every inhabitant of the land. He awoke with a start and looked around. It was just a nightmare surely brought on by the mead. The room he lay in looked the same, outside the empty hall would look just as it always had done but something felt wrong. He could not put a finger on it but something had changed. In his younger days he had painted the odd picture and written a poem or two that had pleased the masters of other great halls so he thought this a fine opportunity to do so once again. His dreams of wealth, happiness and contentment would be fulfilled in this place of golden opportunities.

Our poor traveller had forgotten one thing. All this happiness was based on the largesse of the Red King who sat on his throne in a far off and magical city to the south. Every day his courtiers would travel far and wide with carts of lovely gold from the never-ending coffers to pour it down on the lovely people and their lovely artforms. There were rumours that that wise and noble Red King had done this to keep all his citizens happy. Also that every coin he gave out came with not only a price to pay but that they were running out. It was a shock when the next day the town-crier shouted out the news all around Snottingham ..the Red King was dead and a new Even Redder King much like the old Red King but just that bit Redder where it mattered was now in charge.

This Even Redder King was a wise and thrifty soul and immediately asked what benefits all these carts full of gold had brought. Up and down the land artists and administrators racked their brains and toiled over documents to present their evaluations…before they could do so the Even Redder King said no more of this tomfoolery and frippery we need to pay for a mighty battle in the wild east end where our finest talents will take on the world. The days of golden carts is now over….once and for all…

So the coffers dried up and the rivers ran with mud not gold and our artists and poets…..what became of them?

Well the great halls remained empty and the poets went back to their rooms and the artists, some painted on until their paint ran out whilst others who had never needed materials lasted longer but their survival was based on joining together and making sure that they convinced the people out in the markets and fairs that theirs was the great and true art even when they had nothing to actually show for it.

These were the best of the magicians our traveller thought . They have turned pure ideas into gold like the alchemists of old. But even here there were problems…more and more artists with no materials left joined their guilds and soon the only art on offer was non-art. What little pots of gold remained were jealously guarded by the newly appointed Dragons of Admistrador…there fierceness when cornered ensured the new Even Redder King at least had some lovely things to lay before the people when they got a little restless.
Slowly the city adjusted to the new regime. The happy hummingbird paradise of old was gone forever but still the kingdom remained calm and the people if not so beatific at least they had new places to enjoy the arts..The palaces of IKEA and CCAN helped soften the blow although some could not tell the difference. Real art had never been so affordable or so lovely for all and the new Palaces would bring new money from all across the globe. This helped the Academies where the Professors of Golden Loveliness who were running out of coins too were starting to feel the pinch and having to take less hoilidays each year…..these were serious times.

Our traveller had brought some questions for these artists and professors….but they did not like these questions..

He asked why some of the loveliness that had been created in the golden cart years looked so poor and lacklustre now ..surely with all those billions of coins pouring down the art would be equally magnificent and last forever too. The more he enquired the less he found out and then he realised that a lot of this art either did not exist or had been an illusion all along…

It was the pouring that was important as it kept up the impression that everything in the old Red King’s kingdom was well. The people who made this art could have been dangerous critics of the old Red King if he did not keep their bellies full and their circuses running.

Slowly the people of this best of all possible worlds realised that their artists were no longer happy and that some were talking of supporting another and nastier Blue/Green King who wanted to paint the world a different colour.

Panic started to set in to the little artists camps and they started to argue and grab as much gold as they could before heading for the woods. Soon the forests around Snottingham were full of camps of performance poets, constructivist sculptors, derridaesque clowns and old fashioned and grey-bearded painters and painteresses. There was no longer any harmony, no lutes and mead….just hovels full of application forms…

The new BlueGreen King rode into a deserted city after a snap election and took over and banned these people forever…he never had liked art anyway so that was pretty much a no-brainer for him.

As out traveller was escaping the new BlueGreen King he ran into one band of these artists who were now called Art terrorists. He recognized them from their wanted posters and their rather too tight green tights..the uniform of the eco-warrior artist clan…..they swung down from the trees and surrounded him..their green hoods and baseball caps hiding their eyes….

He was not worried surely these defenders of the true faith would save him or at least let him through safely to continue his quest. One even had a ‘nice’ middle class name …..Robin and he surely came from the posh end of town…

Sadly they didn’t because times were tight and funding had been removed they were forced to mug him, they took his mobile phone and wallet and pissed off…

Moral of this tale

Don’t believe in fairy tale endings….or art that never was and carts full of gold….leave that to the Leprachauns.

The New Profs: Parade 3 – Stuff Happens


“we would have known and surely would have predicted that the General Motors of the art world – the museums and universities – would ultimately seek to alleviate their post-market status and control the means of production … Within 10 years, stuff the art world was on its way to becoming a transnational bureaucracy. Everybody had a job description and a résumé … I was face to face with a generation of well-educated and expensively trained young artists whose extended tenure in art schools appended to the art world had totally divorced them from any social reality beyond it.”

David Hickey quoted in Gordon Burn try ,1921975, buy 00.html” title=”Make it new”>’Make it New’ Guardian October 14th 2006

Hickey is talking about the 1970’s in America but just as we have lagged behind our unweildly offspring in so many things since WWII – armaments, planning, social movements, music so too we have lagged in Art Education. Hickey’s words are echoed by sculptor Richard Serra who called it ‘Floor and drawer art’ – referring to the fashion for conceptual, documentary and installation work. ‘Plus ca change’. Here we are in the late naughties playing catch-up again but this time the implications for an art-world on brink of overload are severe. What has this to do with the offspring of our munificent academies toting their ‘cutting-edge’ wares before us on a sunny evening at Angel Row? Well everything and nothing…..

To explain I have to tell you a little story……

Once upon a time there was an Irishman and an Englishman and they both  dreamt of America….one ended up there studying at Yale with the same Richard Serra and one made it across from the hinterland of Birmingham on a Fullbright. What both of them ingested as well as a respect and understanding of American academic practices and art-scene was an understanding of the new world that was emerging. No more cosy provincial art-schools with their tired old life-drawing rooms and quaint practices. No they saw a golden vision of a big brash new world and they weren’t going to let the old feudalism dent their dreams. The history of post WWII propagandist use of art movements such as Pop and Abstract Expressionism as examples of ‘democratic American freedom’ is well written. Far more subtle and really only apparent now years later is the influence of the free-market on the art schools of Britain. In an unholy alliance academics with left-wing sympathies who were able to earn right-wing lifestyles found that the ‘freedoms’ of a free-market in education gave them prestige and their bosses higher turnover and profits. Locked together ‘Art Education’ and ‘Commerce’ factors danced like there was no tomorrow.

The Irishman was Michael Craig Martin and in his pivitol role at Goldsmiths he ushered in the YBA (Young British Artists) phenomenon. The other character in my story is John Newling of Trent University ( formerly Polytechnic). At Trent Newling has overseen a similar if less glamorous drive towards both improving standards and building the new University’s reputation in the arts. It is the nature of what that built upon that I am interested in..those words of Hickey and Serra came back to haunt me as I moved around the Angel Row in the evening sunlight……are we witnessing the evening shadows lengthening on the day in the sun promised by the YBA circus…I think we are…..

As a student Trent had already a growing reputation, Goldmiths too but nobody could have predicted the sea-change in the arts that they have overseen. At Hornsey College in 1980’s I witnessed a full scale attack on the bourgeoise notions of craftsmanship, artistic talent and skill as ‘new arts’ performance, installation and digital swept all before them ..this a full 5 years before YBA’s. The students of the 1970’s had prospered and brought their own practice to the art school corridors..out with the old and in with the new. In the art critical wilderness voices opposed to this turn around were berated as hopelessly conservative..Peter Fuller who had started his published life on a left-wing press was berated as a closet fascist. The art-war was over…progress had won and as the numbers of students swelled ( fuelled partly by a government which had become a dab-hand at closing down all else especially manufacturing) and the money flowed in and the old ‘Polys’ blossomed into cathedrals of light and regenerated beauty who could argue? In Nottingham’s case the University actually built a new business school on the site of the old Raleigh factory. There was never a better time to be an artist and the YBA cash cows were the icing on the cake……..things could only get better and better…couldn’t they?

20 years on and the cracks in the facade have started to appear. The new Unis have been very succesful for those lucky enough to be within their privileged walls..and increasingly the proportion of ‘overseas’ students is climbing in direct relation to the falling numbers of U.K. students unable to navigate the fees fiasco or convince their parents that the art lottery worth playing. Meanwhile the Further Education colleges take up the old boring mundane training duties for ‘real work’ the hairdressers and bricklayers who would have trained on the job in the old days. It not only the working class feeling the pinch as Grayson Perry noted even the middle-classes beloved of Blair are examining the fine print carefully these days before committing their hard earned cash. The art-world today has been transformed and here the nub of my story……what we seeing is a generation of ‘Floor and Drawer’ artists….our clean, bright lovely ‘New Professionals’ who could have easily gone into medicine, architecture or been vets…the art-world has been ‘scrubbed up’ for the naughties..it had to be to carry on…anarchists, hairies, yippes of old need not apply…..solid artworks and intellectual rigour only…if it is weird it is safe ‘weird’. Which brings me back to my reverie in the late sun in the soon to be ‘upgraded and cleansed’ Angel Row. Where has all the fun gone..the anarchy, the dare I say it ‘revolution’ and as for ‘social reality..you ‘avin a larf guv’nor?………..

Oh dear am I being too old-fashioned for you dear reader?

Parade 3: Curated by Leo Fitzmaurice (who incidently has some fairly slight squibs on supermarket posters in the entrance) is the final act in the three-ring circus that was Parade – an attempt to showcase the brightest and most ‘urgent’ art from the sunny East Midlands.

In concept it draws on a large amount of networking events and in-house collaboration between artists chosen because they already ‘performing’ across the ‘Critical Network’ i.e. a post degree infrastructure that effectively promotes more of the same and excludes just about everybody else from the show. Imagine a Circus tent that pitched up in town and when you arrived 90% of the acts were clowns and when asked ‘where are the horses and elephants and even the jugglers’ you were told sorry by official decree only the clowns can take part the rest have been deemed too ‘reactionary, conservative or just too old’. The factors causing this state of affairs are tedious and would take a book to explain but art as instrument of social policy, art as regeneration symbol, art as education and most importantly artists under 30 as keys to unlocking European Funding have all played their part. Factor-in a developing network of self-promoting across the land and you have a virtual ‘alternative art scene’ but is it ? What is mind-numbing about this series of shows is how ‘safe’ it really is and how old-fashioned it all looks. The new underground drinks lattes, shops at Muji and uses their arts council grants as deposits on houses…capitalism must be quaking in its boots. One artist ( the oldest in show of course) actually has a thread of the real rebel in him and it shows.

Another reviewer noted the air of ‘inconsequantiality’ about this third show and he nailed it. This is Sunday supplement wannabe art. It affects an air of defiant rebelliousness but it no more real than a Peter Docherty ‘poem’ or Tracy Emin Sunday column. Art has been divorced from its social setting and artists starved for years of funds and attention are more than happy to dance to the piper’s tune. In an area like the East Midlands where there virtually no private sales system that means Academia and Subsidy…….they are all on A&S (the medical overtone there correct) without it most would have withered on the vine years ago or got proper jobs. So what is ‘Joe Public’ (conspicuous by his absence of course) to make of this Parade in his name?

I could list every artist’s name but for a fuller overview please read Mark Patterson’s incisive account in the Nottingham Evening Post (which incidently in response to public clamour for art coverage recently reduced said coverage by half in order to print more dating ads…). I am just going to give my honest appreciation of the work as it shown. I know only one participant and that is Paul Matosic whose floor piece of dismembered computer parts got a a thumbs up from Mark Patterson and which I agree is a highlight of the show. Another piece which caught my eye immediately was Hessing’s assemblage of multiplugs…concise and a formally inventive and clever piece that had real ‘sculptural’ precsence. In the same room Godfrey’s magazine excerpts were Foundation level smartypants, ( ditto  Davis …so you took these symbols of capitalism and contemporanity…and you ‘broke them down” …..how exciting……..) Jamieson’s envelopes were a good joke…Sol Lewitt for the poor? Ayling and Conroy I leave to an anonymous comment I ‘overheard’ …” art for the front page of Frieze only it will never make it’…..it looked like Jeff Koons on a bedsit budget… if they’d aimed lower like the neatly formulated ’96 tears and 96 eyes’ they could have got frontpage of A.R. publicity literature instead. One thing I cannot fault though is the premise of lo-fi, reusing objects as defined by the overall curation….it is stuff and sometimes it is happening but mostly it isn’t.

Stuff that could have enjoyed development included Stevenson’s signage…nicely done and could progress, Hessing’s ‘re-modulations’ and maybe Fisher’s other work although HAL was a bit too pop culture referential to have any real bite but full marks for a laddy reinvestigation of traditional laddette materials. Kirshnir’s morse code was a good idea badly presented.

Stuff that emphatically, ‘oh god why bother’ didn’t happen for me and quite a few others, included Gubb’s amplifier…yawn….and Danica Maier’s soft (literally lace..but from abroad…not Nottingham you understand…) pornographic cartoon. Nothing trembling there. By coincidence the two most lethargic entrants have the academic seal of approval….and if Norman and Mayer continue like this they will soon join them.

Stuff Happens..was sort of Ok in a five out of ten way….to return to the vegetable metaphors then this was more like a street barrow at 5pm on a Saturday and whilst most of it was well past sell-by date intellectually ( pace 1970’s and 1980’s conceptualism and assemblage) there were some still fresh bargains to be had and at least the curator/barrow boy tried to showcase as much as possible…i.e. throw enough against wall some sticks ….rest flog it cheap mate..

So what does any of that have to do with the first part of this extended ‘rant’ or ‘diagnosis’ depending on your age/social background and access to those barrow boys and girls of benevolence….A.C.E.?

Well members of the jury my prognosis is simple. What has happened with our art education system is directly reflected in the quality and the depth of the work these artists display. Too many older artists in the East Midlands have tried to reinvent themselves in recent years to gain access to these charmed circles and in doing so have jettisoned any credibility and development for a handful of silver. Amongst the younger artists the ‘wow factor teaching’ has left them polishing old ideas in ever decreasing circles and now ever decreasing funding. The golden eggs are no longer going to be dished out for fourth rate art and I’m afraid the only gold will be hanging around athletes necks. The system of professionalisation has left us with a glut of pretentious semi-curators with more and more artists of variable talents to ‘curate’. Academia is the ‘safe-house’ where the avant-garde can sleep safely and all the while the ‘social reality’ remains a late-night bus ride away. There was not one reference in any of this work to the actual area of the East Midlands. That ‘social reality’ simply didn’t exist. The ivory towers have not got any taller ..they have just got thicker walls.

Once upon a time there was an Irishman,an Englishman and a Scotsman and they dreamt of America…they dreamt of revolution. of turning the world upside down…where is Tom Paine or Burns when you need him most?

To quote a singer in a band..Jefferson I think we’re lost…..

All we have now after the Parade has passed are a handful of beans and a golden goose….oh and a lovely, lovely square…

Editor’s note: Apologies to Alexander Stevenson for an honest mistake re. his and Kirshnir’s work. In the speed of writing I mistakenly assigned his (positive) mention with Kirshnir. This has now been rectified and a heartfelt apology to both. My only defence is it a genuine mistake and my incredible age. Even with proof-reading sometimes things slip through. Amended version now online.

The Fake Gallery – revisited

fake gallery logo


It seems to me that artists have two choices…travel to Rome and adopt the clothes of the conquerer’s and become ‘curators’ or walk to the furthest edges and break down fences that border the still wild and unexplored possibly with multiple personas….Pessoa comes to mind and in his spirit I have invented any number of ‘Fake’ musicians and artists recently….indeed to the point where I declared myself a ‘Fake Gallery‘and declared my various ‘styles’ separate personas…

Only in fakery did I become real…

Fake Gallery

full original article HERE from January 2006

Where is the Art World located?

I seem to have slipped this debate onto the artforum website ….please contribute…especially if a provincial:-)

artforum logo


Where is the art world located?

by Moogee, stuff 03.21.07 02:24 pm

I was amused by your august journal’s City names on the front of your web page. According to this Nottingham U.K. is not a part of the IAW (International Art World) and neither is Chicago which I find distressing for those poor artists there. I would love some advice on how long this state of affairs has pertained and with government funding we may be able to relocate to somewhere that is in the IAW immediately thus rectifying the situation.


a proud provincial


Where is the art world located?

Digital artwork

Where is the art world located


Created 22.03.2007

Available as digital print (forthcoming)


Out of Place: Parade 2: Review

“Historians when they come to write about New Labour, tadalafil need to look no further than our council (Brighton) to see where it all went wrong; an administration that consistently ignores core services in order to spend its money on headline-grabbing projects which benefit an elite few”
Julie Burchill quoting a Brighton resident in there ,2035970, and 00.html” title=”Burchill article”>Guardian Weekend 17.03.2007

vision of future market square
What has this got to do with Parade, the Angel Row Nottingham showcase of local artistic talent? Well everything and nothing. The title itself is an oblique reference,I presume, to the coincidental ‘parade’ of dignitaries, binge drinkers, (or are they one and the same) community groups and past their sell-by-date musical acts which are launching the opening of the new ‘city square’. By an act of stupendous largesse the Nottingham City Council have managed to spend £7 million pounds ‘renovating’ the city’s market square and as if that not enough then celebrated their municipal munificence by spending another £400,000 on opening celebrations. This in a city about to see community funding go into freefall pre-olympics and which despite multiple funding initiatives still has some of the worst crime and social problems in England to deal with. Hey ho let them eat cake …

On the opposite side of this mock-Spanish square replete with silver chairs (Café Nero not Yates is our cultural destiny) we find a rather worn Angel Row which in its heyday was something of a noise in the IAW (International Art World). Ironically that golden period was long ago and far away and after a time when local-bred initiatives such as the Playhouse and Midland Group actually gave the city some claim to ‘avant-garde’ status.

Fast-forward and although the Polytechnic has blossomed into a first-rate art-school the Angel Row seems curiously caught in its own reflection. Parade number 2 curated by Mary Doyle is the second in a series of 3 showcases promising the newly ‘Europeanised’ residents of Nottingham a taste of local artistic produce …a sort of organic vegetable box of the brightest and best from the region. Well.. Nottingham actually if the map on the wall is correct then contemporary art is alive and well only within the city and at one location in Lincoln and Northampton. How fresh and sustainable is this box of goodies?

This show using the usual curatorial ‘premise’ of a trendy title is called ‘Out of Place’ so is it and what does it have to say about this place here and now? Well first thing seen is a screen showing two of Roger Suckling (Nottingham resident – Lincoln teacher) shorts which are amusing and well made musings upon just such a notion. Train tickets flicker and hand held video jogs and yes we get the message…global/local. Short, well crafted and communicative. Hats off Roger and more like that please. The fresh carrot in the box and no wilting yet.

Open the door on the gallery space and another interesting piece – Eric Rosoman’s ‘Muckle Flugga’ lighthouse in miniature and a series of marks (in tasteful artschool tape as crosses..religious symbolism?) across the grey floor. A successful and intriguing piece especially when related to the framed ship’s names. Out of place certainly but fresh still and another carrot.

The rest of the room contains a few mouldier items. Simon Withers has managed to be featured in two shows on the basis of continually shifting his ‘practice’ to suit the prevailing winds. This particular vessel. ‘Rokeby Venus by jumping’ can be safely dropped in the ‘an idea you’d have in the pub but dismiss as too silly when you woke up’ school. Flimsy but attractive to funders and small children because it is funny even if it isn’t meant to be.

Candice Jacobs is big in an ‘a-n’ (that’s artists newletter to the unsophisticated) land sort of way apparently and boasts of having Damien Hirst ‘view’ her work which marks a new low in ‘solipism’ on art c.v.’s. On this basis expect lists of ‘Famous people what walked past my work’ soon. Her work…contemporary ironic with a capital ‘C’. Ironic references to other artists in same leaky boat and to be frank dull. Apparently her work uses ‘ everyday objects in unexpected ways’ – old vinyl records, glasses and artwork that looks faintly like photos in back issues of art magazines circa 2000. You get the picture. Kids like it when it revolves though so not all bad.

Oh there a site-specific wall-piece so bland I’d almost forgotten it which managed to make one corner of the room look like habitat across the road. So two limp lettuces and a mouldy parsnip there folks.

Second room and we into the potatoes (no meat..this is council funded remember). Paul Matosic and Roger Suckling both showing large films both of which enabled through munificent Arts Council funding. Both interesting and of a piece with their careers and as older members of show surprisingly fresh still. A couple of solid cabbages. Neither piece in my opinion as good as other work they have done. The third pillar in the room by Tomas Chaffe tells you all you need to know again kids like it because it a game working out which is the ‘false’ one. It no more an artistic revelation than the glorious reworking of an old idea (sadly not his own) by Niki Russell which proves that a good idea (Mike Nelson’s Turner Prize piece of 2001 in this case) can keep you in funding for a while. As an actual object it was built by somebody with all the building skill of a member of the Royal Family. Fabulous but not as fabulous as Mayer’s film of a woman regarding a step ladder. Maybe she waiting for Niki Russell to finish his room? Three very limp turnips.

So there you have it. Global influenced local produce. If shown at a vegetable show I’d say that Suckling and Rosoman would get rosettes for at least truly describing things that were ‘out of place’. The rest I’d maybe use in an art stew like this but a couple probably end up in bin as ideas too far gone to be edible.

Re-emerging into a beautiful European-influenced marble square with trams gliding surreally through the St.Patrick’s Day parade do I feel that Nottingham’s contemporary art has suddenly risen to such a degree that it deserves attention. Well no. Decent enough attempt but lacking that particularity and individuality that is going to storm the IAW (International Art World). No point in musing on what might have been in last ten years with real support and funding for these artists and what could have been achieved with the same old square in place and all that money. No we live in a world where initiatives replace commitment and PR has supplanted common sense. Nottingham had a very strong art history before all the art-speak and interventions got in the way of the expression of raw talent.

The Angel Row and its apparachiks are not a cause of this disease they just attempting to deal with a plot of ground infected with the symptoms. Even this small plot of ground is under threat too now. The powers that be say money is needed for athletes and sports stadia not exhibitions. Maybe this isn’t the rosy dawn of a new European era but the last ‘Hurrah’ of a New Labour dominated agenda that said let everybody eat cake and things will come right…..more parades, more bread (foccacia not hovis) more circuses, more lottery money for everyone….

They didn’t come right…….but we have some lovely fountains to piss away our sorrows in.

Enjoy…croissant with your ‘mock-belgian’ lager sir?


Terra Incognita: Parade 1: Review


First of the Angel Row’s attempts (finally) to showcase the best art in Nottingham and adjacent ‘shires’. As the work was ‘curated’ out of that submitted it gives a partial overview of where the City and surrounds stands in the ‘international art world’ or IAW for short. This particular IAW is spoon fed to artists, buy cialis educators and students as the only IAW i.e. the one that is commercially viable or supported by government subsidy. IAW is depicted and debated intensely in the kind of magazine you find in the resource room of the Angel Row Gallery.

The first thing that struck me on entering this show was that it certainly looked like a show in Miami, Dusseldorf or Madrid. There was an entertaining mix of genres. Projection, TV/video, painting and floor pieces. This fitted neatly into the kind of pictures the IAW likes to classify itself by….adventurous, cross-border etc etc.

But what of the work’s actual quality? Well the most striking and probably most effective piece was Anita R Mudaliar’s cut and paste black and white children’s book illustrations projected on the wall. Not only a genuinely creepy piece but one which grabbed your attention and did not let it go. The kabbalistic floor-pieces were slight, the ‘Silesia’ paintings were too close to Richter in Godley’s case to be truly original and he has better work elsewhere..these are playing to the gallery. The other painter was let down by bad placing and the photographs seemed to be straight out of the local college textbook of slightly surreal and oblique. Simon Withers collages without the content were a good idea realised badly and again suggested some back issue of Frieze or Artforum than a genuine match of form and content.

The curation was tight and there did seem to be a genuine attempt to mirror the trendy title..<unknown worlds> sadly not this particular world as it is one I have seen many times before and it’s called the IAW. There is a wealth of other ‘art’ and other experience in this corner of England but it did seem ( subsequent shows showcasing the same artists) that work was selected for its ability to mimic the curator’s ( all outsiders ) approach and wishes rather than a genuine attempt to grasp the realities of the place.
Taking chances is not in the developing curatorial remit perhaps.

 On a positive note the sheer fact of having taken the plunge (financial practicalities and local politics aside..would this show ever happened but for the regenerative fallout of CCAN?) meant that we got to see a fairly thin slice of the art being produced here that believes it can be IAW compliant. Is it good? To be frank much of it was good enough but none of it was excellent. Nobody here is ever going to be A-List and that not carping that an aspect of reality that sometimes lost in the thrill of exposure. More realism about prospects, more interaction of good local artists with education and community and we have a better future. Without raining on the parade Nottingham and its artists and its people deserve and should get better.


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