Mat Collishaw - Skin Flick 2
Since 1843: In The Making presents a handpicked selection of the schools ‘best and brightest’ alumni featuring such luminaries as 2005 Turner Prize winner Simon Starling, and other well-known names including Mat Collishaw, Laura Knight, Hetain Patel and Alison Wilding.
The exhibition itself is set throughout the Bonington building and beyond, and there is plenty to discover tucked away around corners, such as the showreel in the lecture theatre at Bonington, playing Jeanie Finlay’s 2011 documentary Sound it Out. Bonington Gallery itself is split into two sections, firstly presenting a brief glimpse of the history of the school and its early students, along with now-historical artworks including Motherhood (1922) by Dame Laura Knight who studied at the school in the closing years of the nineteenth century.
The rest of the gallery is devoted to showcasing contemporary works from some the school’s more famous alumni. The sheer variety is striking, but is not surprising given the vast number of subjects that are studied at the school: from fine art and photography to fashion knitwear and theatre design. Inevitably, the works that draw my eye most are those more closely related to my own studies at Trent, particularly a photograph from Simon Starling’s 2006 seriesAutoxylopyrocycloboros and Skin Flick 2 by Mat Collishaw, a distorted, misshapen film of a bullfight projected onto a table, which only becomes visually coherent when viewed as a reflection in the large silver spike that pierces the screen.
Jonathan Glazer - Sony Bravia advert
As well as the main exhibition in the Bonington building, works by other alumni are on show in the Newton building as well as a large work by Jon Burgerman commissioned specifically for the newly built Student Union. This disparate presentation does make it a little difficult to consider the exhibition as one cohesive whole, yet with the number of vastly different works on display this matters less than it otherwise might.
It seems inevitable that any art school that has been around for 170 years or so will have produced a handful of famous or historically important artists. What would perhaps have added more depth to Since 1843: In The Making is an investigation into the role that the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University has played and continues to play in contributing to the unique and vibrant cultural landscape of Nottingham. We live in a small city, but one that teems with hundreds of creative graduates who choose to remain here after completing their studies, despite the lure of London and other more obvious centres for contemporary art and design.
Many of the smaller galleries and organisations in Nottingham such as Backlit, Trade, Surface Gallery and many more exist in part - and in some cases entirely - thanks to NTU graduates who have made Nottingham their home and have helped to create a city that is an exciting place to be.