Tag: New Art Exchange

Review: Charlie Phillips captures a forgotten Notting Hill

Jamaican-born photographer Charlie Phillips, whose Urban Eye exhibition is currently showing at the New Art Exchange in Hyson Green, worked as a paparazzo for many years and lived by the code ‘shoot now, ask questions later’. His naturalistic portraits depict people going about their daily lives, occasionally stopping to peer into the onlooker’s camera.

Phillips captures life in post-war Notting Hill when immigrants from around the Commonwealth arrived in Britain hoping to make a new life for themselves. The Notting Hill they inhabited is a world away from the gentrified version we know today. Here, buildings stood in ruins and the bleak, urban landscape was one that was all too familiar in a city that was still feeling the effects of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg.

The newly-arrived immigrants injected a sense of vitality into war-battered, monochrome Britain. In Crowd Scene, Notting Hill Carnival, Phillips captures the moment when people of all backgrounds get together for a joyous celebration while in Kebab Shop Dandy, a gentleman dons his finest clothes and poses outside a rough-and-ready looking takeaway. There were the places where different communities would all congregate, notably the ‘Piss House Pub’ which Phillips says was ‘a meeting place for different working class people, both black and white, Caribbean and Irish’.

It is impossible to separate Phillips’ highly personal portraits from the socio-political movements taking place in London at this time. In Notting Hill Couple (pictured above), a young black man and a young white woman stare directly into the camera and their defiance is startling, reminding us that not so long ago a relationship like this would have been out of the ordinary. In this community, racism – both casual and institutional – simmered away and when coupled with the grinding poverty faced by many people, it proved to be the catalyst which led to the eruption of the notorious riots of 1958.

Charlie Phillips: The Urban Eye runs until 7th July.

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Review: I Is AnOther at New Art Exchange in Nottingham

How do you define Jamaica’s cultural impact on the rest of the world? Its music, of course, has been hugely influential, along with its food. But the small island’s contribution to fine art is rarely considered; it is simply not on the radar of many western critics. This is despite the fact that artists, both those living in Jamaica and those who have moved to other parts of the world, are creating a rich body of works which reflect its post-colonial identity.

In the year Jamaica celebrates 50 years of independence from British rule, Nottingham’s New Art Exchange celebrates some fine examples of the country’s art in the second part of an exhibition called I Is AnOther, which has been curated by Rachael Barrett and which runs until Saturday.

The life of a Jamaican immigrant living in Birmingham is vividly portrayed in a series of paintings by Hurvin Anderson. In Peters 2, he uses primary colours to depict a barber shop. In the 1950s many newly arrived Jamaicans set up these shops in attics as a way to make extra money and meet other people from their community. But the image Anderson creates is remarkably devoid of people; instead he concentrates on the space itself which perhaps reflects the community’s attempts to create an identity in a place that would be out of sight when stood on the street.

In Chicken Wire, part of the Country Club series, Anderson portrays a tennis court from behind a wire fence in Trinidad. The straight lines of the fence cut across the angles of the tennis court with the viewer placed firmly on the outside, hinting that this aspect of Caribbean life, which is aimed at tourists, is something outside his own experience.

Western art collides with Jamaican art quite literally in The Afflicted Yard. Strewn among the debris of filthy rum bottles and old televisions is a piece of wall bearing a stencil painting, Balloon Girl, which was created by Banksy when he visited the island.

In a bizarre series of events, Peter Dean Rikards – the artist behind The Afflicted Yard project – decides to unmask Banksy. He also persuades a group of people to remove the slab of wall with the picture on it, telling them that white people will pay a lot of money for it. The fact that they have not heard of Banksy somehow renders his art useless; they are ripping it apart because they have been told it is worth a lot of money not because it has any aesthetic value for them. However, this also hints at the fact that money is also the dominating force in the commercial art world.

In Packaged Rites, Ebony G. Patterson remembers the 73 people from the poverty-stricken Tivoli Gardens community in Kingston who were killed by the police and army. Printed on bright, bandana-like fabric, the faces of the dead are obscured by scarves. These people have no identity yet they have been immortalised on highly individual pieces of fabric. It is significant too that Patterson uses textiles – a traditional folk medium and something that is wrongly considered to be inferior to ‘high art’.

Picture above shows Packaged Rites by Ebony G. Patterson (From New Art Exchange website)

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The Clock Part II : A 24-hour screening

Following my first viewing of Christian Marclay’s The Clock at Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, I had been looking forward to the full 24-hour screening last Friday which I mentioned in my previous entry.

Visiting an art gallery in the wee small hours added a surreal element to this already unconventional experience. At times, the clock inches slowly along before picking up the pace and moving to a crescendo, with the most dramatic moment coming at midnight (and there are a wealth of film clips depicting the New Year’s Eve countdown). The narrative – which at first seems deconstructed by editing full length films into short clips – is in fact created again under the new umbrella theme of ‘time’. Old and new are fused seamlessly together so that they both exist in a continuing present but one that is creeping forward leaving all the fictional worlds and characters in a shadowy past.

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Christian Marclay’s The Clock: New Art Exchange

This year, Nottingham is playing host to The British Art Show 7 , the five-yearly exposition of the best the British art world has to offer. There are some strong (and not so strong) pieces across the three sites (Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham Castle and the New Art Exchange) which all make for interesting viewing.

But the stand out piece for me is Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a 24-hour-long film meticulously made up of film and television clips each telling the time, either with clocks or people announcing it and it is played out in real time.

Everyone will recognise at least some of the clips – from Laurel and Hardy to Twin Peaks right through to Inspector Morse and the X-Files. It cuts across time zones, genre, high and low art, comedy, drama and much more. But the over-arching theme is the perpetual movement of time. There are even some scenes where there is no clock – just someone looking at a clock – and it reminds us of how time structures and gives meaning to our lives.

Some of the clips also cross reference each other and although there is a sense that time is in perpetual motion, but themes and ideas – not least the over-arching theme of time – constantly recur and refer back to the past.

There will be a 24-hour screening of the film on 10th December from 10am. It finishes at 10am on 11th December and admission is free.

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