New Art Exchange is a free contemporary visual arts gallery in Nottingham that champions cultural diversity with its provoking exhibitions and public engagement programme. NAEhas been sponsoring the Nottingham Castle Open for many years and continues to celebrate and support local talent emerging from minority groups.
[Colette Griffin] Firstly can you give me an overview of New Art Exchange and what it has to offer as a platform for practicing artists working in collaboration with you as an arts institute?
[Roshni Belakavadi] New Art Exchange is a contemporary art gallery that instigates new perspectives on the importance of diversity in art and society. We do that through contemporary art exhibitions accompanied with a very rich programme of events. We use the public programme as a further layer of interpretation of the main gallery exhibition. Live music, films, talks, presentations, symposiums, and festivals become avenues to engage people with the subject matter addressed by the main exhibition.
Our three gallery spaces in the venue and the exhibition touring programme allows us to engage with artists at various stages of their careers through exhibitions and commissions. We have similar opportunities to showcase and develop new work for musicians and performance artists.
Do you see your involvement with Nottingham Castle and the Castle Open as providing a mutually beneficial relationship, both for yourselves and the winner of the prize that you have awarded over the years?
[RB] The Castle Open becomes mutually beneficial as the prize offer is based on what that artist wants to develop over a long period of time. For example, Sardul has been working with us for around two years, working towards his solo show which is currently on at NAE. This helps us build longer relationships with the artists and to gain a deeper understanding of their practice.
So you enjoy visiting the Castle Open and seeing what work is on display?
[Armin Shooshtari] Definitely. The Nottingham Castle Open and other regional ‘opens’ offer a platform for artists to present their practices and also provides an opportunity for the local organisations to see the works and explore the practices of artists residing locally or regionally.
At this point in time NAE is showing Sardul Gill’s exhibition, Dark Matter. Sandul was the winner of the 2012 prize that you awarded at that year’s Castle Open. How have you worked with Sardul since his selection and how has this opportunity been advantageous to your programme, and your mission statement?
[AS] The exhibitions programme at NAE is designed to extend the mission statement of the organisation: to stimulate new perspectives on the value of diversity in art and society. In our programme of exhibitions we engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and those exploring diversity in their work. Sardul Gill was a major supporter of the Black Arts Movement in the Midlands through the 1980s and beyond, he has also contributed to the development of a new generation of artists from the region, by lecturing in Art & Design at South Nottingham College. As it was mentioned by Roshni, we have been working with Sardul for around two years towards the exhibition that we are currently showing in our Mezzanine gallery space. Dark Matter has been developed through a number of studio visits and conversations with the artists. As the curator of the exhibition my aim was to curate a show that encapsulated Sardul’s core interests developed over his 30 year practice, and to highlight his ability to engage and experiment with a wide variety of tools and media.
[RB]He was aware of what the end product was going to be, so he was creating work that would fit that space and that exhibition.
Most importantly what has Sardul Gill achieved since exhibiting at the 2012 Castle Open and winning The NAE Prize, has his practice developed as a direct result of him being awarded this accolade?
[RB]He was part of the black artist movement in Nottingham, which in many ways contributed to the founding of this place many years ago. He’s worked for a long time now, so this has helped to mark his contribution as an artist, as a teacher and to that movement. It needed that validation and I think this exhibition does that in many ways. A lot of people who were part of that are keen to see where his practice is and it’s really about recognising his contribution.
[AS]I think for any artist, working towards an exhibition can bring more focus, visibility and confidence in their practice. To better introduce Sardul’s decades of artistic practice to our audiences we hosted an informal in-conversation between the artist and Francois Matarasso, a Nottingham based writer and researcher. The talk explored the evolution of Sardul’s work over the past 30 years, the broad range in his work and his fascination with nature, modern science and theories related to energy and chaos. The event also included live music and it had a great atmosphere.
[RB] It was really celebratory.
Can you discuss any of the other recipients of TheNAE Prize and what they have done in their careers since winning this award? And do you think that exhibiting in the Nottingham Castle Open and subsequently working with NAE had a direct impact on the route that their career has taken.
[RB] Yes, I think that the most impact or the most significant artist is Nadim Chaudry, who exhibited at the Castle and won The New Art Exchange Prize in 2010. In an interview he did with us for our five-year celebration he said that was a real springboard for his career and of course now he’s a well-established artist in the city. To us it’s a very significant success story. His show here, called Even The Animals, was a mezzanine show that had a positive impact on his career and our relationship with him. With Gurminder it was a bit like Sardul, they were both part of that black movement round here in the late 80s. So it gave us the opportunity to go back to her and her practice and give that confidence because their contribution is significant, and it hadn't been recognised in the past. With Leicester-based Satta Hashem it was really nice for us to be introduced to his work.
Wayne Burrows was the winner of TheNAE Prize that you awarded at last year’s Castle Open, how will you be working with Wayne, and will this differ from the outputs generated from this prize in previous years?
[RB] Wayne is an interesting artist for us to work with. The way his practice explores identities that are fabricated through fact and fiction was what we wanted to explore more in developing a project with him. He has developed a pseudonym of an artist called Robert Holcombe (and exhibited at the Castle Open as this fictional character), whose history he constructs through borrowed facts and imagined fiction.
He is developing a project titled Exotica Suite, a collaboration between Wayne and Paul Isherwood on a series of text and music pieces exploring fabricated cultures, with reference to 1950’s ‘exotica’ and its entanglement with a variety of cultures.
Is NAE planning on continuing to sponsor the Nottingham Castle Open in the future and if so how would you hope to develop the prize and the opportunities that this gives rise to for artists?
[RB]We would definitely want to continue to sponsor the Castle Open, and I think we are happy with the what we offer currently and would like to continue it in that way.
This year however, we have implemented a strategy to encourage more people form a diverse background to apply to get a fair representation of artists in the final display.
will be showing at New Art Exchange until November 2nd.
Colette Griffin Exhibitions & Visual Arts Assistant Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery