Sunday, 27 October 2013

'By The Way' At Bohunk Institute, Nottingham

Work By Julian Hughes (L) & Andrew Smith (R).

A bunch of interesting exhibition/gallery visits all came at once just lately and I’ve already written about a couple in Birmingham and London.  This post is about another, - ‘By The Way’, currently on display in Nottingham’s Bohunk Institute in Nottingham, that I caught up with the other day.

‘By the way’ is a multi-media group show with a nominally ‘Edgelands’ overall theme and focusing on various territories in the British Midlands.  It includes work by two artists that I exhibited with in Birmingham last year, namely Shaun Morris, (paintings), and Andrew Smith, aka Harvey Smoke, (writing), in addition to photography by SianStammers, David Severn, Helen Saunders and Julian Hughes, video and writing by Wayne Burrows, writing by Rosie Garner and a word/photo collaboration between Matt Merritt & Philip Harris.

Paintings By Shaun Morris, ('Black Ground': Far R).

‘Edgelands’ is one of those labels, like ‘Psychogeographic, and indeed ‘Urban’ that threatens to become meaningless through overuse as shorthand.  They can be useful as indicators of a general attitude or approach but are no substitute for interrogating an artwork on its own terms.  Perhaps, in this case, its more revealing to talk about how all the work deals in different ways with situations that are in some way marginal (or marginalised).  Most obviously, this includes Shaun Morris’ motorway-dominated landscapes of personal and local memory, painted from his homelands on the outskirts of Birmingham; Sian Stammers' photographs of an area just outside Nottingham that’s earmarked for development, and Julian Hughes’ photographic mapping of the perimeter of the so called ‘National Forest’, (an area between major Midlands cities which is characterised as much by human activity as it is by trees).

Photographs By Julian Hughes

It also applies to Helen Saunders' heavily manipulated (and fictionalised) photo works and Wayne Burrows' distinctly psychogeographic video/word projects both dealing with layers of history within urban zones marginalized by neglect, dilapidation and changing use.  Burrows is particularly multi-dimensional in this respect, combining pastoral and urban sensibilities intriguingly to explore Nottingham’s lost Sneinton Fruit Market and attempts to regenerate the area around the idea of an apple orchard.

Still From Video By Wayne Burrows

Elsewhere in the show, Matt Merritt (words), and Philip Harris (images) undertake an investigation of the changes, through enclosure and road building, of the areas travelled through by nineteenth century poet John Clare.  Whilst this obviously focuses on changing land use, (in Clare's time and since), it also strikes me that Clare’s own passage through the landscape was the result of his poverty, mental illness and marginalisation from mainstream society.  David Severn also focusses on a population marginalised by economic and political change in photos of the people and places of the now obsolete Nottinghamshire coalfield.  Andrew Smith’s writing, translated onto the wall at an impressive scale, demonstrates his multi-disciplinary approach and explores ideas of identity and the self within the context of apparently marginal surroundings.  It’s a highly subjective approach to the idea of place.

Paintings By Shaun Morris (L.) & Video By Wayne Burrows (R).

‘By The Way’ is a thought-provoking exhibition, both in terms of individual artists’ work but also as a multi-dimensional exploration of an overall broad theme from a number of particular, often highly personal, viewpoints.  It also made me think about the specific ways in which work in different media might be presented.  Sadly, I was unable to attend the Private View and so missed the chance to catch up with Shaun and Andrew, but it was good to see new work from both that I hadn’t seen before.  Shaun’s ‘Black Ground’ painting picks up from where his earlier Stolen Car’ pieces left off and indicates what might be expected from his forthcoming show in Nuneaton next year [1.].  I also see that Andrew now has a blog to showcase his writings and photography.

Photographs By Sian Stammers (L) & David Severn (R).

I was also interested to visit Bohunk Institute for the first time.  It’s a sizable space in Nottingham, within easy reach of the city centre and typical of the kind of artist-run gallery spaces that seem to be proliferating in various places at the moment.  Any initiative that attempts to expand opportunities for artists, in times of dwindling public provision and mounting economic pressures, has to be welcomed.  It also proves that Nottingham is currently leaving my own home of Leicester in the dust as far as provision for contemporary visual art is concerned.

‘By The Way’ continues at Bohunk Institute, 2 Fisher Gate Point, Nottingham, NG1 1GD, until 31 October 2013

[1.]:  Shaun’s forthcoming exhibition ‘Black Highway’ will take place at Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery in January 2014.


  1. I'm glad you made it to the show, Hugh. It would have been nice to see you at the PV, but I knew you would make it at some point. I hope you don't mind, but I nicked your photo of my paintings for my own blog. It's a good space at the BoHunk- I had considered applying for an exhibition there myself.
    Have enjoyed your recent post about Extreme Urban Exploration and your new paintings. Hope to see you at my own PV in Nuneaton in January

  2. No problem about the photo, Shaun, - you did all the hard work after all. After the event I wished I'd taken better shots of individual pieces rather than concentrating on the overall show but hopefully readers will follow individual artists' links.

    I'll definitely try to get to the Nuneaton PV. I'm sure you'll get some advance notice up when the time comes. Hope you have a productive winter and can afford to keep the studio warm.

    Cheers, Hugh