Exhibition Exposition: UNTITLED at New Art Exchange
As the largest gallery in the UK to focus on culturally diverse visual arts, the New Art Exchange celebrates the rich spectrum of nationalities and culture which populate the local area. Providing high quality exhibitions, events, workshops and performances, there is a varied programme available throughout the week and at weekends, welcoming everyone from art tourists to families and young people. A fresh, engaging space which is as much connected with the visitors as it is with the artists, NAE is most definitely worth checking out. Last week we took a trip to check out their latest exhibition UNTITLED: art on the conditions of our time.
Curated in collaboration with NAE by Paul Goodwin and Hansi Momodu-Gordon, the intent of UNTITLED was not to detail a certain movement in history or genre of art, but instead to present an array of unique works by British African diaspora artists, bringing to light some artists who are often overlooked.
If it’s a term you’re unfamiliar with, African diaspora refers to communities in the Americas and Europe which have been formed through the movement of African people, particularly through the slave trade of 16th-19th century. The upshot of this history is brought into the modern day through film, sculpture, painting and installation, showing rewritten histories, personal journeys and daily encounters.
But while often reflecting on heavy, thought-provoking issues, the exhibition succeeds in being light, playful and even humorous at times. Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom’s balloon sculpture, which subtly refers to Michael Jackson’s moonwalk has a whimsical feeling to it, while Harold Offeh’s poised re-enactment of classic album covers certainly causes a chuckle whilst walking round. One of my favourite pieces was Evan Ifekoya’s short film Disco Breakdown which shows the artist dancing in an unabashed freestyle that the spectator will most likely want to join in with.
I always enjoy it when a gallery provides a dark space for short films; immersive and otherworldly, it is a chance to envelop yourself in a piece of art and let your mind relax and reflect. Each of the films playing were worth sticking around for, particularly Imitation 34/59, which was poignantly heart-breaking.
As you take the stairs to the mezzanine level, don’t forget to check out The Art of Black Hair, a great series of portraits, personal testaments and vintage memorabilia which explore the beauty and culture of Afro-Caribbean hair. Gathered during an event at NAE just before Christmas, these local stories are funny, moving, insightful and an important piece of local research.
Throughout the exhibition I not only enjoyed the differing types of art, but the ability of various individual minds to honestly show themselves in such forms. Today conversations regarding migration and its effects on identity, representation and experience are becoming increasingly vital and the exhibition explored these ideas while sharing stories I had never considered. As ever, I left having learnt something new about the world and a feeling inspired to try creating something of my own.
The New Art Exchange may seem to be a little out of the city, but in fact it’s just a short tram ride and less than a minute from The Forest tram stop. Open weekdays 9am-6pm and 10am – 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays, UNTITLED: art on the conditions of our time is exhibiting until 19th March 2017.
To find out more about the great selection of events, artist talks and workshops at New Art Exchange, visit www.nae.org.uk.