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Dive in!

CL-J Aquatopia 2013-07-19 21.05.24

Nottingham was swimming in events to get excited about yesterday; previews and parties all round. I dived right in!
My first stop was Broadway for a creative afternoon with the projector programme’s summer social Pecha Kucha  style organised by Jim Shorthose. An eager Broadway café bar audience,  enjoyably diverse presenters with visuals projected on the wall what more could you want for a thought provoking afternoon (promise of a free veggie burger afterwards fulfilled too!). The only difficulty for someone as verbose as me where the parameters; 20 slides to talk to for 20 seconds each. They’re having another in August so look out for it; book to be audience or offer to present it was such fun I’d like to do it again!

Hot footing it across the city (quite literally on another scorching day) I arrived at my next stop  Nottingham Castle Museum and Gallery  a welcome wind was blowing through the castle grounds as I unfolded my map of  ‘Make Believe’ to seek out new art works. Strolling around I discovered intriguing work by some of the eight artists in the exhibition before heading inside to my personal respite area ‘The Treasures of Nemi: Finds from the Sanctuary of Diana’.

 

Shane Waltener – Panoramic Pathways (Nottingham City Lace), 2013

Sanctuary indeed in the cool air conditioned galleries upstairs and if, like me, you have a fondness and fascination for Roman artefacts you’ll appreciate how this extensive and significant collection is given room to show off.  In Roman times pilgrims flocked to Nemi to make offerings to Diana and the exhibition features examples of these votives, terracotta figures of Diana or depictions of body parts; a foot, eyes, a uterus thought to be offered in exchange for protection, healing or good fortune from the Goddess.

Nemi inspired carpet bed in Castle Grounds – design based on votive of male head.

Heading back across the city again, passing a packed Nottingham Riviera,  I arrived at Nottingham Contemporary  for my last stop Aquatopia. Again cool galleries greeted me on a hot sticky night (sorry Sue, not trying to rub it in see her earlier post). This exhibition is  a partnership with Tate St Ives  showing there from October. Perhaps because I grew up with the coast of Northumberland as my back drop I wished I was seeing it there! This exhibition seems a little alien for a city so far from the sea in all directions  (something I’d mentioned back at the Petcha Kutcha, ending up so far from the sea after my first degree is strange for me, I love Notts but miss my coastline!). The eclectic mix of art, objects and artefacts leant by Tate, V&A and the National Maritime Museum Greenwich will I think sit logically and happily at Tate St Ives, where you find wind blown sand in the corridors and soul feeding views of Porthmeor Beach from most of the windows (even with the Riviera in Market Square Nottingham can’t offer that!) Maybe I feel this because this exhibition has just increased my yearning for beaches and sea, perhaps its a good reminder to get to one soon?

That said, I have to confess I spent more time looking properly at the works in this exhibition at Contemporary than any since the opening Hockney show  in 2009 (it hit the spot,  I’d only ever seen some of his prints and canvases as reproductions in a book I bought as a sixth form student, yes I am old enough to have studied art and artists in the pre Internet world). Aquatopia is without doubt more accessible than some of the gallery’s recent offerings as there is something of interest for everyone from a pair of diving boots to intricate glass models of sea creatures and engravings of same, Japanese woodblock prints (including a rather saucy one given its own high plinth case. For the curious it features a pearl diver being pleasured by two octopuses, apparently there’s a whole branch of tentacle stuff and I wouldn’t dare look that up let alone put a link in!) Turners and other “famous names”, abstract canvases and video pieces, sculpture featuring mussel shells, photography including a great shot of  Björk  with black spaghetti spilling from her open mouth and even a hammerhead shark which seems to be wearing bondage gear. Can’t offer any pictures as I wasn’t allowed to take any, you’ll just have to go and look yourself.  I have however got Chris Lewis-Jones in a snorkel to offer by way of illustration of the theme. He’s one of the associate artists at the gallery and describes himself as a flâneur. At previews he has become known for sporting a blue face and a themed outfit (image below).

Back to my opinion of the exhibition. I actually want to go back and look again as I feel there’s much to see and enjoy. My residual first impression is all this I would have expected from a museum and I have to remind myself I was in a Contemporary Art Gallery.  I’m ambivalent about this, do I think this is territory that the Contemporary should wander into?  Yes! I want accessibility, I think this will help. I want to feel ownership of the Contemporary the way I feel about The Baltic. Even as an arts professional I don’t feel the Contemporary hasn’t quite delivered on the promise I recall from the architects information meeting I attended at Angel Row Gallery all those years ago; linking two areas of the city, being there for passers by to encounter and welcoming the whole community. Maybe that’s just because I don’t go there enough? There’s still time. A beach would help. Maybe they could build one in that no man’s land beyond the building? What do you think?

Chris Lewis-Jones in snorkel for Aquatopia

Diana is one of our team of bloggers who when not frequenting her temple or craving for the coast can be reached at diana@creativenottingham.com and followed on twitter @AnaidMPA