Next We Change Earth - New Art Exchange, Nottingham

This exhibition, a bold and unique undertaking, features contributions from a range of artists with past, present or ongoing links to the East Midlands city of Nottingham. The artists represented in Next We Change Earth are: Said Adrus, Elshaday Berhane, Michael Forbes, Harjeet Kaur, Samson Kambalu, Hetain Patel, Keith Piper, Nazir Tanbouli and Andrew Wright. The exhibition also features a collaborative work by Gary Stewart, Trevor Mathison and Obinna Nwosu.

When credible histories of Black visual arts activity in England come to be written, Nottingham will be cited and acknowledged as having played a significant role in these narratives. Central to this role has been the part played by various artists, organisations and individuals concerned with the practice and profile of Black artists’ work in the city over a period of several decades. Another important factor central to Nottingham’s role in these narratives has been Trent Polytechnic (as it was, prior to becoming Nottingham Trent University) in offering places on its Fine Art courses to students such as Said Adrus and Keith Piper, from the early 1980s onwards, through to enrolment and graduation by Black students in more recent years. The artists represented in this exhibition have a variety of links with the city of Nottingham. As mentioned, a number were students at Trent Polytechnic or Nottingham Trent University. These artists come from a variety of backgrounds. Some were born and/or brought up in the UK, while others came to Nottingham having been raised in countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia. Malawi, and Uganda.

The artists represent the multiple histories of immigration and settlement that are reflective of so many people in contemporary Britain. Simultaneously, these artists embrace and pursue a broad range of approaches to their practice, oftentimes eschewing (or moving on from) perhaps more conventional media such as ‘painting’, ‘sculpture’, ‘printmaking’ and so on. Loosely, we can describe much of these artists’ practice as ‘mixed media’, but on closer inspection, we can ascertain that what more importantly characterises these artists’ practice is a desire, a determination to utilise a broad range of materials and approaches, in the making of their contributions and in the telling of their stories. The artists’ multiple histories of immigration and settlement referred to in this text are important for several reasons. These histories tell us something of why and how each of these artists pursues their interests. Because within the work of these artists, history is everything. History, identity, geography and location. These are the four cornerstones of these artists’ practice, but it is a sense of history, a (re) reading of history and a critiquing of history, which unmistakably dominates, and most characterises what they do. History is (the) key to us availing ourselves of the fullest understandings of these artists’ practice.

The above extract is from an essay by Eddie Chambers, commissioned for the catalogue [pp. 10 - 71] to accompany the exhibition Next We Change Earth, the inaugural exhibition of New Art Exchange, Nottingham, 6 September - 28 October 2008.

Historical and cultural explorations of identity defined Nottingham’s New Art Exchange's debut exhibition, a group show, with a particular focus on artists from Nottingham, or artists with substantial historical connections to the city. The exhibition reflected on issues faced by Black artists in the UK, inviting exchange around notions of culture, identity, time, space and home.