BACKLIT Gallery meets Nottingham Writers' Studio

Wayne Burrows
Mon 9 Apr, 2018

When writing and visual arts meet, magic can happen. Renowned Nottingham artist Wayne Burrows explains more:

Backlit Gallery and Nottingham Writers’ Studio recently joined forces to organise An Introduction to Art-Writing, a series of workshops led by Wayne Burrows aiming to bring together all those in Nottingham with an interest in the connections and overlaps between writing and visual art in the city. Art-writing is probably most familiar in the form of exhibition reviews and essays on particular artists’ work, and while we are certainly covering that in our workshops, there are plenty of other possibilities and approaches worth exploring. With that in mind, here are a few things that have been finding their way onto our reading and viewing lists this year:

Holly Slingsby: Knotted Mass II

 Documenting a 2016 performance by the artist Holly Slingsby, in which audiences played a kind of Chinese Whispers game with short texts and images involving women and hair, Knotted Mass II works as a poetic meditation on tales that range from Biblical and Medieval to decidedly contemporary, and from Lady Godiva and Rapunzel to Britney Spears.  In the contextual essay by Beth Bramich that accompanies the work here, the project is considered as a ‘look book’ of miracles: “Shuffling her deck of deities, [Slingsby] recreates and remixes religious iconographies with myths and legends – a rejection, subtle yet subversive, of fixed meanings.”


Sophie Jung: Come Fresh Hell or Fresh High Water

 Sophie Jung is an artist whose work typically combines sculptures made from found objects with text and live performances. Her Thusly residency in Nottingham earlier this year saw her map out her own free-associative storytelling in a series of animated drawings that evolved on film in real time as she spun her tales through audio headphones, while Come Fresh Hell or Fresh High Water at Blain/Southern drew on everything from the darkly cautionary childrens’ poems of Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwellpeter to Garfield cartoons and the Schnitzelbangg traditions of storytelling jesters in Basel, Switzerland, to explore a wide range of contemporary political issues in surreal, oblique and often surprisingly affecting ways.


Hexus Press

 Founded in 2015 by the writers Thogdin Ripley and Philippa Snow, Hexus has so far issued two issues of their lavishly produced “small-run print journal placed somewhere between the boundary of experimental fiction, art writing and visual art practice, with a focus firmly on horror”, featuring visual and written contributions from Penny Slinger, Lucy Brady and George Grosz, among others. They ventured into book publishing last year with Gary J Shipley’s extraordinary, incantatory fiction Warewolff!  in which the contemporary world is both observed and distorted by the feral Lovecraftian consciousness of the book’s own shape-shifting narrator. The more unsettling and uncategorisable the better seems to be the Hexus ethos. http://hexusjournal.bigcartel....


Shana Moulton & Lucy Stein: Polventon

 The California-based artist Shana Moulton is best known for her ongoing Twin Peaks-inspired Whispering Pines series of films and performances, in which she takes on the persona of her own Everywoman alter-ego, Cynthia, and follows the paths to fulfilment promised by consumerism, new age spirituality and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Playing almost like silent films, Moulton’s work takes Cynthia’s quest for enlightenment to some absurdly touching places, and her 2015 residency in Nottingham built a vast hall of projections where she might dance and break into the heavens through a glass ceiling before falling to earth again. Polventon, her 2013 collaboration with Lucy Stein, conjures a peculiar and disarmingly comic atmosphere from the surroundings of a 1930s modernist house overlooking Mother Ivy’s Bay on the Cornish coast, a site named after a white witch.


Paula Roush & Maria Lusitano: Queer Paper Gardens

 A good example of a work in which art criticism becomes art in its own right, Queer Paper Gardens, or The Wildlife of Symbols – a collaboration between the Portuguese artists Paula Roush & Maria Lusitano – explores the history of collage through the work of its female practitioners, from Mary Delany’s scientifically precise cut-paper botanical illustrations of the 1700s to Valentine Penrose’s surrealist Dons De Feminines made in 1951. The beautifully produced five volume publication borrows its format from a 1934 edition of Max Ernst’s collage novel Une Semaine De Bonte, but uses the artists’ own collaborative photography, collage and drawing to highlight a less familiar path through the history and meaning of the medium itself.


The White Pube

 A blog-based website and curatorial collaboration set up in 2016 by Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle de la Puente, The White Pube have been redefining what critical writing on art can look like. Their name riffs on the art-world behemoth of The White Cube, and their writing draws on the conventions of casual text speak, emojis, internet distraction and personal anecdote to set out a position whose politics are always front and centre. As they put it themselves: “every review is a personal reaction, and a record of an encounter with an aesthetic experience. we wanna write GOOD ~ have politix ~ n call out the general bullshit that stops a lot of us even wantin 2 go to galleries…”


 An Introduction to Art-Writing is on Saturday April 14 at Primary, 33 Seely Road, Nottingham NG7 1NU, 1 till 4pm. All welcome, no previous experience necessary.


At this session we will explore Melanie Jackson’s Deeper In The Pyramid and further sessions are planned during April and May. Contact Suzanne at Backlit Gallery for more details (

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