LACED: AN EXPLORATION OF LOVE, LABOUR AND LIBERTY
Opening this October we present Laced: In Search of What Connects Us. An important new exhibition of painting, photography, video, sound, textiles and drawing, Laced invites viewers to reflect upon themes of freedom, labour and love, commonly shared human experiences that have all been fundamentally up-turned, questioned and negotiated anew in this pandemic era.
Curated by Loren Hansi Gordon, the exhibition brings to light connections beyond gender and geography to weave together a narrative around themes of work, love and liberty. For Laced 'Africa' means England, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, France, Germany, Guyana and the US with the selection of emerging to established artists often working between a number of these places.
Laced presents the art of process, the art of self-love and the art of being free through newly commissioned and existing pieces, some of which are being shown in the UK for the first time.
Laced is experienced as a visual landscape of vivid colours, deep-ocean waters and lush tropical vegetation that is at moments contemplative, poignant and empowering. These visual motifs are core elements in the practice of celebrated painter Michaela Yearwood-Dan (b. 1994). Unapologetically joyful at first sight, her paintings reward time spent look-ing by layering meanings through a constellation of cultural signifiers drawn from natural and artificial worlds from flora to false nails, patois to patriotism. In a series of new paint-ings developed for Laced, Yearwood-Dan continues a body of work inspired by personal stories of love, loss and self-reflection.
Zohra Opoku (b. 1976) also draws on imagery and symbolism from the natural world in a practice that utilises the artists own identity as a space of discovery. In the featured photographic series Self Portraits, Opoku's face is only partially visible as her figure is en-tangled and shielded by lush green foliage, a representation of the idea that our identities are always incomplete.
The featured artists are all skilful makers, profoundly invested in the process, materials and labour of making art and several employ textiles to tell their stories. Lerato Shadi (b. 1979) will show work from a series of wall-hung textile pieces begun in 2020: red crocheted squares and rectangles sewn onto raw linen canvases and mounted on stretcher bars that are the result of a strenuous, lengthy production process while Wura-Natasha Ogunji (b. 1970) presents a selection of hand-stitched drawings of thread and graphite on architec-tural trace paper made between 2015-2019.
Ogunji's wider practice interrogates the thresholds between public and private space and the experiences of women in the public sphere is another recurring theme in Laced, par-ticularly the everyday action of walking, and a questioning of whether we are at liberty if we still feel fear. Walking is a central approach in the photography and video work of Rahima Gambo (b. 1986), whose video piece A Walk will be shown alongside a selection of photographs and found objects from A Walk Series - all accumulated through obsessive walking
as a way of grounding in a location - as well as assembled snippets of phone footage rec-orded in Abuja, Lagos and Maiduguri (Nigeria), black space, and a melodic vocal narrative.
As a temporary stitchwork to hold together a set of ideas, impressions and connections, Gordon began the curatorial process by developing a poetic text to guide the selection and commissioning of works and her research has culminated in a rich web of intercon-nections that also touch upon Nottingham's rich history of lacemaking, the burdens of physical and emotional labour placed on women across societies, particularly women of colour, as well as the role technology and the internet play in producing new forms of la-bour. These themes are at play in Tabita Rezaire's (b. 1989) panoramic video work Deep Down Tidal, a deep dive through the layers of history to locate the causes of effects that are constantly bubbling up and exploding across the surface of our lived experiences.
While dealing with uncomfortable truths and the notion that violence, dislocation and rup-ture for people and the planet are never far from the surface, in the insistent, multifaceted works of these seven artists, Laced demonstrates that new, more loving ways of being are possible. A powerful and wide-ranging exhibition, Laced is a meditation on freedom, work, the ethics of love and the threads that connect us to ourselves and each other.
Laced will be accompanied by a programme of activities at NAE that delve into the histo-ry of Nottingham's lace industry which once employed thousands of women and children in the labour of textile making.
Laced is supported by the Ambitions for Excellence fund by Arts Council England.