INTER_CHANGE 23/24 Field Trip: Nottingham

INTER_CHANGE artist Layla Jabbari takes us through a packed day out visiting art spaces in Nottingham on 7 March 2024.

Closing my eyes on the minibus home from Nottingham, the joy and beauty of Adebayo Bolaji’s large scale paintings stayed with me.

I wondered how I could use colour so confidently in my own work and life; how he formed these ideas, how he chose his subjects, and a hundred other questions. This is what I think we want from a visit to an art gallery. Ideas and thoughts; a new perspective.


We visited three spaces in the city which, in different ways, invited us into the art world to talk and think creatively. Each space was a far cry from the stuffy old stereotype of an art gallery, which is often viewed as pretentious and unreachably highbrow. Instead, they were welcoming, generous spaces.

Bolaji says of his work: “I arrive at the final image and know my part of the conversation is done, it’s now left for others to view it and have their own opinion/dialogue.”

When you walk into the New Art Exchange, where Bolaji is exhibiting In Praise of Beauty, you are welcomed by a gentle hubbub of chat and the smell of food cooking from the cafe. It is a building ready for dialogue and conversation. The New Art Exchange is dedicated to recognising artists from a diverse range of backgrounds, celebrating those who are underrepresented so that a broader range of culture can be seen and, importantly, heard.

The building was busy with people talking, working and relaxing. It felt like a lively, interesting place to be and a quick look at the gallery’s website reflects this.


Similarly, Nottingham Contemporary welcomes you in. People from all walks of life enjoy the space to relax, talk and be. It’s a beautiful space.

The exterior of the building is trimmed with Nottingham lace set delicately into concrete. Exposure, an exhibition by Paul Mpagi Sepuya, juxtapose large and small-scale photographs. They are images about making images as you walk through the gallery; you wind your way between the art, in front and behind it. The camera is turned onto the viewer; we are in the art, and part of it too.

Here we met Amanda Spruyt, Head of Learning at Nottingham Contemporary. She talked to us about how fundamental work with the community is at the gallery. Artists, often international, are teamed with local artists. They work with local communities on projects that link with the work exhibited in the gallery, but also respond to the needs, ideas and individuality of community groups. Projects have been extensive, sometimes over the course of years, and relationships, ideas and creativity have flourished. The gallery is a starting point for creativity, the seed from which more ideas can grow.


Primary is in an old red brick school building. It is the third space we had the pleasure of exploring. Run by artists, with studios in the building, I think you could feel this was a working space for creatives. There was a busy cafe and shop here too which had the same inviting feel. The first exhibition was by Sonya Dyer, The Ready Room. Dyer’s installation invited us into a world that crosses fiction with non-fiction. The Ready Room is a thought-provoking piece of work that makes you smile, taking you on an unexpected journey.

Upstairs was Khaya Job and Wingshan Smiths Each Begets Each. I am finishing my writing with this exhibition because I think it epitomizes the idea of art being a trigger for creativity.

The space was set up for interaction, both with the art itself and with each other. On the wall was a set of questions and paper for you to consider your own creative journey. Prompted by the beautiful installation created by Job and Smith that looks at friendship, mythmaking, and story. In the middle of the room, cushions set in a circle invite you to sit, talk, and enjoy the space, which we did. We chatted about our ideas, and I think this is what is exciting about art and the gallery space; that it allows people the space to make connections with the rest of the world, to spark dialogue and to allow ideas to flourish.