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‘We only makin’ the highlights’ 04 July 2016

That’s it, it’s over, my time here studying at Nottingham Trent University is done. The Fine Art Degree Show has come and gone and I am now an artist…maybe. That’s how it works isn’t it? I validated myself as an artist when I had my first public exhibition at The International Postcard Show 2014 at Surface Gallery in Nottingham, and this artist thing has snowballed ever since, now being a selected artist in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016. So I want to take this time to share and reflect on some highlights of my time here… as without it, it wouldn’t have all been possible.

Getting involved with the Nottingham art scene very early in my first year with my internship at 1 Thoresby Street (www.onethoresbystreet.org) through the university’s strong relationship with the gallery/studios as many of its alumni are based there. The internship provided me with an intense insight into how an independent space is run: meeting visiting and Nottingham based artists, realising a show and the behind the scenes of what makes a gallery tick.  This experience and the opportunities it continues to provide me with are priceless and looking back I am glad I hit the ground running.

Working with Billy Craigan-toon (www.billycraigan-toon.com) (NTU Graduate 2013) towards the end of my first year and performing in his Degree Show work: ‘Painters’ lead to performing for Universal Works’ (www.universalworks.co.uk) London Mens Collection Autumn/Winter 2015 presentation: PASS in 2015. Three months of rehearsals and fittings later, twelve men took the journey to London to perform the piece and demonstrate the quality menswear of Universal Works through the passing of coats from one model to the other in perfect synchronisation. I remember being faced with at least one hundred camera flashes as I began and ended the performance with the passing and eventual dropping of the one orange coat that travelled around the circle of models. Without the widespread connections that Fine Art course has with the city of Nottingham in the varying creative disciplines and the nurturing of community within the Fine Art course, this would not have happened and I may not have been recently chosen to produce video work for 18Montrose’s (www.18montrose.com) store opening party.

Collaborating with Aaron Clixby, Alexander J Croft and Joe Morgan for our show at Surface Gallery (www.surfacegallery.org), Nottingham for our show ‘Scraping the Bottom of the Bargain Bucket’ was another experience that I won’t forget. Creating a fried chicken shop within the gallery space incorporated every medium from sculpture to video that was topped off with ourselves performing as staff and providing fried chicken to viewers on the opening night. The ambition of the show and the collection of ideas were very successful, and led to myself and Aaron Clixby returning the year after with ‘MAGICK LTD.’ That held the same level of ambition in the form of a week-long residency within the context of the exhibition. Surface Gallery’s ties to the Fine Art course enable this amazing opportunity with their NTU Fine Art Festival each year that has always been integral to the artists involved, as you can see it impacts their practice significantly towards the Degree Show.

Being a part of the Bonington Gallery for almost two years now and seeing its many changes in the shows and the appearance of the space has also been important to my development in my emerging art career. Having the opportunity to spend an extended time with the art and design work in the exhibitions has always been engaging and made me proud to be a part of it. The ability to encounter such a varying and rich program on the doorstep of the studios is to be envied.

So, as I think about graduating from NTU with the various exhibitions already in the pipeline and the hundreds of connections I have made through studying here I feel I have fertile ground to operate as an artist. The encouragement and network I have gained through three years of hard work have not been for nothing, this is just the beginning and I will be: ‘only makin’ the highlights’- Kanye West, 2016.

Reece Straw

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