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James Smith: Memorability as an Image

16/03/2017 – 22/04/2017

Memorability as an Image (2011–2016) is the governing title of three photographic studies, Heavy Simplicity (Patterned), Brutal Relics and Civic Stage. Together they examine the structures of experiences in loss and vision, of a post-war movement that refuses to disappear.

Memorability as an Image lifts an idea through photography and offers structural rhetoric of an Anglicised movement, which perhaps is now being viewed as an era of a ‘Brutal Romantic’ by means of verification, confirmation and comparison. James Smith challenged further research from 2011, which observed form, object and/or structure through theories of Brutalism. That same year the journal October (edition 136) was published with Ben Highman’s essay “Image-breaking, God-making”: Paolozzi’s Brutalism, which featured this germane quote from the Smithson’s;

“…Brutalism has been discussed stylistically, whereas in essence is ethical.” Ethics, here, is seen as a form of objectivity; “Any discussion of Brutalism will miss the point if it does not take into account Brutalism’s attempt to be objective about ‘reality”.

The essay also highlighted architectural critic Reyner Banham’s seminal description of his own coined term, New Brutalism.

1, Memorability as an image: 2, Clear exhibition of structure; and 3, Valuation of Materials “as found”. Remembering that an image is what affects the emotions, that structure, in it’s fullest sense, is the relationship of parts, and that materials “as found” are raw materials.

One of several works to emerge from this initial research period was Heavy Simplicity (Patterned), the title taken from a Brutalist design term; ‘an embrace of natural forms’, realising how climates of northern and southern hemispheres can affect peoples’ perception and opinion of the movement’s aesthetics.

A more recently produced work that pays homage to Banham is Brutal Relics. Presented as maintained objects against black voids, these relics are all that is left from the former neglected Brutalist structure, Greyfriars Bus Station. They serve to inform a mood of the regressive thinking of media and local governance, which left the site blitzed to nothing. For Civic Stage, while still referencing Reyner Banhams’s ‘1,2 & 3’, Jacques Lacan’s Mirror Stage inspires the title, relating to an observer’s first immersion and apperception of a built landscape, found within itself but viewed entirely as surface.

A publication will accompany the exhibition with three newly commissioned essays by Jonathan Hale, Ben Highmore & Nicholas Smith, plus a further photographic study appearing in the exhibition of the Greyfriars Bus Station. The book is being published by scopio EDITIONS, with the support of NN Contemporary Art and Centro de Comunicação e Representação Espacial (CCRE), a research group of the Faculty of Architecture, Porto University (FAUP), Portugal.

About James Smith:

James Smith, after completing MA Photography (2012) at the Royal College of Art, has gone on to be shown in both solo and group exhibitions across the UK. Underpinning his current research and practice is a debate regarding the architecture of territory and the projection of politics, through aesthetic and cultural definitions of geographic positioning within the English landscape. The articulation of territory through the form can be seen as a presentation of intuitive structures that radiate and demand their coexistence within a landscape. Structural rhetoric of the obstinate, the stubborn and the immovable become established chapters of identification.

Solo exhibitions include Temporal Dislocation, Photofusion, London (2012), and the ACE funded London Overspill commission of four exhibitions; London Overspill, UH Galleries, Hatfield, (2012), Luton Overlay, Departure Lounge (2012/13), Estate, Gibberd Gallery, Harlow (2014) and Parkway, Peterborough Museum, Peterborough (2014). He is also a visiting lecturer to a number of universities and has work in private and public collections.


From Art to Commerce

Saturday 25 March 2017, 11 am – Marketing planning

Saturday 29 April 2017, 11 am – Finance and funding

These monthly sessions, led by Tracey Clarke, are for anyone running a creative business or looking to start one. The first hour is a general workshop and the second hour consists of one-to-one short sessions. To book a one-to-one with Tracey please email Tracey@NNContemporaryArt.org. Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment.

Bumps & Babes

Thursday 30 March 2017, 2–3 pm

Thursday 27 April 2017, 2–3 pm

Get messy with your baby or pre-schooler in these crayon-fuelled, finger painting sessions. Make sure you wear clothes that can handle paint!

Get Creative Family Workshop City of Dreams

Saturday 8 April 2017, 11am–12pm

Inspired by James Smith’s exhibition Memorability as an Image, we will make architectural models, however eccentric, brutal, run-down or gleaming new. An array of recycled, household and DIY building materials will be used in this workshop led by artist Emma Davies.

Before taking them home, models will be displayed and photographed to create our own online publication called City of Dreams.

This workshop is suitable for ages 7 years and above.

Part of BBC’s Get Creative weekend.

Book launch & Symposium: Clear exhibition of structure

Saturday 8 April 2017, 1–3 pm

Two of the authors in the book accompanying the exhibition will join James Smith for a public symposium to celebrate its launch. Architect and Professor of Architectural Theory Jonathan Hale and artist, editor and researcher Nicolas Smith will talk about their practices with artist James Smith. Together they will discuss object, surface, fabric and materiality extrapolating the narratives and the structures of experiences in loss and vision of a post-war architectural movement that refuses to disappear.

Write Club: Artist statements

Saturday 15 April 2017, 1–2 pm

Join Catherine Hemelryk for a session on preparing an artist statement for a portfolio, website or job application. Bring examples of your current statement and a pen and paper, laptop or tablet.

Crit Group

Saturday 15 April 2017, 2–4 pm

For artists by artists, bring your work in progress for friendly peer critique. Crit Group is led by Sayed Sattar Hasan and starts with one or two featured artist presentations before opening the conversation out to the regular peer critique. If you would like to be a future featured artist at Crit Group, email us at info@nncontemporaryart.org.

Walking Tour of Brutalist Northampton

Saturday 22 April 2017, 1 pm start at NN

Join artist James Smith for an informal tour of his exhibition at NN and a walking tour of the Brutalist buildings of Northampton. Find out more about James’ artwork and the architecture past and present of Northampton.

Dress suitably for the season. Places are free, booking essential, click here.

James Smith
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