NN Contemporary Art in Northampton have recently been awarded NPO status for the first time. We speak to their Artistic Director Catherine Hemelryk about their future plans and their current exhibitions.
Tell us a little about yourself
My role is to curate the programme and our activities, a lot of fundraising and report writing and to work with our board on the strategic direction of NN, which has recently involved successfully applying for NPO status for the first time! I also establish our international and national partnerships with organisations such as Casino Luxembourg and working with our small but wonderful team at NN to make projects happen.
We are an artist-centered space and we have around six temporary exhibitions a year in our ground floor gallery space as well as various performances, interventions and events elsewhere across Northampton and Europe. I love working with artists to make new work; commissioning has been an important part of the organisation's ethos since it began. We are passionate about helping artists realise projects and providing a freedom to create new work and play out ideas, stretching what they can do. We do this in our curated international programme with artists from Northampton to New Zealand and everywhere between and at different stages of their careers, from nurturing emerging artists to Venice Biennale award winners.
Alongside our main gallery we have our Project Space which is dedicated to experimentation and has a rolling open call. The only criteria for selection is that the project is demonstrably trying out something new for the artist or group in their practice. We also house five artist studios, a cafe run by independent proprietor Nicola Griffiths called The Artist Table (I recommend the gluten free chocolate cake) and each exhibition is accompanied by different workshops and plenty of CPD for artists.
You have recently become an NPO for the first time. Is there anything specific that this regular funding will enable you to do?
This funding means we can work with artists and partners over much longer time periods to our current one-year cycles. We have been very successful at securing funding through Grants for the Arts but it has meant that the lead ups to exhibitions have been relatively short, sometimes not knowing if we have funding for an exhibition a fortnight before the project. Simply by having longer lead ups we can have richer relationships with artists and audiences, we can advertise in advance and the work can develop all the more. We are a small staff with a team of 2.5 FTE and this funding means we can free up some capacity to get on with developing various areas of the organisation and artistic programme.
Being an NPO also means our work will receive more attention nationally! It is a badge of honour and we have already found an increase in media interest. We have built up a strong track record and it was the right time for us to apply for NPO status for the first time. I am very proud of our work over the years so I'm thrilled that more people are looking at our current exhibitions and archives and seeing what we have been doing in Northampton!
Tell us about your current exhibition and what’s coming up.
Our current exhibition is Jasmina Cibic: Topical Devices on until 30 September 2017. This show brings together two existing bodies of work from her NADA series including a film and series of photographic collages. The final part of the exhibition isa large, new installation by Jasmina including a curving curtain that takes its pattern from a tapestry from the former Palace of the Federation in Belgrade. The tapestry co-opted and re-contextualized by the artist with the facsimile fading as the historical potency depletes. This curtain provides the backdrop for a female nude, remodelled from a fragmentary piece of photographic documentation from the Dragiša Brašovan’s pavilion for the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, built for the occasion of the 1929 Barcelona World Exposition. Politics, art, architecture, rhetoric, symbolism, ideology and their collapse all play their part in Topical Devices.
Jasmina will be coming to Northampton to talk about her current exhibition on Friday 15 September. More information on the events programme surrounding the exhibition can be found here.
Coming up next will be Mobile Cinema by Romana Schmalisch running from 13–21 October 2017 with a preformance lecture and screenings in Romana's Mobile Cinema on the opening night, 13 October 2017 at 7pm. Our final exhibition of the year is The New Archive on 26 October–23 December 2017. It features work by artists from our previous programme commissioned over the past 5 years and we will also be celebrating our fifth birthday as NN by launch our FIVE YEARS book at our birthday party on 13 December 2017, 6pm.
Is there another visual arts exhibition on currently in the region that you would recommend?
Everyone must visit 78 Derngate. It is the only house in England by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and it's in Northampton right around the corner from NN. This is its centenary year and it is the only place in the world where you can see Mackintosh's later work in its original setting. I am continually inspired by its bold lines, yellow, black and navy geometric motifs and the complete vision Mackintosh executed. This house was his final major commission and I recommend everyone visit during its centenary.