Nottingham Contemporary
East England

John Newlings work can in part be seen as a reflection of his and our time and place in the world. His delightful, ‘New Architecture Midlands Cashpoint’ (1991) is a positive transformation of the negative space of a cashpoint machine and captures our shift into a world dominated by technology and automation. This work implements a strategy of inversion and material alchemy to encourage us to notice and re-appraise the ordinary, things which slip unnoticed into the urban landscape.

It is this re-framing of the world, to encourage a fresh look or beg a question that stands constant throughout the show. This was very much something I expected and got from the first half of a show. A bit like when you see a film from a favourite director, you go with hope and all-being well you leave satiated and nourished.

At its best though with good art, you secretly hope for a bit more, something extra to ice the cake. At Nottingham Contemporary, the more in this case was just round the corner. And his second room was the real show stopper. Not just because it was new and unseen, but fundamentally because of its joyful grounding in the ordinary, the honest and the low value, somehow transformed into something really special and highly sensually evocative.

In this case cabbage leaves, grown and nurtured by Newling, before being pressed, folded, gilted and juxtaposed with coins, leave and other paraphernalia into various grids, tablets and light box configurations. The works in this room are meticulously executed as one can come to expect with this artist, but above all and I use this term without reservation, they are simply wonderful and beautiful. Beautiful; beautiful; with a depth; beautiful with a soul;, beautiful with a heart and choreographed with unquestionable belief and integrity.

These humble cabbage leaves, products of the artists tender loving care, are elevated with cathedral like deification. This is somehow achieved without showiness and most importantly for me without irony or cynicism. This transformation is made whilst retaining the truth and integrity of their origins. The catharsis of this basic food can be seen to beg many questions of value, trade, status and the global production and consumption in this era of worrying climate change, but all that is implicit for the viewer to unearth or not.

This is an art of considered ideas, an art of intuition and is emphatically not didactic or preaching in its nature. On a cold winters night it is art that lifts and give a lovely warm hug, from artist to the audience, an art that feels and is in my opinion fundamentally real to the core.

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