5 Nottingham Trent University Alumni Who Made It Big in the Art World

Words: Rachel Willcocks
Photos: Andy Keate
Thursday 22 April 2021
reading time: min, words

Turning what you love to do and what you're passionate about into something that pays the bills ain't an easy job. Being creative and finding your place within the industry can be a challenge at the best of times, but one route many artists take to further develop their practice is to study at university. Our Art Editors run down some of the biggest names to have honed their skills at Nottingham Trent University... 


Despite the recent controversy around art schools – the ridiculous course prices and the plague of the millennial generation with so-called "pointless" degrees – having the chance to study at university offers many the time, resources, and expertise to grow as artists. 

Nottingham Trent University is a cornerstone of Nottingham's creative community. Many students come to the city to pursue their artistic talents into a career. Needless to say, Notts is an excellent place to study art. The University's artistic talent feeds the creative community around the city, and local, national and internationally well-known artists have cut their teeth and mastered their practice in Notts. Some of the most renowned, influential and successful NTU alumni in the art world include...

Simon Procter, an artist and photographer born up in Lancashire and raised in Royston, a small mining village in South Yorkshire. He studied Fine Art for many years, specialising in Painting and Sculpture. A big name in the fashion world, Procter's work can be found on the glossy pages of magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and he worked with Karl Lagerfeld to create the photo book Lagerfeld: The Chanel Shows, highlighting the beloved designers most iconic Chanel runway shows over the last ten years. Plus, Procter's work has been exhibited worldwide. On the commercial side of things, he's snapped up advertising jobs for big names such as Chanel, Dior, Nike and more. Procter has also become one of the most collectable photographers of his generation. 

Donald Rodney (18 May 1961 – 4 March 1998) was a leading figure in Britain's Black Art Movement. Born in Birmingham, he was part of the Midlands-based BLK Art Group with Keith Piper, Marlene Smith and Eddie Chambers. Rodney became recognised as "one of the most innovative and versatile artists of his generation." His work appropriated images from the mass media, art, and popular culture to explore racial identity and racism. Rodney lived with anaemia his whole life and used his condition as a metaphor for black emasculation, racial stereotyping and wider socio-political concerns in contemporary society. Rodney died from sickle-cell anaemia, aged just 36 in 1998. His artistic career spanned two decades and produced some of the most innovative work by a British artist of his generation.

Jon Burgerman is a NYC-based artist instigating improvisation and play through drawing and spectacle. Think googly eyes, pizza and squiggles. His brightly-coloured images create characters and humour that jump off the page. Jon is often referenced as the leading figure in the popular 'Doodle' art style. His work includes murals, paintings, books, videos and animations. It is Burgerman's belief that through these playful, creative acts, art can act as an agent to change the world, by being the catalyst to allow people to change their worlds. Burgerman's work has been shown in exhibitions worldwide, and he has collaborated with big-name brands such as Apple, Instagram, Snapchat, Coca-Cola, Nike, Disney and more.

Diana Ali is an artist and curator whose practice involves fictional narratives, play on language and text through drawing, experimental photography, installation and direct animation. A broadcast star in her own right too, she features as a mentor on the BBC's Big Painting Challenge show. Ali is interested in exploring correspondence, communication, connectivity and collaboration through art. She travels, gets lost and collects found and hidden images, embedding narratives within them. Her work has been exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally. 

Simon Starling is a conceptual artist interested in physical, poetic and metaphorical journeys. Using video, film, slide projections, photography, event and sculpture, Starling's work uncovers unexpected and complex histories. Other areas of investigation include lost histories of manufacture. Leading on from this, he has explored issues such as engineering, mining, excavation and geology through art. Starling won the Turner Prize in 2005 for his work Shedboatshed – a shed that was transformed into a boat and sailed down the Rhine before being reconstructed back into a shed in a gallery. Starling's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. He lives and works in Copenhagen and Berlin and is a professor of Fine Art at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. 

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