(Un)rest: Young Producers at City Arts Review

Words: Emelia Turner
Thursday 23 December 2021
reading time: min, words

The annual takeover of the City Arts window facing out onto Hockley is here. As part of the Young Producers arts collective, The Window Gallery is transformed into a site of protest and rebellion, as placards and works of abstraction fill the space. What happens when we speak up? And what does it look like when art and protest meet? 

Taking over the window of the City Arts building situated in Hockley, the organisation’s Young Producers are currently showcasing their (Un)rest window gallery exhibition. The takeover occurs every November, with the Young Producers working collaboratively as a group, along with the running of a series of events. One of these events was the creation of the placards featured in the exhibition, used as part of this year’s 'Reclaim The Night' city-wide protests. The artwork displayed this year aims to explore the concept of tranquillity after an unrestful period. The vibrant colours of the art, along with the eye-catching designs, draw the attention of those passing by the building. 

Nottingham has a history of protest and rebellious behaviour, dating back for centuries, which has earned it the nickname ‘Rebel City’. This reputation of Nottingham came about primarily due to the stories of Robin Hood, as well as Nottingham Castle being a focal point for the beginning of the Civil War in 1642. (Un)rest shines a light on this part of Nottingham’s history; a reflection of how protest and rebellion transcends through time.


The exhibition is a continuation of the work that the Young Producers did for their project Our Place, inspired by the first live, global TV broadcast of Our World. Commissioned by Chesterfield-based Junction Arts, the Young Producers collaborated with filmmakers Luke Radford and Toby Curson, making six short films which capture the personality, vibe and rebellious nature of Nottingham. Our Place is showcased in the window beside (Un)rest, but it is important to note that the two are separate projects.

In the foreground of the (Un)rest window exhibition are five painted pieces, situated in front of three considerably larger abstract paintings serving as a backdrop. This striking backdrop made up of three separate sheets of paper includes a wide variation of splatters, shapes, and lines in a diverse range of colours, appearing to capture the essence of chaos and unrest. The sheets are suspended from the ceiling, with the two pieces to the left of the three taking up the full length of the window. The artwork gives the impression of freedom and passion. Rather than conforming to the idea of creating an elaborate painting to feature as backdrop, the Young Producers opted for a style which highlights having the ability to truly express oneself. With the numerous details to the piece, it leaves the viewer wanting to take a closer look to admire each small line and shape, and appreciate the chaotic nature of the piece as a whole.

“With the numerous details to the piece, it leaves the viewer wanting to take a closer look to admire each small line and shape, and appreciate the chaotic nature of the piece as a whole.”

The five paintings positioned in front of this backdrop are made up of both words and images. Affixed to purple and white striped poles, these paintings act as placards, similar to those used at a protest or rally. The words were chosen by individuals during the workshop in which the placards were created. This compliments the theme of the exhibition, being a presentation of topics such as “anarchy, rebellion and uproar”. Easels stand in the window, signifying an ongoing artistic process. One of the pieces involves the phrase, “Beautiful things happen when you speak up.” Painted in bold red, and considerably larger than the other words, “speak up” fills half of the canvas. This continues to reiterate ideas of rebellion and protest, emphasising the importance of voicing opinions. This, therefore, encourages the fact that ‘peace’ can occur after a period of turmoil, particularly if you work to achieve it by standing up for what you believe in.


Another significant piece in the exhibition is a painting involving red and pink flowers among a patch of grass. Behind this grass stand two buildings, with a black background serving as the sky and “(Un)rest” painted in large letters across it. The contrast between the bright colours of the flowers and the vividly dark sky appear to be a metaphor for the juxtaposition of peace and unrest. Further evoking the idea of this is the fact that the darkness is in the background of the piece, with the bright buildings and greenery in front of this illustrating unrest being in the past, replaced by serenity. 

“And what!”, “Be a realist, not perfect”, and “No womb for your opinion” are painted phrases which make up the other pieces to this exhibition. These words strongly highlight the theme of rebellion, being powerful messages. It is thought-provoking language such as this that plays a vital part in the act of protest. Words and the type of language used can hold significant power in challenging the minds of others, a tool often used when speaking out. Rebellion and protest are typically put under a negative light, but the artwork for (Un)rest challenges the idea of it being something that should be considered bad. It instead encourages viewers to consider the concept of rebellion being an important way of voicing opinions, which is necessary to bring about change. 


Overall, the exhibition is one that is truly thought-provoking, encouraging viewers to ponder the idea of a positive period following one filled with disturbance and upheaval. The pieces that have been produced greatly capture the essence of the theme of (Un)rest, due to the bold colours, eye-catching backdrop and paintings appearing to be presented as signs. With the exhibition being one that is a window display, only several minutes are needed to view it, making it accessible to those with little spare time to view a full exhibition inside a gallery. This makes for a larger scale of people being able to appreciate the Young Producers’ artwork. The nature of the exhibition is one which encourages conversation as viewers pass by and poses the question: at what point in your life have you experienced peace after a period of unrest?

(Un)rest was originally intended to run until January 7th, 2022. However, due to Government COVID guidance, the exhibition was cut short on December 10th, 2021 following the temporary closure of the building. To find out more about the exhibition, Young Producers, and City Arts, click the link below. You can also follow Young Producers on Instagram @youngproducers_cityarts.


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