Contemporary Art Norwich 2007 - Second Biennial Festival Begins

By Rose Shillito | 13 July 2007
oil painting featuring darkly lit interior with shadow of person on the walls

Andrew Cranston, Sullen Art. EASTinternational 2007 at Norwich Gallery and School of Art and Design, 14 July - 18 August 2007

Don’t fret if you couldn’t make it to the Venice Biennale this year. For the next seven weeks, Norwich will host its own biennial contemporary visual arts festival, Contemporary Art Norwich 2007.

It's only the second time the city has staged the event that's fast becoming a must-see on the global arts calendar.

Contemporary Art Norwich 2007 is a multi-venue festival that draws together the collaborative efforts of seven arts organisations to celebrate Norwich’s burgeoning cultural scene through the work of national and international artists. It kicks off today (July 14 2007) and runs until August 31 2007.

“Contemporary Art Norwich 2007 presents an opportunity for Norwich residents and visitors, both those who are new to contemporary art and frequent gallery-goers, to experience the rich pool of creative talent to which the East of England is home," said Alison McFarlane, director of Contemporary Art Norwich 2007.

Photo shows people demonstrating with banners and riot police

R.E.P., We Will REP You! British and European legs: Offsite projects commissioned by OUTPOST, 2-21 August 2007 (European). Photo credit: R.E.P.

"The biennial contributes to the cultural wealth of the city and welcomes artists from across the country and abroad to the city’s many art venues with the support of Arts Council England, East and Norwich City Council.”

The many different kinds of exhibitions, events and activities can be seen at a host of locations across the city, ranging from art galleries and public spaces to tourist attractions and even shops.

And the diversity of visual experiences promises to be breathtaking – including an artist taking part in her own pyrotechnic display, an installation created from a sea of household detritus and Wymondham Abbey dramatically lit up at night – with many events also supported by a tailor-made programme of related activities.

One of the highlights of the festival is sure to be East International, an open submission exhibition held at Norwich Gallery and in the studios of Norwich School of Art & Design.

Photo shows person in fire protective suit with flames lapping their feet

Gwendoline Robin, Instant, 2006. Rub Me Up the Wrong Way at Norwich Arts Centre, 20 July. Photo credit: Manuel Vason

East 07 will showcase the work of 27 artists from Europe, North American and Britain and their interpretations of urban history in painting, sculpture and film. Four offsite projects, for which four artists have been selected from East International to produce work for public spaces in and around Norwich, will complement the exhibition and take art out into the wider society.

Another integral part of the celebrations has been organised by Norwich’s own artist-run space, OUTPOST. In addition to two exhibitions running in its own permanent space over the festival, the gallery has invited ten arts organisations – five from the UK and five from Europe – to run temporary galleries within the city’s Anglia Square Shopping Centre.

British & European Legs will run throughout July and August, with each gallery showing a solo exhibition of an artist of their choice, giving both the artist and the public a unique experience.

Photo shows close-up shot of black man's face with white type across it

Juan Manuel Echavarría, Mouths of Ash, 2003-04. Photo credit: Juan Manuel Echavarria

If you haven’t heard enough so far to get you heading east, then perhaps AfterShock: Conflict, Violence and Resolution in Contemporary Art will get you excited.

This major new exhibition features 16 international artists – from as far apart as Columbia and India – who use film, paint and sculpture to explore concepts of violence and media images of conflict that we confront on a daily basis. It is showing at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts for an extended run until September 2 2007.

On a different note, Norwich Arts Centre shows a retrospective of the work of one of Britain’s great eccentrics, Norfolk-based surrealist artist, actor, filmmaker, inventor and performer Bruce Lacey – whose collaborations have included The Goons, The Beatles and Lenny Bruce.

The Centre also plays host to Rub Me Up The Wrong Way, a live art event in which artist Gwendoline Robin sets off a series of controlled explosions around her body.

Photo shows building at night with windows illuminated with different coloured lights

Simon Fenoulhet, Aurora. Wynmondham Abbey 900th Anniversary: Simon Fenoulhet, 14 July - 30 September 2007

Not to be left out of the action, Commissions East (the visual arts development agency for the east of England), has funded a temporary commission for the East Tower of Wymondham Abbey to mark the Abbey’s 900th anniversary.

Beacon by Simon Fenoulhet, a kind of light installation that illuminates the windows with a stained-glass effect daily from dusk, promises to be breathtaking.

Photo shows collection of household objects in big rubbish pile

Karsten Bott, Museum of Life, 2007. Museum of Life at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 14 July - 16 September 2007. Photo credit: Karsten Bott

It’s no mean feat to get an entire city buzzing with artistic energy and cutting-edge concepts but this is what Contemporary Art Norwich 2007 promises to do.

Not only is it creating ripples of excitement within the art world; the organisers are anticipating a great response from the wider community. And with such an exciting and imaginative programme of events, Contemporary Art Norwich 2007 looks set to be the success it deserves.

Okay, so it’s not Venice… You can still travel by river bus through a beautiful city, however. Plus you’ll be supporting the efforts of the British arts community to stage world-class arts events.

For more information about Contemporary Art Norwich 2007, individual events and participating artists and arts organisations, visit

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