Art and Alton Towers Collide at Backlit Gallery

Grainne Pearson Cockrill

The Future Is Blinding, Geoff Diego Litherland

Walking in the flowering artistic quarter of Nottingham last Saturday, I decided to ascend the stairs of the Backlit Gallery in the corner of Alfred house on Ashley Street. There I found two exhibitions called the ‘5 Points of Connection’ and ‘Oblivion Suite.’ As you walk into this spacious exhibition floor you are boldly greeted by Leon Sadler’s ‘Oblivion Suite,’ a display made up of designs for the Alton Towers attraction ‘Oblivion’. And all those who have been on this popular theme park ride can no doubt imagine the themes and vivid use of colour present.

Sadler uses bold neon colours to accentuate the atmosphere of excitement in his work. Particularly in paintings like Little Helper, which includes cartoon pink-and-green people on that theme park rollercoaster we all know and love. Within the theme of this rollercoaster comes all the other works in ‘Oblivion Suite’, including eccentric large black canvases with neon-orange bubble writing stating: ‘DON’T LOOK DOWN.’ A number of other pieces are also abstract, and together they seemed to wonderfully express the sense of speed, fear, tension and confusion of being on the ride.

The gallery didn’t end there, either! As I walked into the next room I stumbled upon the ‘5 points of Connection’ expedition, which included important abstract artists such as Geoff Diego Litherland. Originally a Mexican-born artist (now based in Nottingham), Litherland’s work ‘explores the tension between the natural world and its grasping appropriation by human influence.’ He has been responsible for notable works such as The Future is Blinding (2014), which beautifully compares our past to the future. This oil on canvas painting captivatingly sutured a futuristic ship with a naturalistic setting, and eerily sent both sailing through a dark galaxy.

Another artist in this exhibition was Bram Demunter, a Belgian artist whose work involves the interesting use of oil paints on canvas and wood. He is said to be influenced partly by his experiences with psychiatric patients and people with mental disabilities, something which comes across clearly early on. Untitled (2e on the floor plan), for example, includes what could be interpreted as people falling into darkness, a state apparently similar to that which individuals achieve in group therapy.

Then in the centre of this room was work by Michelle Verscheijden. This artist states that her work is meant to bring us back to basics, using the tension between materials and gravity to express her feelings about the tensions of the world around her. Suspended (2015) was an excellent example of this, being simply a block of concrete tied to rope that hangs menacingly from the ceiling.


In the last room, Dawn West’s work stole my attention. Her digital photography piece Fred Fitton 1948-50 (2015) was printed on small postcards and then joined together again across the wall, intriguing me with its level of detail on such a small platform. Dawn West is an artist from Lancaster who foregrounds themes of imperfection, incompleteness and transience in her work. Something which especially came across in this printmaking piece.

Also nestled in this room was Gerrit Bruins, an artist from the Netherlands. His art is influenced by his interest in the gap between the rational and the quantifiable. This can be seen in his Angel of Jordaens (2015). Cleverly fashioned using oil on boards (which are then burnt), Angel of Jordaens depicts an angel resting on burnt wood, which gives the painting an alluringly antique, religious, yet innocent feel.

This small artistic niche which Backlit has made in the heart of Nottingham was a delight to go to. The art fascinated me and opened my mind to alternative ways of thinking. This free exhibition is open from the March 6th – 22nd 2015, and I strongly recommend all avid artists and art-enthusiasts to visit.


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