The Norman Rea Gallery – A Showcase of Student Success

Image credit: Jenny Glas

By Jenny Glas

The Norman Rea Gallery is the only student-run gallery in the UK and hosts some fantastic events for students and non-students alike, on the University of York campus.

The gallery showcases interviews with some of the most inspiring art directors and provides talks based on cutting edge theory. I’ve had the privilege of living next door to one of the vice directors, Sophie Norton, and have watched many works be brought home – mirrors and graffiti, with magazine clippings, are all compounded with creative licence and it’s been exciting to see so much talent continually develop.

The gallery noticeably brings the outside world, and the arts, into one space. The latest project, Resuscitate, breathes life into recyclable materials – taking upcycling to the next level and allowing creative collaborations to take place organically. Following suit, in the style of the Tate Modern and a sense of the urban, to produce an original space where new ideas can take flight.

Doodles and spray paint combine over old household objects and pieces of furniture that might otherwise be labelled as junk items – the gallery asks: can waste be beautiful? As we rethink the ways in which we make use of objects we no longer need, the question of recyclable art materials becomes a fantastic way of refurbishing and experimenting with ideas. This also reinforces an important concept, that nothing is ever really too worn out or run down to be cast out. 

It’s been a hugely productive use of space – I walked into a room with projections and displays of student work, which showcased sculptures and beautiful décor. During Resuscitate I got stuck in and began redecorating a sofa amidst a kicking soundtrack with dreamy beats. Meanwhile, text and quotes were reflected on the wall which reminded me of the growing importance of sustainable art during a time where ethical consumption is at its height and may even cause us to rethink our own consumer habits.

I felt like I was being transported back in time – pretty pink paint splodges decorated nearly every piece. Cutting and sticking became a powerful way of creating, as various magazine works and figures took their place amongst other items. This took me back to childhood, whilst grounding me in the present moment.  

An after-party of eclectic vibes was introduced by the astounding performance of Afiah Achi – a sure star on the rise who is helping to celebrate the success and inclusivity instigated by Norman Rea. It was a magnetic atmosphere that inspired hope for growing and building on our culture. As more talks and workshops arrive on our doorstep, I am excited for the reveal of ever changing artistic processes that incorporate an audience. 

It was clear to see that there has been a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication involved in setting up the gallery and maintaining the sessions, in order for connecting through art to continue. I have loved being able to visit on each occasion and discover something new or in the making.

Categories: Art, Arts and Culture