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Exhibition of Arts Council Collection works to be curated and shown in Norwich

An exhibition of post-war British art held by the Arts Council Collection will be shown at the Gallery at Norwich University of the Arts this summer. Afteryears: Reflections on British Art 1946-52 will look back at the art created in the years immediately after the war, displaying some of the earliest works of art collected by the Arts Council. The show will include work by some of the most significant artists of the period including Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Eduardo Paolozzi and Victor Pasmore, as well as revealing the forgotten contributions of younger and less familiar names.

The show has been devised by MA Curation students at the University. Student Laura Dennis says: “Afteryears will examine a period now largely forgotten, but that witnessed dramatic social and political change. Did art of the time reflect the growing sense of optimism and renewal symbolised by the formation of the Welfare State and the Festival of Britain, or did the aftermath of war leave an altogether different legacy?”

Nan Reid

Nan Reid, Fish and Chip Shop in Chelsea, 1952, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Estate of the artist.

The exhibition will look at how art reflected the physical and psychological impact of the War, reminding us that in this time of victory and peace many people in Britain were living in cities that had been devastated by the Blitz. Everyday life in the original ‘age of austerity’ will be shown through images that reflect a time of full employment and the birth of the NHS, as well as both romanticised and realistic depictions of domesticity.

Alongside this, a series of works will also show how rural life and the landscape were idealised by artists, the subject offering both a conceptual and physical escape from the difficulties of the time. The period also saw progressively heated debates around abstraction and figuration, culminating in a public outcry over works of art created for the Festival of Britain.

The exhibition will be supported by displays of archival materials and video footage relating to the themes explored. A series of talks and a screening have been programmed to accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition is open at the gallery on St Georges Street from Tuesday 12 August until Saturday 13 September, 12pm to 5pm (closed Sunday and Monday). Admission is free. An exhibition blog will be updated throughout the show at www.afteryears.co.uk.

In conjunction with this exhibition, NUA will present a screening of Ken Loach’s Spirit of ’45 at Cinema City, Norwich on Saturday 16 August. The screening will start at 3pm and tickets are available for £8 from the Gallery at NUA during exhibition opening hours, or can be reserved by emailing gallery@nua.ac.uk.

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