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Empty city centre shops transformed with amazing new artworks

Published: 13 April 2021

Empty city centre shops transformed Empty city centre shops transformed

Two empty shop windows have been brought to life in Exeter city centre with exciting new temporary works of art.

The project, called Trade & Exchange, was launched in November and was commissioned as part of Exeter’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan Building Exeter Back Better.

Led by Exeter Culture, it is funded by the Liveable Exeter programme, managed by Exeter City Council, and the Next Chapter project at the Devon and Exeter Institution, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project highlights the city’s support for the cultural sector and the importance of culture in the city’s recovery from the pandemic.

By transforming vacant retail units into art spaces, cultural organisations are animating the city centre and helping to fill the gaps left by retailers.

The two artists chosen to take part in the project are Emma Molony and Naomi Hart.

Emma, a Devon-based printmaker, combines different printmaking processes and works with animation and 3D installations.

Her striking new work, called Horticultural Gold, is inspired by the Victorian passion for introducing plant species from around the globe to Exeter, which still exist today.

Empty city centre shops

She said: “Rather than imitate the true colours of the plants, I used the stylised colour palettes of 19th-century block-printed papers. I’ve printed and laser cut some of the orchids, ferns, vines, shrubs and trees brought back for the Veitch Nursery by the Cornish plant-hunter brothers, Thomas and William Lobb.

“These are plants commonly seen in homes and gardens throughout the UK today, but they were first brought to Europe from the mountains of Chile and Peru; the jungles and rainforests of Borneo and Madagascar.”

Horticultural Gold can be seen in the EVIT building in Dix’s Field, close to the Civic Centre, until the end of May.

Naomi is an artist whose work looks at human interaction with the environment, especially themes around elements, journey and memory. Her new artwork Shell is inspired by the Exe Estuary and by 200-year-old books on natural history in the Devon and Exeter Institution (DEI).

Shell is entirely made of dissolved seashells from mouth of the Exe Estuary. Naomi received help with the science and inspiration from Dr Ceri Lewis, marine biology lecturer at University of Exeter, and Exeter PhD student Jen Jones.

It can be seen in the former Carphone Warehouse Unit in Princesshay, between Lush and Hotel Chocolat, until the end of May.

Exeter has a long history of commercial trade and exchange, and this commission encouraged the artists to expand this definition, incorporating the trade of ideas and the exchange of experiences.

As a UNESCO City of Literature, Exeter’s new global status is an opportunity to delve into the city’s history and define its future, creating an innovative, sustainable and resilient, carbon-neutral city for future generations.

More information about the artists and the artwork is available on the Exeter Culture website:

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