Two Devon-based artists are producing new and exciting temporary works of art that will be displayed in two empty retail units in Exeter this Spring.

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.

Dom Jinks, Director of Exeter Culture, said:

“I am delighted to be a part of this exciting commission. This work will bring something new to the city centre. It is encouraging and uplifting to be able to enjoy artists’ work and to support them during this challenging and uncertain time.”

Cllr Amal Ghusain, Lead Councillor for Culture and Communities said:

“I really welcome this initiative in the city, it’s great to be able to support cultural activity and to see the city come alive again.”

Lucy Studholme, a member of the Liveable Exeter Place Board, which shaped Exeter’s Recovery Plan, said: “Exeter’s heritage and culture has always been, and will always be, a creative beating heart across the city.

“During this current time of restrictions across so many aspects of our lives and livelihoods, there are many forward looking people envisioning and refocusing its future in all its many different expressions.

“It is a great delight and joy to see projects such as these bearing fruit in our city centre, encouraging engagement and expression from us all.”

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.

The artists chosen are Emma Molony and Naomi Hart.

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

She designs and makes wallpaper, delivers printmaking workshops and explores experimental ways of printmaking without a press.

Emma’s inspiration for the commission has come from the Veitch Nurseries founded in 1808, the prolific Victorian biologist and botanical artist, Marianne North, and the introduction of plant species from around the globe to Exeter which still exist today.

Naomi is an artist whose work looks at human interaction with the environment, especially themes around elements, journey and memory.

Her work ranges from intricate drawings and paintings to large-scale installations. Naomi was Leverhulme artist in residence with glaciologists from Sheffield University and the University of Norway in Svalbard, and exhibited the work at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Inspired by the Exe Estuary and by 200-year-old books on natural history in the Devon and Exeter Institution (DEI), Naomi is creating an artwork from the ground up. From the women at the centre of international scientific research in 1685 to today, from beachcombing to global trade, from our dinner plates to dinosaurs, Shell, will tell the hidden stories of science and art.

Both artists have had the opportunity to visit the DEI’s collections to inspire their artwork and have been awarded membership of the Institution for a year, as part of this commission.

In developing their commissions, both artists discovered stories in the DEI about 18th and 19th century research into the natural world where women’s contributions were marginalised.To mark International Women’s Day, Arts and Culture University of Exeter has invited both artists to speak about the inspiration for their Trade & Exchange commissions, paired with leading academics from the University, Dr Ceri Lewis and Dr Rebecca Lovell, who will speak about their relevant research in the natural and social sciences.

The Zoom webinar takes place on Monday, 8 March, 5pm to 6.15pm. For full details, including how to book your place free of charge click here

This project has been supported by the Cultural Recovery Group, which has representatives from Art Work Exeter, Blind Ditch, the Devon and Exeter Institution, Exeter Corn Exchange, Exeter Culture, Exeter Northcott Theatre, Exeter Phoenix, inExeter, Maketank, RAMM, Positive Light Projects, the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust and the UNESCO City of Literature programme.