NAE Open 2023 — exhibition

Practice-led Postgraduate Researcher Hang Zhang is one of 44 artists exhibiting work at this year's New Art Exchange Open exhibition in Nottingham.

The NAE Open returns for its third iteration, with a presentation of work that includes paintings, video, live art, photography, textiles and sculpture.

The NAE Open intends to be a platform that supports the development of artists and raises their profile. This dynamic exhibition was created through a competitive, open application process for Nottinghamshire-based artists and Global Ethnic Majority artists living anywhere in the UK. Tasked to seek out the most innovative and high-quality artworks that address key societal concerns and interests, a panel of advocates included neighbours, artists and curators who chose from almost 350 submissions.

The result is an eclectic and compelling selection of artists at different stages in their careers, with artworks that speak to contemporary conversations that align with NAE’s mission. They range from personal accounts of migration, retracing personal histories, questioning what it means to belong within a society, and responses to political and cultural viewpoints on race and gender identity, to name a few. The exhibition also features work that celebrates Nottingham through its people and landscape.

Hangover Square (2022)

The curators selected three neons sculptures from Hang Zhang’s performative installation project Hangover Square (2022).

The series recreates the artist's tattoos in neon sculpture to explore the ideas of colonised women's bodies and social class systems. The series acts as a stand against the social environments that exploit the underprivileged, and personal expenences that the artist has faced whilst rebelling against expected values and modifying her body to working-class visuals.

The work narrates the story of how the artist reclaimed their body back as a territory from patriarchy through body art. Growing up in China, strict rules around socioeconomic class systems and the female body were prevalent. Despite being expensive, tattoos and neon lights are considered to have associations with lower classes, 'trouble-makers' and less affluent communities, with neon reserved for use in 'cheap shops', hostels and hair salons in old Shanghai.

Wall-mounted neon sculptures by Hang Zhang in a gallery space at the New Art Exchange in Nottingham.

Selected neon sculptures from Hang Zhang’s Hangover Square series, NAE Open 2023, New Art Exchange, Nottingham. The works are Nowhere (40 x 120cm), Cat Tattooing Cat (100 x 80cm) and Hangover Square (40 x 110cm). The artwork to the right of the gallery is by Merissa Hylton. Photo by Tom Morley.

About Hang Zhang

Hang Zhang is an artist based in Leeds who challenges the boundaries of art to explore the potential of various disciplines, including nonhuman and wordless writing language, extra-terrestrial life, posthumanism and mortality.

Zhang identifies speaking for the underprivileged that do not yet have enough of a voice as her artist’s social responsibility. Her focus ranged from a small lab beetle that otherwise would never received care of love from humans; domestic animals like sheep that serve human needs but are rarely regarded as friends; herself, an international student who challenges institutional bureaucracy and a non-white female who confronts subtle racism in British society; herself, a young girl who grew up in a patriarchal Chinese household with little control over her own body; Andean culture which is being impacted by Anglocentrism and Eurocentrism; and the alpacas in East Asia, which are heavily anthropomorphised and have their natural needs neglected.

Having graduated with a first class honours BA Fine Art degree in 2021, Hang Zhang continued her studies in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies and finished her MA Fine Art in September 2022. Zhang’s ongoing practice-led PhD project at the University of Leeds investigates the cultural images of South American lamoid species in globalisation under the epochal impacts of post-colonisation and the Internet.


New Art Exchange
39-41 Gregory Boulevard

Opening times

Exhibition open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Full details about the NAE Open 2023, including the artists taking part.


Hang Zhang, Hangover Square (2022). Immersive neon sculptures, size various. The selected works from Hangover Square are Nowhere (40 x 120cm), Cat Tattooing Cat (100 x 80cm) and Hangover Square (40 x 110cm). Photo by Tom Morley.