Skip to content


Art Research

Unit(s) of assessment: Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

School: School of Art & Design


Art Research is the on-going enquiry carried out by the Fine Art staff and technicians at NTU as part of the School of Art & Design. It engages in innovative forms of artistic research and also provides provision for the integration of research-based teaching in BA, MA and PhD Fine Art study.

The group reflects the breadth of practices within the research area of interdisciplinary Fine Art, where individual and collaborative research activities are currently grouped under four interconnected thematics: the trans-decorative, open curriculum, spatial practices and still unresolved. Identifying research in and through art practice as a central methodology, this research area investigates concerns integral to art, as well as to art's relationship to the challenges that face culture and society.

Professional relationships with local, national and international art institutions demonstrate this area's commitment to extending the reach of research beyond the borders of academia, alongside the cultivation of innovative research-informed pedagogy within the courses we teach. A strong collegiate research culture has been nurtured through the development of pioneering models of practice (e.g. The Summer Lodge and Winter Lodge). This aims to create a generative and discursive space where researchers can present, discuss and test their enquiry, and where the dialogic or communal is valued at the heart of artistic research.

We welcome PhD applications in the areas below. Please see the Doctoral School pages for more details.

Art Research Groups

The art research group comprises of 4 areas:

The Trans-decorative – researching transgressive methods for interrogating the decorative and ornamental

Researchers in this area explore the intersection and collision of transgressive and decorative practices; the meeting point between seemingly contradictory tendencies or approaches. Transgressive here indicates that which is deviant, degenerate, dissident and unorthodox, while decorative describes the ornamental, ornate, over-elaborate, opulent and pretty. The researchers' work uses the subversive potential in the decorative and ornamental by emphasising acts of making and craft labour. It subverts and reworks traditional media and formal languages by the visual and conceptual interrogation of repetition and pattern, and a concern for the material properties of object-making and display. For this group of researchers, the physical experience of the exhibition encounter becomes specifically located as part of a critical research method, as well as the culmination of the research process itself.

Open curriculum – researching the histories and futures of critical Fine Art teaching

The research looks at Fine Art practice in relation to group and collaborative activity, and the philosophy of critical pedagogy. Activities range from developing and testing case studies of an innovative open curriculum, to the philosophical and theoretical interrogation of these approaches. Researchers place creativity at the centre of their activities, advocating teaching and research that values speculation and risk-taking, and emphasising the productive properties of failure and error. Their research is characterised by a student-centred, holistic and singularly open experimental approach to the curriculum. It is outward facing and examines the relation of the art school as an institution to the social, political and economic ecologies and networks of the city and beyond.

Spatial practices – researching how space and the public realm is performed through creative practice

The research is exploring the relationship of the lived body to its environment and the technologies or apparatuses (social, technical and political) that mediate this experience. Working alongside other Humanities and Science subject specialist areas, the aim is to create artwork within an interdisciplinary dialogue between artists, cultural practitioners, sociologists, computer scientists and urban planners around the changing nature of public space. Research explores how the development of a networked infrastructure has transformed both experiences and conceptions of time, space and distance, how these changes impact on the way that lived environments are shaped and defined, and how they are then negotiated or navigated by individuals. Environment is considered as a construct that is produced or performed through the making of artworks that themselves perform within this space in new and experimental ways.

Still unresolved – researching ideas of uncertainty, irresolution and open-endedness in contemporary art and culture

Focusing on the provisional and contingent in art practice, the emphasis is placed on those forms of knowledge and research located at the level of process or performance in the act of making. The intent is to show the implicit parts of making work within creative practices focusing on research, scholarly activity and practice itself, emphasising and exploring this at the level of subject, methodology and form. This strand loosely gathers a range of perspectives and practices to explore ideas including provisionality, instability, improvisation, liminality or in-betweenness, camouflage and appropriation. It also seeks to critically recuperate and interrogate subjectively felt experiences such as failure, doubt, deferral, indecision, disappointment, uncertainty, boredom, denial, hesitation, indecision, restlessness and wonder.

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 83% of NTU's research submitted to the 'Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory' Unit of Assessment was assessed to be world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of research impact. The overall quality of research in this area also saw an improvement from REF 2014 to REF 2021.


Professional relationships with local, national and international art institutions demonstrate this area’s commitment to extending the reach of research beyond the borders of academia, alongside the cultivation of innovative research-informed pedagogy within the courses we teach.

Art Research has a diverse range of collaborative roles in consultation with colleagues (particularly international) about the nature of Art Research and the subject area of Fine Art and its curriculum development. Within the team there those who not only have carried out external examinerships and external validations but also have held posts and participated within various Fine Art subject associations such as (the former) Art, Design and Media Higher Education Academy (ADM-HEA), National Association for Fine Art in Education (NAFAE), The Fine Art European Forum: PARADOX and The European League of Institutes of Art (ELIA) and in the HEFCE funded Writing PAD (Writing Purposefully in Art and Design) project lead by The Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths College and the University of the Arts

Nottingham is recognised as having one of the most active artist-led scenes outside of London and Glasgow as was shown in a study from Networking Artists Networks (NAN), conducted by Emilia Telese the coordinator of NAN. The study showed that although the East Midlands had only the 6th largest congregation of artists within the UK it was the 2nd (after London) most successful region in applying for Networking grants.

The Art Research team are committed to international development. Partnerships are increasingly vital and the team are committed to develop and promote diverse and professionally networked opportunities for research and students. The team has sustained connections via Erasmus in Europe and have created/participated in bespoke student projects with Budapest in Hungary, Palermo in Italy, Cork in Ireland and Angers, France.

For academic enquiries please contact the Research Group Leader, Professor Duncan Higgins by email or telephone +44 (0)115 848 8443.

Related projects

Summer Lodge (established 2009) and Winter Lodge (established 2011) are two core research activities within the Art Research provision.Collectively they enable the critical development of research practices, exploring possibilities for a shared philosophy/lexicon for research within fine art.

Whilst all members of the staff team are fully engaged in individual research activity, the Lodges are an innovative critical platform for sharing practice, developing collaborations, and for gaining peer feedback and critique on in-progress research activities. Both ‘lodges’ are an open, generative space for experimenting and testing new work/ideas, supported by invited guests to addressed specific concern relevant to artistic research and research based teaching: initiating new dialogues and critical exchange by engaging in an opportunity to think through making.