Monday, May 4, 2015

Left Bank Leeds

Several times already during the exhibition's run folk have commented upon how well the show is lit, and we've been asked where we sourced our lights from...

They're on loan from Left Bank, a beautiful arts and events venue on the Cardigan Road in Burley, and we are very grateful to the folks there for letting us borrow them :-)

If you've never been there before, we'd recommend that you have a browse of their website - - and take in one of their events. It's not much to look at from the outside, but once you get in to the main body of the building it's a really inspiring space - one of Leeds' hidden architectural gems.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Jon Vogler on his piece for Station 11 - 'Christ is nailed to the cross'

"When I was small I had a crucifix – a cross about six inches long of some dark wood with a figure cast in some silver metal.  I didn’t think much about it – I certainly didn’t reflect on the hideous act it depicted.  It was just one of the things I had, like the box of wooden bricks and the furry black cat stuffed with straw.  And just as the cat was about cuddling something at night and the bricks were about building a castle and knocking it down, so the crucifix was about praying, with my mother and sister, that the war would end soon.

So it was an acute sense of things and the materials they are made from that led to me becoming an engineer and, later, attempting sculpture.  There are other ways that artists represent ideas – as lines drawn with a pencil or as paint brushed on a canvas, as music or video or  text.   One of the wonderful features of this exhibition, besides  the spiritual diversity of the artists, is the diversity of the media that have been used.  But for me the piece had to be about things and materials because they are so immediate and so tangible.

The crucifixion is one of the great subjects of art throughout the Christian era.  However since Grunewald’s Isenheim altarpiece, painted five hundred years ago, which still makes me cringe every time I look at a picture of it, the image of the crucified figure has become perhaps too familiar. Do you scream when you see it in the window of the SPCK bookshop?  Probably not.   Muslims refuse to portray the human figure and perhaps they have a point .  So what object could I use that would express the physical awfulness of the execution?   Screwfix and the builders’ merchants didn’t sell nails of sufficient nastiness, so I found coach bolts and forged them; that means heating them to white hot and hammering them on a big cast-iron anvil.   You cannot get an action more physical than that nor, as I soon found, more tiring.  I was grateful to Leon Varga, the workshop technician at the College of Art (whose amazing angels’ wing backpacks you see here) who did much of the work and did it better than I could, to make the nails even more sinister.

My house contains a thousand things that are no longer of use but might come in handy one day.  The long wooden ladder was one and so was the box of all Jill’s discarded leather handbags.   The aged hand-saw, which has no symbolism but the task of  preventing the heavy nails and hammer head from sinking down out of sight, was actually removed from the scrap metal bin in the nick of time.  It made me reflect that the Roman soldiers probably had  a similar store of old tools and scrap materials in a shed behind their barracks.

I hope you will handle the eleventh station.   Draw one of the nails out of its holster or put your foot on the bottom rung of the ladder.  Art shouldn’t be remote or only aesthetic or intellectual.   It should be a way of helping us see common things, common events, in new ways; ways that excite or perplex or amaze us.  That is why the eleventh station of the cross doesn’t need a replica Christ made of resin or wood or bronze; because there are replicas of him all around us and all we have to do is to open our eyes and see."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Introducing... Steven Morant

"'Christ Carries His Cross' was intended to show the event taking place, in the present, outside Arcadia, (a two-storey pub in the Arndale Centre, Headingley, Leeds), chosen for two reasons.  Firstly, the main feature of its frontage is a Saint George's Cross (suggesting a composition based on  intersecting crosses.)  Secondly, because processions of characters in fancy-dress - 'toga- parties', Ancient Roman soldiers, or even individuals dressed as Christ,  walk past regularly, on their way between pubs on the 'Otley Run'.  As the drawing developed, and out of respect for the subject matter, the setting was adapted and it is less clear whether the event is taking place in the first or the twenty-first century."

Steven Morant is interested in the acquisition and revival of the sort of Classical, academic, figurative drawing-skills which were attained before the invention of photography and maintained throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Traditionally such skills were acquired through the drawing of plaster-casts and life drawing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Introducing... Gillian Holding

"One early morning in late spring 2014, I found myself sitting on the steps of the Armenian Guest House in the Old City of Jerusalem looking up the Via Dolorosa at a group of Japanese Christians struggling down the road under the weight of a massive cross. Turning my head to look down towards El Wad ha Gai street, I could see ultra-orthodox men rushing in the direction of the Kotel to pray, and Muslim shopkeepers opening up for the day. Just another day in Jerusalem, at a point of spiritual, geographical and religious intersection.

I was meeting my daughter (then living in Jordan) to go to a peace dialogue conference for Israeli Jews, Palestinians and a few internationals just outside Bethlehem. It was a further step on a personal journey to try and understand the unknown and unfamiliar, which had started in earnest five years earlier with my first visit to the Palestinian territories, and had since led to numerous visits to the area, including an extraordinary trip in 2013 visiting both sides as part of a mixed group of Leeds Jews and Muslims.

Engagement in local interfaith and dialogue work these last few years has not just been important for me personally, but also professionally. Since 2010, I have made a continuing series of work on the subject of conflict and the everyday, questioning my own prejudices and assumptions and beliefs. I have become convinced of the need to talk and listen and understand those we do not know in order to find peace. And inter-faith and inter-community dialogue is as important here in Leeds as anywhere else.

When I was invited to participate in The Stations of the Cross at St Edmunds, I accepted with enthusiasm, thinking back to those times Id walked the Via Dolorosa, albeit not from a Christian perspective. But being allocated the first station - the condemnation of Jesus - presented a particular challenge for a Jewish artist. After all, this stage of the narrative lies at the root of the history of Christian anti-semitism, and exploring the gospels accounts in the light of what was to follow was slightly disconcerting. As a lawyer, I was sensitive to inconsistencies and contradictions and found myself searching for an historical account of this charismatic first century Jewish leader.

Two thousand years on, a palpable rise in anti-semitism of a slightly different nature is disturbing Jewish communities across Europe. And not just the Jewish community; there is a disconcerting and worrying suspicion of Muslims everywhere based on unfounded assumptions and prejudices, and appalling persecution of entire groups of Christians in the Middle East. Saddest of all for me at the present time, is the unfounded demonisation of an entire people by the Israeli government, alongside the growing demonisation of all Israelis by a large part of the Arab world. I think being honest about our own prejudices is a vital first step in overcoming the general intolerance many people face on a daily basis."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Introducing... Carla Moss

Si: Hi Carla, I was talking to someone about your work recently, and they said that, considering that it's about the nature of space and time, it's really accessible and engaging...

Carla: Hi Si, thanks! I’m sure it's accessible to some, but not to others - even if we all live within time and space...

I’ve really enjoyed making the piece for the Stations, getting my hands dirty with clay is something I’ve not done in a long time.

The piece is about space and time and about the sharing and experiencing of an event in alternative times. For example, we, now, are experiencing this as a representation of an event that we are told happened a long time ago. In doing so we straddle those times unconsciously and effortlessly...

The work itself is split into 3 parts: an object (the Sculpture), a book, and a film. (In keeping with our current cultural make-the-most-of-all-avenues-of-sharing-a-story...??? but it’s not just that!) Each element is linked to the other and for me represents a different part of the essence of the story. The sculpture, made in clay, links to the Christian teachings about man made from the earth – so in a way it represents Jesus’s humanity. It is unfired and will over time turn back to dust. 

The book is the imprint of the clay: where it stood and where it fell. I’ve called it ‘the legacy of a fall the fall of a legacy’ because it is! As a book it also reminds me and echoes how we know so much about this story in the first place - through books and writings that have been passed down through the ages. 

The film is the record of the falls. This ‘station’ is the second one, so the sculpture had to fall twice. The film runs for just over 8 minutes 20 seconds which is the length of time light takes to get from the sun to the earth. I like to play with words, and I like that in English ‘Son’ and ‘Sun’ sound the same, and that Jesus is described as ‘light’ and coming from above to earth. 

Si: I love this piece; partly because i think it's a really interesting and thought-provoking way of looking at the subject matter; and partly because - knowing you and your work a little - i can see some of the concepts and ideas that inspire you being reflected upon and explored in this exhibit...

For folk who are maybe a little less familiar with more conceptual forms of art, I wonder if you could explain a bit about your working process...?

Carla: wow, I have no idea to describe my working process except it involves lots and lots of hours thinking, drawing, writing, reading, reflecting, making, talking... It is intense (I am pretty intense myself so it’s not surprising). For a long time I was interested in our relationship with the environment and focused particularly on the shrinking Aral Sea in Kazakhstan which has suffered from rapid environmental change and has failed to adapt and survive in the process. 

My thoughts are very complex and layered about it all and I mainly go though a process of asking questions why? what? how? etc. A few years ago I got interested in looking at time, because I wanted to understand it better and because our relationship to it seems in opposition to looking after the environment around us. But it is complex and every thought is only an iceberg tip in a bigger picture. 

So my process is: I want to understand something, I read / talk / research / think /make artwork etc about it, which presents new questions and I do that again. In no particular order! And those areas of interest are about our relationship with the environment and our relationship with time.

Si: I always find it fascinating to talk with artists about how they see and think about stuff like this :-)
When you're in the process of making something, are you thinking much about the audience - do you have in mind a response that you want to elicit from people who see the work?

 No. I think very little about the audience when I make the work and it’s mainly for an audience of one, namely me. I do not ‘begin with the end in mind’ as many business mantras advise – but then this is art not business (unless it is just business of course, in which case you get things like Damian Hirst’s circles!)...

I have found 2 things:
 1.when I make work for an audience it is less authentic to itself and
2.the discoveries that arise in being creative are only made possible when I say ‘I don’t know what happens next’.

I liken it to a child (not having had any children – I can only surmise this – but you have children, so perhaps you can tell me if it is similar or not...)

With a child s/he will do this or that, s/he will look like this or that and the people who interact with her/him will respond in a particular way. We cannot determine the outcome of any of these things as parents. Instead, we instil in our children our values, our love, the lessons that have been passed to us by our parents and friends, that we think create a healthy and happy life and we send them on their way. (And they discover, as we did with our parents, much later on, oh, yes, they were right!!!) We hope that if they offend, they do so for good reason – for the purpose of building a better world for all, we hope that if they love, they do so without selfishness and manipulation, we hope that they will fully be themselves, because in being themselves they will invite the same from others and so encourage the diversity and beauty that exists in the world. But that is idealistic and doesn’t necessarily happen. And it’s even much more than that. But, it serves as a metaphor. 

My work is like a child to me. It has its own life. It will interact with the ‘audience’ as it interacts (not least because the ‘audience’ brings all of itself to the work and sees the work through that lens). I hope it loves and does not offend (except to build a better world) (very subjective – but that’s the way it is...) and as my child it will undoubtedly reflect a lot of me. The artwork also ‘speaks’ back to me, I might try a new process or a method, or I might just start doing something because I think it’s a good idea and end up with an answer to a question or a question to an answer. It’s like breathing, it comes in, some of it gets assimilated, some of it goes out again...
And the audience adds to it as others influence the life of a child.

I think you might ask me another question...! 

Si: I think that child analogy is a good one, actually :-)
You make the work and send it out into the world where it will hopefully have a life beyond the limits of your own expectations for it...
There's this popular romantic idea of the artist sitting waiting for the muse to take hold of them, for inspiration to strike; but the reality is that the act of creation is a whole lot messier than that, with a lot of graft and perspiration and failure and grappling with stuff involved... 

Anyhow, here's your last question...!

You have a space at Patrick Studios in the city - for anyone who's not familiar with East Street Arts and their venues, can you tell us a bit about that?

Carla: I’ve been at Patrick’s for a few years. It’s a large studio space with about 30 studios. It’s an inspiring place to work and there is a lot of mutal support that happens amongst the artists. Sharing of experiences for example about exhibitions that are going on, or projects to get involved with. Or just the regular laugh over a coffee. Plus it’s great to be around the East Street Folks who always have a new project or event up their sleeve. 

You can find out more about Carla's work and see some of her recent projects (including the fruits of an arts residency in Sicily earlier this year) on her website at