February Visual Art Digest
Since last November I have been setting aside a day each month to see what Leeds visual art exhibitions have to offer. Here’s what I saw in January.
The Poet Wordsworth, by Christopher P Wood, 2008, oil on canvas © Christopher P Wood
Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery
I have to admit that I’ve never been to the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery before, even though there’s been a gallery there since 1970. They’ve been doing a lot recently to try and rectify that (not just me visiting but lots of other people too) with events for adults and children and a lot more publicity than previously. I think the biggest challenge for them is being inside a university building, it’s quite hard to go up all those big steps and through those big doors at the front of the Parkinson Building when you haven’t been a student in Leeds. There’s a slight feeling that someone will stop you and ask to see student id at any moment, but nobody will as it’s a public building and everyone is welcome. The gallery has a very interesting permanent collection, including works by Stanley Spencer, Patrick Caulfield and Jacob Kramer; they also had a section where University art students displayed their work. So although I went to the gallery specifically to have a look at the current exhibition of work by Christopher P Wood, which you can see until 23rd March, I was very pleasantly surprised by how good the whole gallery is. Wood’s exhibition is of unseen works, combining painting and collage. The paintings have a mystical quality, often quite surreal, that very occasionally leans a little too close to fantasy painting (think prog rock album covers and Dungeons and Dragons conventions) for my liking but is absolutely saved by Wood’s masterful manipulation of the paint on the canvas. Where you would expect to see fine detailing for the landscapes there is instead daubed and scraped oil paint that pulls this mysticism brilliantly away from any kind of cliché; he then uses fine detail sparingly and to great effect. I really enjoyed the paintings and collages so would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this exhibition and the rest of the gallery. There are also lots of events running in conjunction with the exhibitions, so check out the website for more details.
Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916)
‘Development of a Bottle in Space’ (1913, cast 2004–5)
Bronze, 112 x 40 x 90cm
Private collection, photo: Vittorio Calore, Milan
Henry Moore Institute
Next stop was the Henry Moore Institute and there’s an interesting exhibition here that is only on until 17th February so get a move on if you want to catch it. It’s called 1913 The Shape of Time and looks at sculptures that were first produced in 1913 but that have, in many cases, been cast or replicated at a later date. 1913 is, of course, 100 years ago this year and was an extraordinary year in European culture, with artists and thinkers finding more experimental ways to look at and represent the increasingly confusing modern world. So the work on show isn’t just limited to sculpture and some was very familiar to me, a Picasso collage ‘Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass and Newspaper’ was particularly striking. I also really liked Vladimir Baranov-Rossine’s sculpture called Rhythm and Otto Gutfreund’s cubist busts. I have a soft spot for the art of this time as cubism and futurism were the movements that really grabbed my attention as a teenager. I think you’d get the most out of the exhibition if you delve deeper into the context and read all the literature that goes with it. There have been a number of events, talks and film showings running in conjunction with the exhibition and there are a couple you can still see before the exhibition finishes; a talk by David Hopkins on Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Bicycle Wheel’ at 6pm on Wednesday 6th Feb, and a screening of two films made in 1913 on Saturday 3rd Feb. See the website for more details.
Leeds Print Festival/Leeds Gallery/Colours May Vary
Finally I went to see the Leeds Print Festival exhibition at Leeds Gallery (not the City Art Gallery but a new-ish independent gallery opposite the bus station in Munroe House). The Print Festival has been running all week, with a load of workshops at the weekend and talks during the week. I enjoyed looking at the work on show, all great quality and interesting prints at affordable prices. The current exhibition will be finished by the time this article is published but they’ve got a photography exhibition, One By One… By The Way coming up next by Tony Woolliscroft who toured with Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters. It’s a great space and has a fantastic cafe, Cafe 164, next door. And if that wasn’t enough there’s also a brilliant shop, Colours May Vary, stocking all things wonderfully arty; prints, books, magazines and all sorts of other fantastic stuff, situated just across the corridor and also in Munroe House.
Finally I’d like to give a mention to & Model, a new gallery that has opened opposite the Henry Moore Institute/Art Gallery/Library and looks like it might start to fill the gaps in the middle of the visual arts provision in Leeds. We have a fantastic ground roots, DIY scene and good big galleries but not a lot for emerging artists to get their teeth into a few years after graduation. I didn’t get a chance to visit & Model this month as their first day of opening was actually on my January Art Day but I didn’t become aware of them until it was too late! They have an exhibition of works by Emma Alonze, Joseph Buckley, Richard Caldicott, information as material and Emily Musgrove running until 2nd March so I’ve put them on the list for February.
Please add a comment below if there are any exhibitions you think I should visit in February for the next digest. Thanks