What is it about staircases that you find artistically inspiring?
It’s really easy to neglect how incredible staircases are - after all, going up and down them is a basic experience we have as part of our daily routines.
The beauty of a staircase in a gallery is that it’s the space where you move, in between the standing still and looking at the collections. As you move up or down the staircase, you can form different perspectives of the artwork as you observe it from different directions, moving through and approaching the work in a different way. At Leeds Art Gallery, the Victorian staircase is the vein of the building. It connects the visitor to the more traditional gallery spaces, and what will be the incredible newly renovated central gallery. Creating an installation on the staircase – the space ‘in between’ – will make the staircase a type of gallery itself: a functional space, but also a space to observe.
How do you find the contrast of creating contemporary art inside a historic building?
Working with historical architecture is often the most challenging. The Victorian staircase is a piece of history, and acts as a reminder of the past. The stairs are the roots of a building that now has very contemporary parts and a modernist façade. I wanted to bring colour, and life, back to the staircase – merging a contemporary aspect with its Victorian context. I like the juxtaposition of that.
When you have an idea for a piece of work, what is your process to then create it?
I can produce anything from 6-10 different variations of designs for one piece of work – the hardest part is narrowing these down! Once I have chosen the composition, I then approach colour and look at how it can be used.
I don’t consider there ever being a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ – there are only options. Strangely enough, I often come back to my original idea after going through this whole process.
You’ve talked before about your interest in the relationship between painting and sculpture. What is it that you find so interesting?
If you paint within a structure, it automatically becomes three-dimensional. I’m interested in this quality, and how you can experience a piece of work with your whole body by the way that you move through the space. Painting gives a skin to a sculpture, and my installation will be a skin for the staircase. Entering the staircase will be like going inside the sculpture.
You’ve designed a series of exclusive rewards for Leeds Art Gallery’s Art Happens crowdfunding campaign. Which is your favourite reward?
I’m a big fan of china and tea cups! I’m an active collector and have over 100 pieces. I love the fragility of the material; it’s far more precious than silver, which is not easily broken. I see the teacups as pieces of sculpture because they can be enjoyed purely to look at.
How would you like Leeds Art Gallery visitors to experience your work?
I want visitors to Leeds Art Gallery to break the barriers of ‘looking at art’ – dissolving those boundaries of how to conventionally view collections. The visitor will have a theatrical experience of walking through the work, experiencing it alongside the beauty of the building. This incredible spatial experience will be through an act that they would do in their daily lives - climbing stairs.
How does it feel, knowing that you will be able to bring your students to see your work?
It will be a great thing to be able to show students the work in-situ and explain about the project. This will be a great example of ‘art in context’ for them (which is one of their modules) and will allow them to see me as a practicing artist. Seeing the staircase will be a great example of how my research and practical work feeds into teaching.
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