Material Environments

A room in a gallery with wooden floor and panelled walls. The room seems to be entirely filled by a large red ball. A visitor stands beside it.
Keith Harrison, Bad Shit, 2018. Courtesy the artist and The Tetley. Photo Jules Lister.

The Tetley’s latest exhibition, Material Environments, curated by Ben Roberts, represents an ongoing dialogue between research, practice, experimentation and participation between five artists across a number of disciplines. Acting as a backdrop for the ongoing engagements, the original interiors of the brewery headquarters have become enveloped by each artist, fostering environments for research, engagement and creative development.

In the atrium, ceramicist Phoebe Cummings has installed an immersive, but veiled, botanical fantasy world, where large-scale clay fauna landscapes exist in parallel to the research room opposite. Drawing inspiration from ceramic figurines and science fiction literature, the intricate clay sculptures that Cummings has created so far, dominate their humid surroundings, with a view to multiply in number over the coming weeks. Visitors will be able to witness the process and endeavour in creating such landscapes, but will also feel in awe of their scale and dystopian vision. Once the exhibition ends, all used clay will be given back to the earth in a symbolic gesture that replicates the power the medium contains.

A sculpture made of clay and armatures. It gives a sense of growth and decay, recalling soil and plants as well as post-industrial landscapes. Around it are simple stud walls covered in clear plastic.

Phoebe Cummings, A Ripening Survelliance, 2018. Courtesy the artist and The Tetley. Photo Jules Lister.

Across the hall, Keith Harrison’s manipulation of space and chemicals span two adjoining offices that once served the original brewery business. Harrison simulates the original brewery process by harnessing CO2 gas across a circuit of barrels, constantly inflating an installation in what would have been the management’s office and signaling the accumulating wealth gained from the brewery’s operations. Harrison will also use The Tetley’s surroundings to harness the gas and liquid by-products to further interrogate relationships between storage and production.

In galleries four, five and six, Serena Korda has created an audio experiment in response to the notion of Clairaudience.’ Translated as Clear Hearing, recordings collected at Todmorden and Leeds create a sound installation in combination with an external astral dipole radio telescope. Throughout the exhibition the soundscape will expand, inviting audiences to meditate upon the relationships sound has within our lives. Korda has also connected with UFO watching communities, detailing documented sights and sounds of extra-terrestrial activity. Alongside the documentation is a newly created glass harp to be used during the exhibition. Visitors are invited to contribute in expanding the glass harp’s range.

In gallery seven and eight, Harold Offeh has created a live archive entitled ‘The Real Thing: Towards an Authentic Live Archive’. Concerned with reality, realness and authenticity, Offeh considers the meanings these concepts have within our increasingly mediated lives, where the evolving nature of the installations will bring together various artefacts and disciplines. New works will be added to gallery eight, further exploring to the concept of ‘The Real Thing’. Offeh also presents a collaborative work in the Shirley Cooper Gallery in the form of performance and photography, responding to the popular 1980s album sleeve pose of ‘Lounging’.

Throughout the first floor and gallery nine, photographer Joanna Piotrowska has installed a series of works considering the construction of dens within people’s domestic interiors. The dichotomy between transformed space and sanitised construction elements bring warmth and personality to the created private environments. Harnessing personal narratives in the photographs correlates beautifully to the Tetley’s past, where industrial wealth was openly displayed within the insular and private domain of their regal headquarters.

The scale and ambition displayed by all artists on show, and the Tetley’s programming, presents harmonious dialogues between creative experimentation and the building’s heritage interior that lends itself to the creating an exhibition that feels fresh, engaging and thought-provoking. No matter the setting, Material Environments demonstrates an ability to reflect and sympathise, finding new layers of meaning in our own domesticities and beyond.

Material Environments, The Tetley, Leeds, 4 May – 8 July 2018.

Louis D’Arcy-Reed runs the art practice HelloEsposito, based online and in Yorkshire. He is also a PhD Student in Architecture, Contemporary Arts and Psychoanalysis, writer, poet and sometimes Curator.

Published 17.05.2018 by Elspeth Mitchell in Reviews

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