Text by James Schofield.
After a series of proposal – led exhibitions throughout the summer acting as a precursor, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun stages the first exhibition in the organisation’s newly launched ongoing exhibition programme with by and by.
Displaying entirely new works by Ian Jackson and Francis Lloyd-Jones, the exhibition charts the influence their working relationship has had on their respective practices over the past four years to date. As a result of their prolonged exposure to one another through acts such as ongoing conversations and creating and exhibiting work together, the pair have seen (unwittingly at first) cultural aspects of the other seep into the thinking of themselves. This has led to an accrual and collection of information and creation of works that had no tangible bearing on their individual practice until viewed in conjunction with the other artist, with ‘by and by’ representing the culmination of this ongoing mutualistic relationship.
Being shown as a grouping of works with no defined author the exhibition could easily be read as the cohesive practice of one artist, and it is in this ambiguity that the show revels, sharing authorship and forming new narratives and avenues for discourse.
The subtlety and nuance of the pair’s relationship is noticeably transferred to the artworks they both produce. Inside the gallery itself the exhibition takes a step away from the visual busyness of the recent shows that preceded it, and instead exudes a sense of meditative calm.
Occupying every wall save for the wire rug of Warped and Left (2015) which casts a solitary yet embracing figure on the floor in the middle of the gallery, the works comfortably fill the space without ever overcrowding it. This subtlety acts as a reflection of the artists themselves, with the works slowly seeping into collective consciousness without any overarching cause to do so, becoming a part of the environment to be decoded at a later juncture. They become almost an afterthought to the visitor’s experience within the space, darting in and out of perception on the periphery of vision until a fleck of pastel or wood grain catches the eye and draws the viewer back into the display.
Although at a distance the works appear unobtrusive and potentially unengaging upon closer inspection they fixate and intrigue. The quality of craftsmanship in each piece is evident, none more so than in Sun Pots (2015) and Introverts (2015). Placed on a plinth running half the length of the back wall of the space, the handmade stoneware pots coloured with iron – rich cyanotype solution and hand – lathed introverted pieces of wood belie the complexity of their creation and reinforce the everyday, almost domestic feel the works as a whole convey.
Through their conscious display for the first time, the pieces allow the artists to finally begin to come to terms with just what their relationship is or has the potential to become in the future. Summed up through the idiom of the exhibition’s title, by and by is finally allowing both Jackson and Lloyd-Jones to make sense of their roles as cultural contributors in relation to one another, and bringing their work to a much wider audience in a crucial stage of their early artistic careers.
Reflecting the ethos of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, the mature and refined exhibition seamlessly launches the new exhibition programme of the gallery without the need for fanfare, but rather lets the strength of the work and artists shine through in a display of understated elegance.
James Schofield is an artist and curator based in Leeds and Liverpool.
by and by, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Leeds.
21 February – 7 March 2015