Artists’ Research Centre (ARC)

Exhibition: Material Environments

Tetley Gallery, Leeds

Material Environments is an exhibition about the transformative power of materials and the ways in which materials from clay to light inform our perceptions of the world. Bringing together a diverse range of artists and featuring new commissions alongside historic works, the exhibition will create a series of transformations across the Tetley’s gallery spaces. From light as bright as the sun and an audio telescope listening to the sounds of the cosmos to an immersive environment of imagined botanical porcelain and intimate hideaways, the exhibition is a challenge to the conventions of how a gallery is used, opening our eyes to the ways in which the materials round us dictate our expectations and how we see the world.

For this show The Tetley galleries will become a site not just for the display of artwork but a place of live production, experiment, making and participation. Artists will work across multiple spaces, inside and out; all of which will be open to visitors. Some works will grow and evolve over the course of the show, others operating as installations, workshops or laboratories. In addition to this fluid and evolving exhibition, a week long series of intensive Experiments Workshops will form the centre piece of the exhibition.

In this way Material Environments departs from an experience of art based on the environments in which we find it – paintings in a gallery and performance in a theatre – towards an understanding of art as something which defines our environment.


Roger Hiorns

Roger Hiorns’ work BULB creates a physical transformation of the gallery space. A bulb is hung from the ceiling of the gallery in the centre of the room and is covered in the artists’ own seamen. At 1000 watts, the most powerful available on the open market, when the work is illuminated the brightness bleaches colour from the room. The light is almost a physical presence in the space impossible to ignore but at the same time impossible to look at directly without causing damage to the retina. An aggressive force, but there is also a pleasure in the work; the brightness causes a rupture of everyday norms, creating a space in which to delight in our surroundings from a fresh perspective. This awareness of our own presence or existence in relation to the work relates directly to the absence of the artist. The work is made of the most ephemeral of material and yet when it is turned off the artist’s hand, his body becomes apparent. The bulb’s coating has burnt or fired the outer layer creating a patina reminiscent of Japanese glazed pottery. Part of Hirons’ ongoing investigations into the intersection of ideas at apparently opposite ends of a spectrum; control and chaos, theological and technological, construction and destruction. The work contains a mysticism – a duality which it is impossible to perceive concurrently – like the wonder of magic trick before one sees how it is done.

Serena Korda

Korda’s new exhibition Missing Time opens at the Baltic Gateshead on 9 February 2018.

For the past year Serena Korda, as part of her residency at Newcastle University, has been carrying out a series of material investigations in ceramics, extending her interests in astro-acoustics researching ancient maps and tools for reading and tracking the stars; building instruments to listen to the sounds of the cosmos. Here Korda combines her research of astro acoustics, listening cones and analogue broadcasting techniques to develop a new series of sound works, combining the mystery of early astrological and scientific instruments with an embodiment of the deep rooted curiosity in the ‘other’, spirituality and the unidentifiable. Korda’s work is an articulation of these apparently conflicting schools of rational and spiritual thought; an engagement with the ritualism of the human experience and the objects and materials through which such transformations of perception, material and environment are believed to occur.

Phoebe Cummings

Clay artist Phoebe Cummings was named the winner of the inaugural £10,000 Woman’s Hour Craft Prize on Wednesday 8 November 2017. Find out more about the Prize here

Cummings’ exhibition, Model for a Common Room curated by Rose Lejeune is currently on at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool.

Phoebe Cummings makes her work through manipulations of unfired clay into delicate, organic forms drawing inspiration from the natural world. Her sculptural objects, sprouting from walls and cracks, hanging from ropes and wire constructions or as architectural interventions have a delicacy and ephemerality that belies the material they are made from. Cummings’ work is in a tradition of temporal sculpture, the clay she uses dries out, so the work itself decays and degrades. Sometimes this process is incorporated into the production, as a form of performance, in which the works are made and destroyed within the same cycle. Extending the life and production time of the works, Cummings also constructs environments around them; humid plastic shelters in further extending the transformation of the spaces in which she works into fantastical, mysterious worlds reminiscent of dreams and grottos in which scale and materials become uncertain. The fantastical, ornamental aesthetic evident in Cummings’ sculptures draws on her wider research interests into baroque ceramics and decoration in which one finds lush landscapes and impossible assemblages of landscapes, plant, animals and humans set within a narrative framework. For her commission at the Tetley, Cummings has chosen to develop this area of research into the relationship between baroque decoration and the narrative environment – a fantastical projection of the imagination rendered as a physical world – transforming space, perception and material in a physical experiment developed throughout the course of the exhibition.

Joanna Piotrowska

Johanna Piotrowska’s photographic series Shelter sees her visiting people’s homes and inviting them to create constructions, dens and habitations from the furniture within their living spaces. The resulting works are narrative, poignant and personal. The constructions reflecting of their creators inner life, their history and state of mind, transforming perceptions drawn from their homes and creating hidden narratives emerging from both the shelters themselves and the ways in which their owners choose to inhabit them. The construction of private spaces within the home is a telling process, which is both revealing and private, a transformation of space and material into something deeply personal and primarily not for public gaze. For this exhibition photographs from the Shelter series will be presented throughout the gallery spaces creating moments of pause, rupturing for a moment our sense of what might have been possible in these industrial and administrative spaces.

Keith Harrison

Keith Harrison’s work is often made in response to the sites where it is encountered, both embracing their history and challenging their use. Pervious works have involved flying cars through a forest and endangering the entire ceramics collection of the V&A Museum as part of his residency there. For Material Environments Harrison has been commissioned to make a new work, spanning interior and exterior spaces, responding to the industrial heritage of the Tetley’s site. The work will develop over the course of the exhibition with an explosive interlude planned for the Experiments Workshop in May 2018.

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