Charlotte Duffield heads down to XO on Kirkgate to explore the subtleties concealed in the colour white.
It was a bleakly grey and blustery afternoon when I visited the new temporary XO gallery, in Leeds’s Kirkgate Dewhurst building; full length rounded windows comprise one wall of the gallery space, making you feel like a goldfish in a bowl observing the monotony of the outside world. XO’s opening exhibition, An arrangement in White aimed to examine the relationship with the colour white and its significance. It claimed to create an immersive space away from distractions, and the starkly white wooden floorboards, and repetitively chiming music certainly contributed to an other-worldly aura. Emerging and mid-career artists had contributed pieces aiming to explore various connotations of the colour, from purity and divinity to oppression, and thus revealed the contradictory nature of the colour.
XO’s exhibition offers a distinct and theoretical examination of a common and connotative colour
The open plan arrangement of the exhibition allows the viewer to wander amongst the exhibits, experiencing each piece spontaneously and formulate their own opinions on the linkages between each artefact. The pieces varied from photographs and singular objects such as a hand painted pub sign, white Adidas tracksuit and large roll of brail, to installations. A large white cloud inscribed in black lettering with the phrase ‘…oh god…’ hangs from the ceiling, as a reminder of heavenly associations, and a series of striped pyjamas similarly allude to dream-filled sleep. Other installations were more obscure, such as a food processor arranged on moss, and a sculpted white face; what the exhibition lacks in visual satisfaction it makes up for in prompting exploration of thought and individual interpretation. Surprisingly, after twenty minutes, the resonating music was grating and the barrenness of the room induced feelings of negativity and discomfort rather than ethereal splendour. For those willing to analyse and probe into the meaning of white, or merely escape the grey drizzle, XO’s exhibition offers a distinct and theoretical examination of a common and connotative colour.