“Leeds has such a rich history and is full of beautiful architecture, which is why it’s a great source of inspiration for artists” says Level One Art student Melissa. This is why each September a fresh batch of artistic talent arrives at the University of Leeds to embark on the esteemed art course offered here. This year’s new recruits have been researching and investigating the significance of Armley Mills as part of Leeds’ historical connection with the industrial revolution. On 9th December, after building up their portfolios over the past months, they presented their final pieces in the gallery at the Mill.
On the whole the exhibition was very well executed; the venue was fairly small but the use of space was very professional and made it seem livelier and busier than perhaps it would have seemed in a larger setting. The pieces were effectively distributed across the room, mixing all kinds of artistic styles from sculptures to film, keeping the attention entirely dedicated to the art throughout the exhibition hall. The willingness of the artists to explain or elaborate on their inspiration was also definitely appreciated by the public.
I could feel the students excitement and eagerness to talk about the subject that they love.
Towards the end of the exhibition I managed to speak to several of the students, for most of whom it was their first ever exhibition. I could feel their excitement and eagerness to talk about the subject that they love. “It was really enjoyable to explore such a significant part of Leeds’ history while developing our own skills in new creative disciplines” explains another student. Many of the pieces on display tackled the issue of child labour in the mill during the industrial revolution, meaning that some of the art was able to really provoke an emotional reaction through the depiction of the atrocities that occurred at that time.
I was very impressed by all the talent featured at the exhibition, and the most notable work for me was Zoe Outram’s haunting oil painting of Armley Mills itself. She managed to contrast the picturesque scenery surrounding the mill with its “not so idyllic past,” to quote Zoe’s own description of her art.
Overall, the range of ideas explored -regarding not only the social history of Armley Mills but also the texture, aesthetic and setting of the building itself- and the variety of techniques used to examine these ideas were remarkable. If this exposition is what these talented students can produce in just three months, I have high expectations for the final degree show which will take place this summer.
Words and Images: Cameron Tallant