How Sculpture Show North Sculpted the Local Leeds Art Scene
When mentioning art, paintings are often what come to mind. Nonetheless, this Leeds Inspired-funded, free-of-charge exhibition with a focus on sculptures has had over 2,500 visitors in ten days.
The idea for Sculpture Show North came about during the Covid-19 pandemic when organiser and exhibiting artist David Iredale realised both artists and art-lovers needed an escape. After months of digitised art pieces on display, this event was one of the first to emerge post-lockdown. Oeuvres made during the pandemic, or inspired by it, were showcased.
Ane Freed-Kernis found the show refreshing as a participating artist, “It is noticeable that an art show focusing solely on sculptures is rare, which makes Sculpture Show North unusual. All the other arts events tend to be focused on paintings, with sculpture as an afterthought.” Leeds based exhibiting artist Mandy Long agrees with her on this, “I don’t have much experience in painting yet, but I think painting always seems to get more of a spotlight on it.”
As much as Long shared her love for Leeds with us, she questions the art and culture sphere in this city. “What do we have in our city that people would get on the train for? Sometimes I feel we as a city should have a greater presence of all arts generally, and yes, definitely sculptures.” Even with the celebrated Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle (consisting of the Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute) in the area, the accessibility of local exhibitions is still a concern. Long finds the pieces at the Henry Moore Institute underwhelming, admitting that while they are “experimental”, she hopes Leeds had “another gallery space that is a little more accessible to people”.
Freed-Kernis believes Sculpture Show North mitigates this problem, “I think the show compliments some of the other sculpture events in the area. One of the things I thought it added was an accessible event, both in terms of geography and price.” James, 42, who visited the exhibition briefly also showed his appreciation for the location, claiming that he enjoyed killing time there while waiting for a train.
“The general opinion of most local sculptors is that [the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle] have little interest in sculptors who are not either well known or a famous name,” said Iredale. In contrast, all artists at the Sculpture Show North were chosen because of their well-executed and well-finished pieces, rather than the reputation of the artist. He believes the opportunity to exhibit at “an iconic venue, at good rates, and alongside their peers” was what set it apart.
19-year-old visitor Annabella reckons the venue played a large role in differentiating the show from ‘traditional’ art galleries as “it would bring a different audience to view them.” The event had a rather “casual laid-back vibe” to James in comparison to museums, especially with some of the artists present.
When taking the exhibition down, Long concluded, “I think [the turnout] is quite encouraging, that people do want it, they do like it.”
The Sculpture Show North, organised by David Iredale and Johnny Sunter, took place at the Leeds Corn Exchange from October 22nd to October 31st. The works of 16 artists and the visually impaired from Vision Support Harrogate District were displayed at the heart of the Grade I listed Victorian building.
The artists include Sergio Baroni, Marcia Bennett Male, Fiona Bowley, Mark Butler, Martin Copley, PJ Donnelly, Ane Freed-Kernis, David Iredale, Ian Knowles, Kay Latto, Cameron Lings, Mandy Long, Johnny Sunter, Barbara Taylor, Vision Support Harrogate, Steve Williams, and AB Wood Arts.
Image Credits: All belong to the Author