After attending one of the biggest “lovefests” of the year, in other words, my friend’s country garden wedding in North Yorkshire, two friends and I decided to take advantage of our location and visit The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (in addition to the renowned Bettys tearoom to purchase gifts). I consider these to be two of the North East’s best contemporary art spaces in the UK…the Site Gallery in Sheffield is a favourite too (amongst others)…I could go on but not right now. That might make a good blog post…rating UK art spaces…note to self.
On display at The Hepworth was Haroon Mirza…a sound installation artist that I’ve followed for many years now. He has always impressed me with his dialogic relationships between systems and structures, formats and formulas, physics and science, music and sound, the mind and soul…how sound can pierce the psyche in such a simple way visual and aural way. I have blogged in the past, February 2012 in Bristol. His current exhibition, divided over two gallery spaces, is an audio composition set against physical light installations, which draw attention to the usually unheard and unseen parts of an art gallery. Works from The Hepworth collection, sculptures and paintings (a successful interplay of the traditional and contemporary), are illuminated in the show through a series of coloured lights that accentuate and flicker in sequence under the works. The second gallery space echoes these relationships, isolating the coloured lights to created wall-based space structures against a sound-proofed wall that becomes Mirza’s composition and listening room. Here, you listen to the unheard sounds of electricity which have been generated by the flickering coloured lights in the first gallery space, and also by the River Calder’s weir that flows past the gallery and is usually insulated by the building. This creates an infectiously repetitive audio dialogue that bleeds into the psyche, my psyche, calming your inner voice, to me creating a sense of mind clarity. I could listen to this forever, whereas my friends found it somewhat unnerving and had to leave.
One thing I can’t wait to see develop is their new contemporary art exhibition space, to be in the ground floor of Caddies Wainwright Mill that sits adjacent to The Hepworth…a 19th century former textiles mill on the River Calder…600 square metres in space and free entry. It is opening with the Turner Prize nominated and Birmingham artist Roger Hiorns who will exhibit his entire body of Youth works for the first time that question mortality, belief and meaning. How it will be sustained is the question.
When I visited last weekend, my friend and previous colleague (who now works high up at The Lowry in Manchester) commented on the fact that The Hepworth is very much a destination venue, not a passing place as such. We had a huge discussion into how it goes about engaging repeat visitors, where in the two years it’s been open, I’ve only been twice, whereas my friend had actually been twice this year. We’d noticed the car park ticket price had gone up which must be to subsidise the running of the gallery. We thought that as visitors that are closely involved in the arts, it was funny how we couldn’t visit a space without considering aspects of funding, marketing and curating. It away becomes “work to us”…where my friend had to take away all their print material “for reference”.
We were lucky it was such a beautiful day that Sunday…as you can see below. Hello blue sky UK…you’re a treat when you actually come out to play. There’s nothing quite like a tired Sunday adventure stroll around Yorkshire Sculpture Park in all its beautiful English glory. This is something I definitely missed when I was in China. Blue sky days and grassy fields. I heart the UK sky (in case you didn’t already know).