Spotlight on Public Art

One of the most famous sculptures on campus has moved!

William Chattaway Walking Figure Opposite the Gallery

Image: William Chattaway, Walking Figure, 1989 recast of 1968 original, bronze, (c) W H Chattaway, image (c) University of Leeds

William Chattaway's much-loved Walking Figure used to be tucked away in the corner of Parkinson Court. In the busy thoroughfare of the Court, people often passed by this striking artwork without truly appreciating Chattaway's craftsmanship. Our lovely lady was sometimes even overshadowed by event hoardings and stalls and her plinth proved a popular resting place for the odd coat or bag!

However, in a bid to inject more culture on campus, Walking Figure has been allowed to take centre stage opposite the Gallery. As you can see by her stance, she looks ready to stride forward through the doors. We like to think she is watching over us and is eager to see our collections!

Chattaway's Walking Figure has a very interesting history but you'll have to wait until Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Frank Finlay's blog in December to find out!

New Acquisition!

We have recently been presented with ten etchings from the Contemporary Art Society, with support from the University of Leeds.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, First Flight, 2015

Image: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, First Flight (details), 2015, etchings, Courtesy: Corvi-Mora, London and Jack Shainman Gallery. 

First Flight (2015) by renowned artist and Turner Prize 2013 nominee, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, comprises ten portrait etchings of single black men dressed in feathered ruffs.

The works were created to accompany Yiadom-Boakye's recent solo show at the Serpentine Gallery, 'Verses after Dusk' (2015).

As an artist, Yiadom-Boakye explores the traditions of painting by focusing on technique, structure, composition and colour to ask questions about identity and representation in art. The subjects in First Flight are imaginary and compiled from memories, sketches and photographs. Plain backgrounds, unknown settings and the fact that ordinary black subjects are depicted invite the viewer to construct their own narrative around the artworks and reflect upon the absence of black people in traditional portraiture. 

Seeing non-famous black people presented in an artistic style and pose usually associated with Western tradition could also be seen as an attempt to normalise the presence of black people in the canon of art history. The more we are exposed to something, the more accepting of it and accustomed to it we become.

Another interesting observation is the lyricism of the title. Not only does this highlight Yiadom-Boakye's parallel interest in writing short stories and poetry but the literary element further encourages viewers to 'read' and to find stories in her artworks. 

For me, First Flight evokes the pioneering attitude of Lynette; someone has dared to challenge tradition and even history itself in a bid to help us see art as art and people as people, without racial prejudice or preconceived notions as to what is 'correct' or 'normal'. 

The word 'flight' also links to the feathered ruffs around the men's necks. Perhaps the feathers symbolise freedom? We are so accustomed to seeing the collars of slavery weighing down black subjects in art that a ruff, with its historical 'white' connotations, helps us view the men in a more equal light. 

First Flight is currently on display in the Gallery.  Some of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's other paintings can also be seen at Leeds Art Gallery as part of the 'British Art Show 8' exhibition, which is on until 10 January 2016.

Spotlight on Public Art

Our new Public Art Student Placement, Emily Towler, reflects on her time spent volunteering with the Public Art Project so far.

Emily delivering a Public Art Shorts talk

It's been great so far volunteering on the Public Art Autumn Programme!  Since September, I've been able to get involved with a few of the projects and events, including reading Public Art poetry submissions at an event for National Poetry Day, giving lunchtime talks and meeting the lovely Public Art, Library and Gallery staff.

My favourite aspect of the role so far has been giving the lunchtime talk on Quentin Bell's The Dreamer.  As a part time student juggling study with work, I always seem to be rushing somewhere to make the most of my time here, and more often than not, the places where ideas start to come together are in the 'in-between spaces' - the courtyards and corridors around campus where public art punctuates places of reflection.  The Dreamer in particular is a stopping-off point for me, to enjoy the playful use of materials - the fibreglass lady masquerading as bronze floating serenely in Clothworkers' Court always makes me smile, so it was interesting to learn and share more about her.

It's also been fascinating to be helping out at a time when plans are being made for a Public Art programme for 2016. We are looking forward to celebrating the sculptor Mitzi Cunliffe's Man-Made Fibres and the rich textile history of the University and the area.  It's been really beneficial to see how a large scale project evolves and all the work that goes into it, and I'm excited about seeing the results next year.

Remembrance Day

To commemorate Remembrance Day, we have decided to reflect on our MA Students' moving First World War themed displays.

Map of France (Crop)

Image: Annotated 'Flying Map' of North West France belonging to John Arthur Aldridge (LIDDLE/WW1/AIR/003), 1915, issued by the War Office, Liddle Collection, University of Leeds

The Art of Warfare: Global Interaction and I'm On My Way: Communication, Movement and the First World War explore the different ways in which the First World War affected people from across the globe. The exhibitions contain artwork, original letters and artefacts that are both practical and symbolic.

Some individuals were told to document their experiences of the war through creative outlets, for example, war artists were commissioned to paint battle scenes and war equipment, whereas others sought solace in carving wooden objects or stitching beautiful handkerchiefs as mementos. 

Each item in the exhibitions has its own fascinating story to tell, however, one of the most evocative for me is John Arthur Aldridge's 'flying map' of North West France (1915). Aldridge was a young pilot serving with RAF No 19 Squadron on the Western Front in 1917-1918. He annotated his map of North West France with blue pen, marking the location of trenches with lines. It is interesting to note the quantity of these lines and how they change to reflect the constant shift in trench boundaries and positions.

Arguably the most remarkable thing about this object though is the difference in coloration. Most of the map is in pristine condition, particularly considering the age of the item, yet the creased portion over which Aldridge must have been flying is stained with grease and dirt, almost as if Aldridge was clutching his map in leather gauntlets similar to the pair displayed alongside the map. The map would also have been exposed to the elements as the cockpit of the Sopwith Dolphin aircraft was only partially covered. Heavy creases suggest that Aldridge scrunched up this map in order to fit it inside of his coat. 

Another interesting observation is the lack of distinguishing identifying features on the map. Aldridge couldn't write any personal information on the map lest it fall into enemy hands and reveal the Allies' intentions.

Marvel at Aldridge's map and be moved and inspired by the other items on display in the Gallery Education Room. The exhibitions are free and open until Saturday 19th December, 2015. 

Hallowe'en Highlights

It's spooky season so we thought we'd (trick or) treat you to some Hallowe'en Highlights from our collection.

Witch Post, Marie Hartley

Image: Marie Hartley, 'Witch Posts', 1972, ink drawing, © Marie Hartley Estate, image © University of Leeds

Witch Charm, Marie Hartley

Image: Marie Hartley, 'Five drawings on one board, for use in "Life in the Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire" centre drawing a seventeenth-century charm to avert witch evil and illness, 1972, pencil and ink, © Marie Hartley Estate, image © University of Leeds

These witch posts and witch charm were drawn by local artist and social history expert, Marie Hartley (1905 - 2006). In seventeenth century Yorkshire, people carved the cross of Saint Andrew on to oak posts supporting the fireplace to prevent witches from flying down the chimney and entering the house through the hearth. The cross was regarded as a kind of hex against black magic. 

A similar symbol can be seen on the witch charm. According to the note accompanying the drawing, the charm was used "to avert witch evil and illness".

North Yorkshire must be either a very superstitious area or a sensationally scary one because only two witch posts were found outside the county!

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Maurice de Sausmarez 1915-1969: A Centenary Exhibition

A look at the newly opened exhibition 'Maurice de Sausmarez 1915-1969'

The Gallery team has been hard at work on the installing of the latest temporary exhibition 'Maurice de Sausmarez 1915-1969.' Working in collaboration with guest curator Dr. Hilary Diaper and Maurice's widow, Jane de Sausmarez, this exhibition sees the first major retrospective of de Sausmarez's work displayed in all its glory. 

Maurice de Sausmarez, Self-portrait drawing, pencil on paper 29 x 21.5 (de Sausmarez Family Collection)

Image (right): Maurice de Sausmarez, Self portrait drawing, pencil on paper 29 x 21.5 (de Sausmarez Family Collection)

Maurice de Sausmarez had an impact on many lives through his work as both an artist and educator. He trained at the Royal College of Art just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Following the War, de Sausmarez moved to Leeds in 1947 where he helped to establish the Department of Fine Art at the University of Leeds, of which he was the head from 1951-1959. As a passionate arts educator, de Sausmarez inspired many artists and designers whose names are well-known today and his book Basic Design: the Dynamics of Visual Form (1964) is considered a seminal text for design students.  

De Sausmarez's own art maintained the traditional genres of portrait, still life and landscape, using the motif as a starting point to explore its inherent geometry, light, colour and space. This exhibition brings together items from the University's own art collection, loans from other institutions and archival material including notes and manuscripts which cover all stages of de Sausmarez's, sadly short, career.

Maurice de Sausmarez Farm on the Road

Image: Maurice de Sausmarez, Farm on the Road to Montaione, 1965, oil on canvas 61 x 142.5 cm (de Sausmarez Family Collection)

The exhibition opened on 20th October 2015, which would have been Maurice's 100th birthday, and in attendance were three generations of the de Sausmarez family, as well as past colleagues and students. It was one of these past students, Sir James Dyson, who did us the honour of officially opening the exhibition. In his opening speech, Sir Dyson reflected on the importance of de Sausmarez on both his and his wife, Lady Dyson's, lives. As he says in the preface to On Artists and their Making: Selected Writings of Maurice de Sausmarez: 'It was Maurice who sat me down after my year at Byam Shaw and forced me to think about the future. At that time, I wanted to be a painter. It had never occurred to me that there were other options open to me - but suddenly, there was Maurice telling me that I should be a designer. (...) Luckily, Maurice had a good deal more insight into my passions than I did. Almost 50 years later I have built a global technology company on Maurice's instinct that I would make a good designer.'

MdS Opening

'On Artists and their Making: Selected Writings of Maurice de Sausmarez', edited by Dr. Hilary Diaper was also launched at the opening of the exhibition by Lord Strathcarron, Chairman of the Unicorn Publishing Group.

The exhibition will be on show at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery until 20th February 2016, and admission is free. 

British Art Show 8

Our passion for Public Art just keeps on growing! We are delighted to be playing host to an important installation for British Art Show 8.

Gillick sculpture

Image: Liam Gillick, Lazzarato on Debt, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London. Part of Ahmet Ögüt with Liam Gillick, Susan Hiller and Goshka Macuga, Day After Debt (UK), 2015. A long-term counter-finance strategy in collaboration with Jubilee Debt Campaign. Co-commissioned by Create and Lafayette Anticipation - Fonds de dotation Famille Moulin, Paris.

In Parkinson Court, just outside the Gallery, you may have noticed a tall, red, cylindrical artwork, covered in white text. This striking piece, Lazzarato on Debt (2015), by artist Liam Gillick, is one of the results of a project led by Ahmet Öğüt, a renowned conceptual artist.

Öğüt, a strong advocate of art as a vehicle for social or political change, invited Gillick, along with artists Susan Hiller and Goshka Macuga (all of whom have featured in previous British Art Shows) to take part in Day After Debt (UK), a project tackling student debt. Öğüt asked the artists to design sculptures that function as public donation boxes, ranging from a telescope to a juke box, so it is fitting that Gillick's work is located right at the heart of the University.

Viewers and visitors are encouraged to donate and all funds raised will be redistributed through the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

Susan Hiller's Thanks for Listening (2015) can be found in the cafe at The Tetley, and Goshka Macuga's In Debt View (2015) can be seen in the entrance to Leeds Art Gallery.

Day After Debt (UK) is part of British Art Show 8 at Leeds Art Gallery from 9 October 2015 - 10 January 2016. Find out more at

Spotlight on Public Art - Autumn Selection

To herald the start of the new academic year, University of Leeds Vice Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands reflects on his favourite public artwork.

Cropped image of Chattaway's Hermes

Image: William Chattaway, The Spirit of Enterprise/Hermes, 1958, bronze, image © University of Leeds

William Chattaway's twenty foot bronze of Hermes is positioned high on the east wall of the Roger Stevens building above a large reflecting pool with fountains. It sits well with Chamberlin, Powell and Bon's modernist interpretation of what a University should look like; and it is the best example on campus of how public art can change and adapt to new settings and new audiences, creating fresh dialogues with its environment.

The back story appeals to me.  Chattaway's work was originally commissioned by the Midland Bank for their London headquarters, we think in the late 1950s. Chattaway called it Hermes but the bank suggested that the work should be renamed the Spirit of Enterprise because the Greek god Hermes "had a number of roles, including that of the guardian of less desirable characters".  More recent events suggest that the bank was right to be concerned about such malign influences!

Stanley Burton, a long-time supporter of the University and friend of the artist, made the inspired decision to rescue Hermes when the Midland building was sold to developers.  I imagine that Hermes - the protector and patron of herdsmen, thieves, oratory and wit, literature and poetry, athletics and sports, invention and trade, roads, boundaries and travellers - is happy in his new setting. He is a relatively young Olympian god concerned with transitions and he has the ability to move quickly and freely across boundaries.  Leaving thieves to one side, I am certain that he is much happier in our University than he ever was at a bank.

The University is committed to public art and the new campus art map makes the campus tour easy and enjoyable. Public Art will also feature on the new University of Leeds website map, which goes live on 12 October. As you follow the trail, visit the website or simply go about your normal business, keep an eye out for Hermes and rejoice in the fact that he is happy here, inspiring many aspects of University life, not least our commitment to food security, culture, sport, transport and enterprise.

The Public Art Project is supported by a full programme of events. Highlights coming up include a talk on Chattaway's 'Hermes' on 14 October. To see the programme in full, follow this link:

A Fond Farewell!

MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies student Sarah Ledjmi was Public Art Intern from April to September 2015. She is now looking forward to starting a new job as Collections and Exhibitions Assistant at the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Sarah L's blog photo

Summertime is usually the quietest period of the year for the university and its students, but my summer on campus was truly eventful. I have climbed up university buildings, (almost) broken into constructions sites, spied on countless meetings and met a small bunch of very enthusiastic artists, poets and art aficionados. All in the name of Public Art!

I joined the Public Art project as an intern in April 2015, and had the opportunity to witness the beginning of the implementation of a new Public Art strategy at the University of Leeds. As a student of the University, I had walked past many of the public artworks on campus without giving them a second look, and I am genuinely happy to have had the chance to engage with the campus landscape at a different level. I became intrigued and excited by the sculptures and their stories, and eventually decided to dedicate my Masters' dissertation to them. Despite being sometimes overlooked, the campus artworks contribute to the construction of the university, not only as a physical space but also as a place to meet, sit and talk. 

During the summer, I have worked with the Public Art Officer Professor Ann Sumner, who launched the art trail and the installation of interpretation panels near the sculptures. I am delighted to have contributed to making the artworks more accessible, and I look forward to seeing more interpretation and engagement with art on campus in the future - with dance, tai-chi, poetry and so much more to come.  I know that Ann, the team at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery and the new intern Emily will continue to enliven the campus and encourage exciting and surprising encounters with art.  

Spotlight on Public Art

This month's 'Spotlight' sees multi award-winning poet and Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow, Dr Helen Mort, reflect on her poetic response to Lorna Green's 'Meet, Sit and Talk' (1995).

Helen Mort reading aloud from Lorna Green's work

As a poet, I've often been asked to respond to works of art and produce new ekphrastic pieces - in the past, I've written about photography, the work of Giovanni Batista Piranesi and produced a poem inspired by the paintings of contemporary artist Tom de Freston. For the Public Art project in Leeds , I've enjoyed the new challenge of responding to works that are 3D, from Simon Fujiwara's Aspire to Lorna Green's Meet, Sit and Talk. When I respond to paintings and photographs, I tend to invent a narrative. Sculptures challenge that tendency, inviting the writer to connect more directly with their form.

I am a keen amateur rock climber, so I was immediately drawn to Lorna's sculptural pieces in Chancellor's Court - there's something organic about them but also something very striking, very crafted. The stones she chose and arranged offer a natural kind of theatre in the middle of the University, inviting people to sit, climb, stand and lean on them as well as look. I imagined that the stones had been there forever, having their own conversations and wrote a short poem in what I dreamed to be their voices.

On Wednesday 19th of June, I had the pleasure of revisiting Lorna's work with her as part of the Summer of Public Art talks, hearing about the history of the artwork and the installation process, from quarry to court. I read my piece standing on top of one of the stones, and the others formed a patient audience, along with the event attendees.

Poetry Response - Meet, Sit and Talk

Our conversation has outlasted

grass, outlasted ground.

Stones talk and landscape overhears.

See for yourself. Sit down

and tell us what you know.

Lie in our scattered company

and watch our silence


Dr Helen Mort, Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow

Image: Dr Helen Mort reading her poem aloud from Lorna Green's sculpture, Meet, Sit and Talk (1995).