Review: Public Art Shorts!

Public Art Project Intern, Sarah Ledjmi, reflects on Lorna Green's 'Artist's Talk' and the success of our summer series of lunchtime events.

Lorna Green, Meet, Sit and Talk, Conversation, 1995 -1999

Image: Lorna Green, Meet, Sit and Talk, Conversation, 1995-1999, sandstone, polished granite, gravel, grass, cement, image © University of Leeds 

The talk started at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, with a good rummage through the photographs, original plans and maps of Lorna Green's wide scale project. In 1995, Green was commissioned to redesign the Chancellor's Court area. The 'before and after' pictures show how the area was transformed from a bleak and windswept 'no man's land' to the verdant path with its three garden islands that we now know. 

Lorna then led the way to Chancellor's Court, and discussed the inspiration behind her sculpture Meet, Sit and Talk. The boulders were sourced from a local quarry, modified with polished granite, and Lorna created the three stone circles that are still standing today. Our gathering among the stones was the perfect opportunity for poet Helen Mort to read the poem she wrote in response to the sculpture, perched on one of the boulders. Enthused by Helen's poem, Lorna enrolled the audience in a quest for a missing stone: a herb garden will soon be added to the area, and some of Lorna's stones have been moved during the works. We found the stray boulder in a construction site, under blue tarpaulin and guarded by two friendly workers. 

We finished our adventure by Lorna's second sculpture, Conversation. The three standing stones are huddled together, but there is space for one more in the middle. We stepped inside in turn, making a trio into a quartet and joined the silent conversation.  

Lorna's and Helen's creativity has already inspired a member of the audience to write their own poem after our lunchtime odyssey. This was a truly fitting way to end our summer programme, and it paves the way for our exciting, upcoming 'Autumn of Public Art'.

Spotlight on Public Art

This month, Professor Ann Sumner of the Public Art Project selects her favourite Public Art work on campus for our spotlight section.

Limbo by Austin Wright

Image: Austin Wright (1911 - 1997), Limbo, 1958, Concrete and lead, Baines Wing Coffee Bar Courtyard. Presented by the Austin Wright Trust through the Art Fund, 2014.

"I first came across Austin Wright's work when I was Head of Fine Art at the National Museum of Wales from 2000 - 2007. There we acquired a work called News in 2002 and in 2006 a series of lead Limbo figures were donated by Lisbeth David.  I remember reading James Hamilton's excellent book The Sculpture of Austin Wright and being enormously impressed by Wright's sculpture and then seeing the York exhibition in 2011.  So I was delighted, when I arrived here at the University of Leeds, to hear that Wright's subtle work Limbo of 1958 had recently been presented by the Austin Wright Trust through the Art Fund and installed in the Baines Wing Coffee Bar.

The work is inspired by family seaside holidays in Anglesey and Cornwall in the 1950s and the figures in this piece relate to sketches made at Praa, a long sandy stretch of beach between the Lizard and West Penwith in South West Cornwall.  It reminded me at once of my own family holidays on that same beach in the 1960s, often sheltering in the dunes to avoid the wind!  This sculpture reflects happy holiday time spent in Cornwall for the Wright family. It was for many years situated in an intimate garden setting.  Now it is transformed into a piece of Public Art on the University of Leeds campus, with an interpretative label, admired by visitors to campus and those sipping coffee and tea in the pleasant atmosphere of the Baines Wing Coffee Bar Courtyard.  As part of the Public Art Project, I approached Linda France, Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Leeds, to write a poem responding to Limbo and her work can be found in the new Public Art Trail."

Spotlight on Public Art

In this month's 'Spotlight', Curator Layla Bloom explores the significance of our inspiring new public artwork, 'A Spire', by Simon Fujiwara.

Simon Fujiwara, A Spire (4 views)

Image: Simon Fujiwara, 'A Spire' (4 views), 2015, cast jesmonite (c) The Artist

On 11 June, following a lively symposium, 'Curating the Campus,' Sir Alan Langlands formally launched the University's newest public art work, alongside the artist, Simon Fujiwara, at the Laidlaw Library.

Fujiwara's piece, 'A Spire', is a skyward timeline of Leeds innovation - from its coal-dusted industrial roots, through to the organic forms of modern technology. Lichen and vine forms wind their way up to the top of the work, which culminates in a green roof (not yet visible!) which should begin to grow and overhang the work in time. The chimney form, flanked by two church spires, and overlooked by Parkinson clocktower, reflects not only Leeds's history as the 'city of 100 chimneys' but also signals that the library building it adorns is furnace of learning for our undergraduate students.

The British-Japanese artist Simon Fujiwara is already known in Leeds for his work recently acquired for Leeds Art Gallery, 'Rebekkah'. Fujiwara developed 'A Spire' after several research visits to the University of Leeds, where he met staff and researchers, and explored current research projects in subjects as diverse as plant biology and robotics. A small display in the Gallery over the summer shows Fujiwara's process in creating the piece.

Poet Helen Mort, the University's Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow, read her 4-part poem 'Spires', which was commissioned for the launch of the new sculpture. Mort has also written poems for 'The Dreamer' and 'Meet, Sit and Talk', which you can read in our Public Art Trail, available at the Gallery. If you, too, feel inspired, we welcome your poetic responses to our public art for inclusion in next year's Trail!

When Public Art Met Martial Arts...

We turned a few heads and became minor celebrities on campus during our outdoor Tai Chi session on Saturday. Lots of jaws dropped, photos were taken and some passersby even joined in!

Thankfully, the weather was kind to us so we could focus on our 'qigong' in the peaceful surroundings of Beechgrove Plaza.

As you can see from the pictures, Keith Wilson's 'Sign for Art (Stelae 2014)' provided the perfect backdrop to our workshop. The wiggly lines mirrored the fluidity of our moves and gave us a good focal point.

Our tutor Maria was an absolute star. She taught us the basic steps of Stage 1 Tai Chi and then once we were all limbered up, we enjoyed authentic Chinese refreshments, courtesy of the Business Confucius Institute at the University of Leeds, inside Parkinson Court.

Photo of Tai Chi Session

Photo of people enjoying Chinese refreshments

Final farewell to Morland!

Our Exhibitions Intern, Helen Butler, reflects on her involvement with and the success of 'George Morland: In The Margins' in this thoughtful review.

Old Red Lion Inn, George Morland

Image: George Morland, Old Red Lion Inn, c.1790, oil on canvas. (c) The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

As we bid goodbye to our George Morland exhibition and as the loaned works travel back to their permanent collections, we can reflect upon the process of bringing together a comprehensive exhibition, the first in 40 years, of this often forgotten painter.

The exhibition offered vivid insights into societal conditions of late 18th century England. Even though Morland is perhaps best remembered as a painter of animals and countryside scenes, our guest curator Dr Nick Grindle (UCL), focused the exhibition upon depictions of the marginalised in society. Many of Morland's representations of smugglers, gypsies, travellers, farm-hands and thieves are treated with a sense of realism and a non-moralistic tone that wealthy art patrons of the time saw as distasteful.

Morland himself was no stranger to life on the margins, keeping company with his subjects and suffering from crippling debt and alcoholism.

We became immersed even further into the life and works of Morland through our symposium day in April, bringing together academics from many specialisms to delve into Morland's preoccupations and his own fascinating character. The Gallery has also been host to special performances from the University's Performance and Cultural Industries students, who revealed the stark similarities between Morland's impression of marginalised groups and the realities and prejudices of our own society.

Public Art Shorts! Double Bill

In this week's Public Art Shorts!, Professor Ann Sumner and Public Art Project Intern, Sarah Ledjmi will be chatting about Chattaway!

You will be introduced to the majestic 'Walking Figure' (1989) in Parkinson Court, followed by the striking 'Hermes' (1958) which hangs, mid-flight, on the east wall of the Roger Stevens building.

Did you know that these public artworks were rescued by our philanthropic patron, Stanley Burton?

'Walking Figure' originally stood in Bodington Hall, a former student residence, however, students being students, the work was badly damaged.  Burton asked William Chattaway to recast the sculpture (now in Parkinson Court) and offered shelter to the original in his own garden.

As for poor 'Hermes', he was a commission by the Midland Bank. They wanted to sell him for scrap when their London building was sold. Such was the Bank's disregard for the sculpture, they even rechristened him 'The Spirit of Enterprise',  as Hermes is the Greek god of thieves! Stanley Burton volunteered the funds to allow the University to purchase Chattaway's piece. As soon as the sculpture was on campus, his name reverted back to the original 'Hermes'.

Meet just outside the Gallery at 12.45pm this Wednesday 22 July to discover even more about these two important artworks.

Walking Figure


We have our eyes on the prize!

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery has been shortlisted for one of the country’s most valuable contemporary art awards.

Read full article...

Staff Picks XV

Summer is upon us so what better way to embrace the sunshine than with Customer Services and Special Collections Assistant, Helen Price's dazzling 'Staff Pick'?

Birds by Norman Adams

 Image: Norman Adams, Birds, 1971, acrylic and crayon, (c) Estate of the Artist 

I love colour, and Norman Adams' Birds is an absolute masterpiece of colour and vibrancy. The gold, yellows and blues simultaneously burst out of the screen while also drawing your eye inwards to the centre. The shimmering gold and splashes of orange in the top right-hand corner crackle like solar flares and produce a warmth which tantalises the senses we might not normally associated with visual art.   

The colours work with the squiggled lines to form the impressionistic image of individual birds in flight. The effect creates a wonderful sense of movement and captures the exhilarating action of flocking birds. It is as though you are looking into a kaleidoscope which gradually turns, shifting its colours and patterns with each rotation of the lens.

The shapes of the birds also resemble ripples on water. As your eyes are drawn to the centre of the image, the peripheries morph into an aquatic scene. All of a sudden you are gazing into the dark blue depth of a deep ocean, while, on the edges, the sun's rays gently illuminate the surface water.   

Norman Adams had a keen interest in the effect of perspective in visual art. He was known to be a fan of the trompe l'oeil technique, where the eye is deceived into thinking a two dimensional image is three dimensional. Adams' Birds does not specifically employ this technique, in fact, the dark blue straight lines towards the edges of the painting seem to frame the image and serve as a reminder that this is a two dimensional work of art. At the same time, the painting works to break through the two dimensional barrier. The birds are not confined by these lines and seem to traverse effortlessly across them. To me, it is wonderfully easy to imagine these birds continuing their flight, freeing themselves from the painting and soaring out into the space beyond.  

Public Poetry Please!

"Among the brightest stars in the sparkling new constellation of British poets”...we couldn't agree more with Carol Ann Duffy's praise of Helen Mort, the Derbyshire Poet Laureate and current Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University of Leeds.

Five-times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, Helen received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. In 2010, she became the youngest ever poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere.

We're delighted to welcome Helen to the Gallery this Thursday evening where she will discuss her involvement in the Public Art Project at the University of Leeds and read her poems inspired by the art work. 

For more information about this rising star of British poetry, visit her website:

For information about how to book on this unique event, please visit:

'Curating the Campus' Symposium: A Review

On Thursday 11 June, we formally launched the University of Leeds' Public Art Strategy and celebrated the new Simon Fujiwara sculpture 'A Spire' with an inspiring symposium.

On Thursday 11 June, we formally launched the University of Leeds Public Art Strategy and celebrated the new Simon Fujiwara sculpture A Spire outside the Laidlaw Library, with an inspiring 'Curating' the Campus symposium.  

Audience questions

Speakers from universities throughout the UK gathered together in the grand Nathan Bodington Chamber. Dr Stella Butler welcomed delegates and the keynote address by Professor Sumner outlined the background to the new Public Art Strategy and Project.  She spoke about the new Cultural Institute to be launched in October, as well as pointing out that campus redevelopments, involving increased pedestrianisation and new planning regulations supporting public art, were key drivers behind forming a strategy at Leeds. Ann also outlined the benchmarking she had carried out nationally and internationally before developing the new Public Art Trail map which draws attention to student degree show interventions on campus.  Each year she proposed that the campus would be curated with a key theme - 'Place-making' in 2015 and 'Textiles' in 2016, as the University prepares to celebrate Mitzi Cunliffe's Man-made Fibres sculpture's 60th anniversary.

There followed a series of excellent presentations about programming and commissioning  at Loughborough University, Newcastle University, and the University of Birmingham, as well as an in depth survey of University Public Art Strategies by Dr Sian Vaughn of Birmingham City University.  Topics covered identity and placemaking on campus, public art as a reflection of University research, the enhancement of University cultural life, the long term curation and care of public art, and crucially, the engagement with wider communities beyond the campus, opening up spaces and creating welcoming places to visit.  

Two fascinating 'in conversation' sessions also took place. Public Art Project Placement student Sarah Ledjmi discussed the student response to public art with sculptor Keith Wilson, whose Sign for Art was unveiled in the autumn of 2014. Shortly afterwards, Lisa Le Feuvre, Head of Sculpture Studies at The Henry Moore Institute, interviewed Simon Fujiwara about his first public art commission and experience of working with a university.  Finally, there was a debate about how students and campus communities could be involved in the commissioning process for future public art by setting up unique dialogues. 

The Symposium closed with the debut reading of a poem by the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow, poet Helen Mort, inspired by Simon Fujiwara's A Spire. After a thought-provoking day of discussion, Professor David Cooper summarised the day and thanked all for their contribution before inviting everyone to the Private View of the display of Simon Fujiwara's work in the Gallery.