I was in town. I had just read in a paper found in the train about this exhibition in a downtown Leeds church and decided to pay my respects.
Schizopolis consists of paintings, photographs and sculptures exploring the concept of the ideal and imagined modern city, comparing it to the reality of today’s urban environments. It was launched last week with an evening of art and music (see poster, left) and will go on until the 7th of October.
Entering the church I couldn’t fail to join the mood of spiritual awe and silent excitement, which follows the visual impact of falling ambient light in the wide-open and engulfing, as much as ordered, church space. The minimalist music in the background enhanced the experience. Whereas the tripods with their painted canvasses standing on top of the sitting benches, and the framed black & white photos with ominous and bleak captures of Leeds life, hanging off the huge round columns, added their peculiar and challenging element to the show.
I feel the marriage of art and churches is really promising; even if, as in this case, the installation may suffer from structural inconveniences which hinder viewing and the coherent flowing of meanings. The way the space and light was used often didn’t help and unfortunately, any ideas and subtleties sometimes appeared as stacked in chance. The lack of any detailed information about the artists and their concepts didn’t help my viewing either [edit: see full details in comments below, as provided by the organisers, thank you].
But overall, the exhibition was very interesting and how much liberty can be exercised in a church is debatable. I really don’t know.. but I could imagine a bolder similar exhibition in the future. If anything, I welcome the idea of a church transforming itself to a cultural refuge. A cultural space that is springing by, but in the end disassociates itself from its past dominant connotations.
It is a particular phenomenon I have found here in Leeds (and probably it’s happening elsewhere in England as well) that churches are used for other than their original intentions and religious meanings. For years I used to live near to a church that sells.. carpets and people keep inviting me to the trendy old-church night-club just by the Leeds University…
So, it was not so surprising, yet not less amazing, that this church was used for art and as I discovered it operates its own daily cafe as well (see photo above). It was busy, mostly with older people, it served no fancy coffee or food at all, and the strong yellow lights reflected on the shiny walls transfer someone into another era. But the smiles and the immediacy of the people there are not easily found in the main city streets and shops. This is for me real England.
Finally, I had the pleasure to meet one of the exhibiting painters, Rachel Savage (see above), and her ominous landscapes with tall and dark, leafless tree-trunks under a cold winter sun. We had a chat. Her metaphoric work was dealing with places so far and still so near to urban alienation. I discovered that she takes photographs of her themes as well, which intrigued me. I wanted to know what a different medium of expression offers to others: “Why do you need to paint them, then?” I asked, adding extra seriousness in my voice. She wasn’t sure, and so I insisted: “Is it painting just for the sake of painting?”
She shook her head, which blurred my photo… and simply replied “No, it’s not, but if I couldn’t paint I would have probably become insane.”
Photographs by Christos Stavrou © 2007 All rights reserved.