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September 14, 2007

schizopolis posterI 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.

schizopolis exhibition 01 leeds by christos stavrou

schizopolis exhibition 03 leeds by christos stavrou

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.

schizopolis exhibition 02 leeds by christos stavrou

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…

schizopolis exhibition cafe, leeds by christos stavrou

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.

schizopolis exhibition 04 leeds by christos stavrou

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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2007 2:29 pm

    Sounds like a neat art show, thanks for sharing.

  2. September 16, 2007 9:51 pm

    Dear Mr Stavrou

    We are The Dispirit Art Collective. Below is a list of our names and descriptions of our work taken from the programme available at the opening of “Schizopolis” on 11th September at Holy Trinity Church. The idea for the evening was to present a rare opportunity for a truly mixed-media collision of ideas on the city of today

    While offering an evening of art and entertainment, the event was also a means of raising money for a good cause, with the £500 profit from the £5 entrance being donated to the Big Issue in the North Trust.

    Neil Hardy
    Neil’s “popalyptic” paintings explore the narrative function of old religious triptychs whilst quoting Dada photomontages of the 1920s, pop art of the 1960s and the role of advertising and television in contemporary culture. Using traditional and modern painting techniques, Neil’s aim is to explore the 21st century obsession with the end of the world.

    Demented Tonka Toys Fighting Chickens In The Dark
    Demented Tonka Toys are a post-punk trio led by one of twin brothers, originally from Durham City, who say they have adopted Leeds as their home. Scared of modern day living, and especially the dominating media industry, DTT are trying to open up audiences to the value of music purely as enjoyment and not just as image. They quote early country music, existentialism and boredom as influences.

    Andrew Dominic Bove
    Best remembered for his performance in Ripon College’s 1993 production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, story writer Bove was also a renowned clerk at Borders, and latterly the University of Leeds. Bove was a keen fantasist, with a special interest in escaping reality in depressing war time cinema. He was particularly fond of drawing the blackness inside his soul, and of children*, having a small and extremely clever son, Alex. Andrew wanted to be remembered as a lover of love, but, due to a misunderstanding at the mason’s, will be known in perpetuity as a lover of loaves.
    (* in a good way)

    Owen Findley
    Combining elements of street photography from the 1960s and 1970s and more recent digital manipulations effects, Owen Findley’s images offer a fragmentary snapshot of the modern urban space. In some cases the image is the result of a digital combination of a number of photographs to make a single portrait of the city while other images are single shots taken over a number of weeks spent wandering the streets of Leeds.

    Sebastian Juszcyk & Matt Parker are oko-oo-ho, an audio / visual project. oko-oo-ho create multimedia and multisensory projections of sound and moving image. Their current live show explores the theme of technologies’ rapid growth within a framework of diverse aesthetics. For the current project, Sebastian manipulates video cuts from original and sourced footage. He projects these images in a live setting using his notebook as a controller. Matt and Sebastian together have constructed an accompanying soundtrack that is simultaneously performed live with the projected images using guitar, mpc, keyboards, laptop sequencers, vocals, loop pedals and effects.

    The Nervous Shakedown
    The Nervous Shakedown re-emerged in their current guise late in 2006. Influenced by some, but with a fondness for unexpected reinvention, the band continues to go with what feels right to produce their sound. They describe their sound as a mixture of primal heavy grooves and experiments in the darker side of pop!

    Alexis Snell
    Artist Alexis produces monoprints from her studio space in Leeds, “but not serious ones” she says.

    Music From The Loft
    Music From The loft is a debut for Anthony Bedford and Iain Hill. Both have a background in electronic and sound engineering combined with a love of ambient music. The 45 minute piece represents a journey of a city worker in a single day where free time is represented positively and time dedicated to work and the city produces some darker tracks. Going against the usual ambient formulas, this piece gives the visitor a more intense experience of the moods the City provides.

    Rachel Savage
    Rachel’s paintings are informed from photographs, which she has taken in the cities’ parks (the “Park Series”) and from nature (the “Mountain Series”). The looming figure-like silhouettes of the trees in the park paintings give an impression of unease and conflict with the safety that the park traditionally offers as a place to relax. As for the mountain paintings: “The scale of the mountains brings an awareness of my own insignificance in the grand scheme of things, in time and as part of nature”.

    Graham Creaton
    Graham Creaton is an artist living and working in north Leeds. This series of sculptures is entitled “Inner City”. They seek to illustrate the experiences of living in a modern city. These are peoples’ homes, and their surroundings, the reality distorted by their emotions and aspirations. How they feel about the inside and the outside of their homes. What their dreams, for where they live, might look like.

    Karen Dennis
    Karen runs “Ketchup”, a recycled clothing range based in Leeds. A recent collaboration with Nicky Rai and Filthy Squirrel produced some of the photos on display. Shot at the disused Glass Factory in Leeds 6, Karen’s aim was to juxtapose scenes of urban decay with themes of identity and isolation, whilst making a comment on “hoodie” culture. Contrasting to this, also included, are shots of the clothing range in a nearby inner city park allotment.

    Caroline’s Visuals
    Caroline has been providing her unique blend of quirky projections and animations for artists, bands and club nights around the north of England for the past 2 years. Her hand made projections go way beyond the backdrop of the usual, with the aid of live camera feeds and a bespoke touch to create an atmosphere matched perfectly to the environment she and the artist are performing in.
    Caroline’s Visuals are entertaining, sometimes hilarious and totally original, a must see.

    Mik Artistik
    Fresh from playing Glastonbury with his band “Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip”, comedian, singer, painter and writer Mik will be performing a one-off selection of his songs as poetry. King Gong winner at Manchester’s Comedy Store last month, Mik is a true Leeds legend. Whether he’s frequenting the local pubs and drawing people’s portraits on brown paper bags or performing his songs to delighted audiences Mik always has the power to surprise: “I remember a year ago we played the Packhorse in Leeds and these two Big Issue sellers came in to watch. They enjoyed the gig so much that they clubbed together to find £8 to buy a cd!”

    Carl Stipetic
    Music producer Carl took this striking photograph in 1979 on his way to the UK from Canada after living there as a musician, “It was six o’clock in the morning and there was nobody about”. From that point on, Carl felt a connection with the Twin Towers, in his words “the glory and the splendour of the buildings”.

    Ben Blakey
    Kicking the night off with his song ‘Mary’, Ben’s aim was to write “a song which comments on the paranoia amongst the popular media and the conservative public in regards to British youth.
    The song uses the character of Mary as a way of expressing the over-sensationalised view that the youth are becoming out of control and growing up without morals”.

    Andrew Fentham
    Fresh from reading at this year’s Saltaire literature festival, poet Andrew was born in Birmingham in 1986. He currently lives and studies in Leeds.

    Dan Wilson
    Shakedown singer Dan has produced a series of apocalyptic Photoshop portraits of his friends specifically for the evening.

    We thank you (again) for writing a good review of our exhibition and have much respect for your photography.

    The Dispirit Art Collective x

  3. thinkinpictures permalink*
    September 16, 2007 10:35 pm

    Dear ‘Dispirit Art Collective’

    Thank you so much for responding to my call to comment here and for providing all this information!

    I had not found it when visited the exhibition and I’m sure future viewers will appreciate it.
    All the best with the exhibition and your future plans.

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