One area of Leeds which really appreciates the addition of public sculpture is the University of Leeds campus. Recently they have unveiled two new pieces of public art on their Leeds city centre campus, adding to a rich portfolio of pieces that adorn the area, and their most recent addition ‘Texere’ was installed in October this year.
Texere, was created by artists Sue Lawty, in response to draw attention to Mitzi Cunliffe’s sculpture ‘Man Made Fibres’ a sculpture set into a nearby building and dates back to the 1950’s. Lawty’s piece Texere is installed into the paving at Lifton Place and reflects on the universities textile heritage, as does the earlier work by Mitzi Cunliffe. Blogger Workers Lunchtime has a great post about the lunchtime discussion with Sue Lawty earlier this year.
Two new recent additions to the collection are ‘Sign for Art’ by Keith Wilson and ‘A Spire’ by Simon Fujiwara. Contemporary Art Society worked with the University of Leeds as consultants on this project, and to create a ‘University of Leeds Public Art Strategy’ The key aims of the strategy are to enable the University of Leeds to; Enhance their standing as an international institution, Achieve a world-leading research profile, Inspire students to develop their full potential and Increase their impact on a local to global scale.
Simon Fujiwara’s ‘A Spire’ sits next to the recently built Laidlaw library, a chimney that towers just above the top of the building it is an ode to Leeds’ industrial history, depicting what once might have edged up above rooftops when Leeds was once described as the city of ‘100 chimneys’. Sitting out from the polished surfaces of the new building, it’s texture and colour contrasts noticeably. I was surprised to find out it was commissioned in tandem with the development of the building.
Further into the Leeds University campus, and in a area that’s been given fresh landscaping sits ‘Sign for Art’ by Yorkshire-based artist Keith Wilson. Standing at over 5m tall, the sculpture is two black thick wiggly lines cast in polyurethane elastomer, which gives the sculpture a distinctive rippled texture. It could be described as slightly monolithic however there is something mischievous and daring about Keith Wilson’s sculpture for me. The design was based on Wilson’s experience working as an art instructor for deaf-blind adults.
“Drawing two spaced fingertips in a wave motion across the forehead of the student – a tactile ‘brainwave’ sign – announced the arrival of the artist, the subject of art, and the imminent activity of making art.” – This action is emulated in the horizontal projection of his ‘wiggly lines’ as well as it’s tactile texture making further connections to the concept. (Another reason that I love this work, that you can touch it! If you don’t mind getting a few odd looks)
“This modification of the British Sign Language sign, presumably derived from the making of a brushstroke, struck home, and stayed with me.” More information on the ‘Sign for Art’ can be found here.
Along with the development of a new strategy for public art for the University of Leeds, they aim to establish a public art research institute, which will help to lead the way for public art practice. You can view the University of Leeds public art trail map here. Leeds List have also created a public art trail around the all three universities and civic area of the city, have a look at this here.