Memoria: Memories of Light, 2015
Porcelain and light sculptures, formation of a new archive, student exhibition, publication - Memoria: Histories, Memories, Representations. Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills. 1st August 2015 - 4th October 2015.
Set within rooms, mill spaces and unexplored outbuildings, Memoria: Memories of Light captured living memories of working life at Armley Mills and abstracted them in a series of illuminated porcelain sculptures. The themes central to the conception of the work
were derived from time spent embedded in the large and beautiful rooms that have been transformed from mill into museum.
It was the silence of the spaces that first took hold of me and which led me to wonder what working life there was like. It was whilst I was recording the sound of the Corn Mill, which can be totally silent, that I began to think about what lies behind the materiality of the mill and the machinery that fills these spaces; what were the people like who inhabited this space over the centuries and what
did they think about whilst they were working? These thoughts formed the basis of Memoria and led me to work with a number of former spinners, weavers and checkers who gave their time to share some of their innermost and deeply personal memories with me. In response I made four sculptures entitled Waves, Aerial, Wing and Gleam. The spaces in which the pieces were located were also vital in forming each sculpture: Wing, for example, which was situated in the upward draft of air above an absent waterwheel, took its shape from the way in which a wing produces lift.
Memoria was one of six artist and museum collaborations, selected in a national open competition, to win a New Expressions 3 funded, New Opportunities Award. This award provides an opportunity for collaboration, experimentation and learning between emerging contemporary visual artists and museums. The award enabled us to widen the scope of the project considerably over the two years it took to bring it to fruition. The last owners of the mill, the Tempest family, became major contributors to the work through the time they freely gave to me and through the donation of a previously unseen collection of ephemera, photographs and pristine machine blueprints. These materials formed a new permanent archive collection at Leeds Museums & Galleries.
Many other people became involved in the process of producing the work. It involved the museum visitor assistants who were on constant hand to help guide me through many long hours working on site. It involved volunteer researchers and invigilators without whom the project wouldn't have achieved the success it did. It involved my previous school of art, Bradford School of Arts and Media, who gave me artist in residence status so that I could work in its ceramics department on the making of the sculptures.
It also involved some of the school's visual arts, fashion and textile students who created their own course work in response to the
museum. Myself and the museum also collaborated with numerous writers and cultural practitioners on a publication, entitled Memoria: Histories, Memories, Representations, that questions the ways in which histories are validated and portrayed by museums.