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British Art Show 8 - Bharti Parmar

Last year, artist Bharti Parmar received a bursary to visit the British Art Show 8 and to interview Catherine Aldred, illustrator and Operations Manager of the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. 

“The Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle is not a triangle, it's a square.”

The Henry Moore Institute is adjacent to Leeds City Art Gallery, the first venue to host the British Art Show 8 from October 2015 - January 2016.  BAS8 concludes its tour in Southampton in 2017.

Catherine Aldred  

Bharti Parmar: What is the Henry Moore Institute (HMI) and what does it do?

Catherine Aldred: The HMI is a sculpture gallery and a research centre which is located in the centre of Leeds. We exhibit temporary exhibitions, which usually last for three months, and are a combination of loans from various external institutions and museums and may also draw on the sculptures from the Leeds Art Gallery Collection.  We don’t have our own collection like many museums and galleries, so all our exhibitions rely on loans from external sources.  We tend to have one main exhibition and a smaller separate exhibition.

We have a specialist reference library, of 20,000-plus books on sculpture.  This is a very valuable resource for anyone who is researching sculpture, because we have an amazing collection of books, artists’ files, (private view cards, ephemera etc.), a 35mm slides and an audio-visual collection. We have a display area and an archive open by appointment which holds sketchbooks, drawings, diaries, photographs from some very famous sculptors – such as Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill.  We might have a few things by Barbara Hepworth; Helen Chadwick, who’s a female sculptor who died quite young.

BP: She was my tutor.

CA: Really? We have her entire archive in our strong room, which was bequeathed by her widower. We also have older works on paper by Victorian sculptors such as Hamo Thornycroft, who was a very well-known figurative sculptor in his day. 

We also have various offices, a technical store and workshop and a seminar room seating 40 people which is used for talks and small conferences. 


Henry Moore Institute


BP: What is the mission of the Henry Moore Institute?

CA: The HMI is a sculpture gallery and research centre and our aim is to promote sculpture in its widest sense to the public at large.  We do this through exhibitions, through our work with the Leeds Sculpture Collection next door, and also through a programme of research, events, talks, conferences, and also through publications.  All these elements feed into one another, and ideas for publications also come through visiting scholars and fellows who come to work with us.

I would say therefore that our mission statement is to rewrite sculpture’s history.  Every exhibition that we make has to be significant, and to explore an area of sculpture that hasn’t been explored before.

BP: What is the relationship of the Henry Moore Institute to the Henry Moore Foundation?

CA: The Henry Moore Foundation funds the Henry Moore Institute.  The Foundation is a grant-giving organisation set up by sculptor Henry Moore and is based in Hertfordshire.

BP: How does the Henry Moore Institute support the work of Leeds artists and those further afield?

CA: The HMI doesn’t focus on Leeds artists per se; its primary remit is to promote sculpture.  We have worked with a Leeds-born artist, Thomas Houseago, last year.  He was commissioned to create a new work to mark the Grand Depart for the Tour de France.  That work was sited outside Leeds Art Gallery on the plinth that is normally reserved for Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure.

We work with artists in all parts of the world, nationally, internationally and how we support them is through exhibitions, conferences, scholarly critiques.

BP: I notice on the new acquisitions page of the HMI website, that Victorian, William Hamo Thornycroft’s, bronze relief, ‘Charity and Justice’, has been acquired for the collection. How often are collections made?  How are they selected, and do they comprise contemporary work?  And you told me in an earlier answer that you don’t have a collection of your own, so are they are loaned.

CA: The HMI doesn’t collect sculpture; all the sculptures belong to Leeds City Council, and they are all part of the Leeds Art Gallery Collection.  However, we do have staff in our building who are Leeds Council employees and part of their remit for working for the HMI is to sit on the Collections and Acquisitions Committees.  So we do acquire new works that way, but they belong to the city, the council.

So we do acquire old works, such as the Hamo Thornycroft works, and we also have C20th- contemporary pieces as well, which are acquired, donated and bequeathed to us.  A recent acquisition comprised the entire archive of contemporary pyrotechnic sculptor, Stephen Cripps (1952-82) including photographs and drawings of his performative pieces.

BP: Can you tell me about your job and what it involves?

CA: I am the Operations Manager, and I also deputise for the Head of Sculpture Studies, Lisa Le Feuvre.  My role is split into three or four categories: I look after the budgets; I look after the building; I manage all the front of house staff; and I’m involved in the recruitment of all staff.  I’m the HR person, and I place all the adverts and sit on interview panels, and deal with all the admin to do with recruitment, and health and safety.

So I’m in charge of the operational side of running a gallery that, without which, we couldn’t open our doors, because we need staff, and we need a building, and we need things to tick over.

BP: Can you describe the key formative moments of your career path?  Where did you go to college?  What did you do after you left college and what have been your key jobs up to this point?

CA: I went to Leeds College of Art - or Jacob Kramer as it was then in the 1980s – where I did a foundation course in Art & Design.  Then, I went to Camberwell School of Art in London from 1987-1990, and I did a Graphic Design degree, and specialised in illustration in my second year.

My intention was to practice as a freelance illustrator, which I’ve managed to continue alongside my day job.  In the early 90s I worked for two years in Bradford for a gallery called Treadwell’s Art Mill.  And that’s how I got into gallery work; it was a baptism of fire – it was essentially me and one other person who ran the gallery for the director – doing everything, from administration to curating, to bookkeeping, to helping to run the theatre, helping to run the café. I’d pack up art works for art fairs, all of that, everything…

I then got a job at the HMI in the year it opened 1993, initially as an information assistant, and I’ve done almost everything apart from the specialist roles. I was Acting Head after the departure of Penelope Curtis (Director Tate Britain) for 9 months.

BP: How do you balance your work as an illustrator and the demands of your job at HMI?

CA: I would say that the day job dominates as I’m employed for 4 and a half days a week.  I keep my illustration practice and management role separate as I feel there is no particular conflict.  The main constraint is time as I’m also the mother of 3 children.  The type of work I do can be done in my home and I work with a print technology I can use portably.  I use my time very carefully.  What little spare time I have I commit to drawing; there is always a commission on the go and I prioritise works with deadlines.

BP: What is the Leeds art scene like?

CA: It is flourishing! Leeds has independent galleries and studio spaces, e.g. East Street Arts with 3 bases in the city, and others include Wharf Chambers and Assembly Room Studios; there are probably around half a dozen artist run-studios in Leeds.

BP: What do you think the BAS8 has done for Leeds and what is your personal highlight?

CA: It's put Leeds on the map, there are many fringe events, it’s publicised grass roots organisations, there have been associated educational and schools’ events – therefore, there has been a huge spin off for many sectors of the community.  It's also publicised galleries in the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle.

BP: The Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle?  I’ve heard of the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle!

CA: It’s not a triangle, actually, it's a square!  The four galleries are the Hepworth, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Leeds Art Gallery and the HMI.

My favourite work from the BAS8 is a watercolour painting The Birth of the Skyscraper from Botanical Architecture by Pablo Bronstein.  I like this partly because he uses the same materials and subject matter as I use in my own work; watercolour & ink, and it comprises an architectural image.  I particularly like Bronstein’s very detailed approach which includes ‘triffid-like’ creepers framing the image, and I like the scale of this painting; it must be over 10 feet high.


Bharti Parmar is an artist in Birmingham.

Catherine Aldred’s illustrations can be viewed at www.catherinealdred.co.uk and http://catherinealdred-illustrator.blogspot.co.uk/



British Art Show 8 - Adam Grüning

In August the Artist Development West Midlands programme offered three bursaries to attend the British Art Show. The recipients were asked to write a report on their trip. The second of these comes from Adam Grüning.

Since its conception, the British Art Show has brought together the concerns and practices of both emerging and established artists from the British art scene, in all its imaginings, every 5 years. Standing side by side in this year's incarnation, British Art Show 8, artists newer to a general public such as Rachel Maclean and Jesse Wine sit alongside more recognised names like Ryan Gander, Ciara Phillips and Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost, exhibiting new, old and specially commissioned work, all selected by the curatorial duo of Anna Colin and Lydia Yee.

The voices of the curators can be heard at the beginning of the exhibitions stylishly printed catalogue where the roots of the show, the object, are made aware to the viewer. “At a time of increasing convergence between the real and the virtual,” it is appropriate for the show to have a sense of responsibility and back up its insight by framing the exhibition through re-evaluated objects, things and materials “and view them in terms of their transformative potential,” which it does accurately, even if it is a little unmoving at times.

Bedwyr Williams, Century Egg, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Limoncello Gallery. Commissioned by the University of Cambridge North West Cambridge Development through the Habitation Artist in Residency Programme managed by Contemporary Art Society and Insite Arts. Copyright the artist

After walking through the gallery several times, passing the shell of a mini cooper, patchwork animal skins and poster lined walls, the show begins to display its real understanding of practice and concern in contemporary British art; the relationship between artist, curator and exhibition. Despite taking many forms throughout art history, the prominent rise and power of the curator in recent years has led an ever-increasing transitional situation for this trio to cohabit. In fact, the transformative potential of the object, stated in the catalogue, is only paralleled by that of the curator. Selecting the 42 artists, like materials, to convey a sense of the shifting, confusing state of 21st century sapiens, unknowing of their reliance on contemporary phenomena and broadening sense of materiality, both Colin and Yee’s choices give a successful general estimation of the ripples in current British Art.

Rachel Maclean, Over the Rainbow (digital video still), 2013. Commissioned by The Banff Centre and Collective Gallery. Funded by Creative Scotland. Courtesy the artist. Copyright Rachel Maclean, 2013

However, this success is transmitted most prominently through the shows video work. Although other mediums in the show provide a sense of the curator’s focus, as I looked around the gallery, the visual seriousness of most seem to drown some viewers with blank expressions, but thankfully the show’s intent isn’t to please everyone. The real star of the show, and most notable video work, is Rachel Maclean. Her stylised, multi-character theatrics exploring the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood and conversely the infiltration of infant behaviour in adulthood is inspired. It is rare to see an artist video screening as heaving as a cinema, and even rarer to witness viewers stay for the entire duration of the film, but this maybe an indication of the interest of ‘Feed Me,’ directing the consciences to very modern consumer desires and their ultimate consequences.

Along with Maclean, an artist who has come to increased recognition in the past 5 years is Bedwyr Williams, whose video piece embodies everything good about his practice. ‘Century Egg’ speculates conclusions future archaeologists might deduct from an average drinks party. Twinned with this are clips of from the Cambridge Consortium of Museum, narrated in Williams’ unmistakable style, seeming to converse with how both seemingly banal and awe-inspiring artefacts are housed together in museums. With its humour and sense of relevance, Williams delivers yet another inventive works of recent times.

Representing the work and practices throughout British art from the last 5 years is more of an endless venture than a difficult one, having said this, Colin and Yee demonstrate an interesting, albeit vague, take on the conversations around materiality and mergence of the real and virtual world in contemporary British Art. It is an exhibition that takes several visits to appreciate fully, although the lack of visual stimulation throughout the show could make this tasking for some. Whether the art on display is truly representational is questionable, but the exhibition goes along way in developing new discussions in British art, which can only be positive.



British Art Show 8 - Lexi Strauss

In August the Artist Development West Midlands programme offered three bursaries to attend the British Art Show. The successful recipients were Lexi Strauss, Dr Bharti Parmar and Adam Gr. They were all asked to write a report on their trip. The first of these comes from Lexi Strauss.

 Patrick Staff, The Foundation (video still), 2015. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery, London; Spike Island, Bristol; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. Co-produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London and Spike Island, Bristol. Copyright the artist, 2015. Photo by Max McClure.

There’s lots to discuss at British Art Show 8, curated by Anna Colin and Lydia Yee.

If you’re interested in time based works, the exhibition has a rich variety of film and performance, adding up to over three and half hours in all, so it’s worth putting aside a day if you visit one of the four touring venues planned over the coming year (Leeds, Edinburgh, Norwich and Southampton).

Here I’ll briefly discuss three films from the show that interested me conceptually, while counterpointing the various ways in which their narratives were presented.

Patrick Staff’s ‘The Foundation’ explored the innate strangeness of both archiving and elevating Tom of Finland’s erotic magazine art (dating back to the 1950’s) to high art, in recent years. The subject was dealt with sensitively and beautifully in a documentary style, which included sections of narrative dance that hinted at the earthiness of the subject matter, for example, through alternately greasy and clean, gloved hands handling archive papers. However, I’d have liked to see more of the middle ground inhabited by the artist himself- the links between raw gay pornography with fine art. I’d like to understand the connection between the two worlds more personally through the mediator’s relationship with them.

Melanie Gilligan, The Common Sense, 2014-15. Installation view: De Appel arts centre, Amsterdam. Photo: De Appel arts centre, Amsterdam. Courtesy/ Image Credit: Melanie Gilligan, Galerie Max Mayer, Düsseldorf.

Ideally I’d like to see Melanie Gilligan’s film ‘The Common Sense’ worked with a high budget, and the narrative developed further (both vital elements in order to convincingly mimic a conventional high budget film genre). But it was, nonetheless, a worthy concept, explored wirelessly through five short multi-episode drama excerpts on separate screens. We follow the narrative through the space with others (like ourselves) using wireless headsets, unravelling a dystopian future world, where wireless technological devices held in the mouth are developed in order to enable people to feel others emotions and hopefully to create more equality and balance. Yet inevitably, the technology is abused under an enduring capitalist regime.

Sadly I was only able to see half of Rachel Mclean’s hour long film ‘Feed Me’, but I’d happily have sat through the whole thing at least twice, had time allowed. Mclean's work - bold and unafraid of the ugly, is delivered through her trademark grotesque, sumptuous imagery and breezy musical narrative. The surreal world she inhabits as performer, writer and director totally absorbs the viewer, leading and then dropping us within terrifying places in our contemporary society that ought to be visited. For me McLean’s work is undoubtedly the highlight of this exhibition, since it proves how much can be achieved in terms of holding the audience, if the fine art film genre is pushed fearlessly into brave new places.

John. Photo (Hannes Langolf) by Hugo Glendinning

After the exhibition I saw Lloyd Newson’s DV8 physical theatre piece ‘John’ at West Yorkshire Playhouse, where interviewee’s words form the narrative (this is verbatim/ documentory theatre). The fast paced play unfolds the life of the protagonist John - a complex, sensitive man struggling to find love and companionship after surviving a lifetime marked by abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, prison and the repression of his homosexuality.

The combination of verbatim narrative with physical theatre particularly interests me as I’ve also worked extensively with verbatim, previously as a theatre practitioner and now as a fine artist. I like experiencing boundaries between conventional theatre genres and fine art whenever possible, and I was keen to see how DV8 might abstract or develop the verbatim process through dance/ movement.

The performance was very moving and fearless regarding the earthy subject matter. The highly skilled performers astounded me with their ability to simultaneously move beautifully and speak verbatim with authenticity and clarity. As a counterpoint to Patrick Staff’s piece, dealing with similar subject matter and genre in the British Art show, I feel dance can be used very successfully to describe particular masculine narratives which benefit hugely from an energetic physicality. However, I’m unsure as to whether the movement enhanced the story itself, which may have moved me more profoundly had it been told simply. Perhaps the physicality of the piece will help it stay with me, time will tell. It’s also possible that my opinion comes only from the fact that dance isn’t my first language as an art form.



Joining the Dots...

This series of sessions, facilitated by Elizabeth Hawley, Visual Arts Enabler, is intended to increase the knowledge and understanding of the local, regional and national visual arts ecology through advice giving, signposting, collective problem solving and networking. The sessions are interactive and designed to offer advice, collective problem solving and to encourage ownership and pro-activity towards career development as an artist.

Relationship building

Networking, profile raising, relationship building with organisations, curators and other artists.
Friday 9 October - Coventry Artspace.


Resourcing your practice

Time, space and opportunities; networking and connectivity.
Friday 16 October - Worcester Arts Workshop.


Communicating your practice

Profile raising, marketing and audience engagement; working practices and documenting a practice.
Friday 23 October – The New Art Gallery Walsall.


The sessions will also feature a guest artist/arts professional as a case study speaking about their own experiences.

All sessions are FREE and will run from 11am- 3pm.


Artists can book for all three sessions.  However, priority will be given to ensuring that as many as possible can attend one session.  Therefore, if you would like to attend all three, please identify your first choice session. There are a maximum of 20 places per session, which will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Drinks will be provided. Please bring food to share.

To book please email: Annabel Clarke - annabel.clarke@bcu.ac.uk quoting which session you would like to attend.



Bursaries for British Art Show 8

The Artist Development programme, run by The New Art Gallery Walsall in partnership with Turning Point West Midlands, is offering three bursaries of £100 each to artists wishing to attend the British Art Show.

British Art Show 8                               

9 October 2015 - 10 January 2016, Leeds Art Gallery.

The British Art Show is widely recognised as a significant marker of recent developments in contemporary art, unrivalled in its scope and national reach. The exhibition introduces a wide public to a new generation of British artists, providing a vital overview of the most exciting art produced in this country during the previous five years. BAS8 will take over all the galleries within Leeds Art Gallery.

Three bursaries will be awarded to those artists who make the best case for travelling to Leeds.

Meetings with relevant parties and visits to artists’ studios may also be included in any proposed itinerary.

Selected artists are asked to submit a short report on their time in Leeds which will be posted on the Turning Point West Midlands website.

Apply here:

Application Form

Deadline: 5pm, Sunday 6 September 2015.


A free tour of the British Art Show with Curator Sarah Brown, organised by Turning Point West Midlands, and open to all, will take place at 2pm on Saturday 10 October 2015. To book a place, please email Wendy Law wendy.law@bcu.ac.uk by Monday 7 September 2015.