Commissioned by East Street Arts Vegetable Matter both built on and developed the project I initiated with Don’t Look Down ten years previously (see below). Having grown up in Harehills and lived for most of my adult life in Chapeltown I was both acutely aware of their reputations, and irritated beyond measure by the continuous misrepresentation of them. Both Chapeltown and Harehills have a thriving cosmopolitan small business community, with influences from across the globe, and it was this sense of vitality, of fresh influxes and new experiences intermingled with the indigenous ones that I hoped to capture. These two areas have historically attracted immigrant people into them, and these integrating cultures are reflected in the mix of small independent shops and the produce sold in them. Many foods once considered unusual are now familiar having quietly naturalised, much as the population does.
Still living in the area, I use the small shops and businesses in preference to the larger supermarkets. Shopping for, preparing and eating food are (or should be) social experiences, and the food on sale in these shops is the best marker of commonality and difference where difference is seen as beneficial and contributory, rather than threatening and destabilising. As with Don’t Look Down, this work quietly challenges negative preconceptions of life in these areas by utilising conventions found in traditional still life to create visually pleasing images which subtly articulate the positive aspects of areas so frequently disparaged.
Vegetable Matter is on permanent display at The Compton Centre, Harehills and The Reginald Centre, Chapeltown, Leeds.
Light Night 2009
Light pollution, noise pollution, rush hour and a darkened space. What happened when these elements combined to produce a peacefully magical sound and light show. Light nighters were invited to come and relax, unwind and play with the traffic at the Old Mining Building, University of Leeds.
Don’t Look Down
The images in this series were all taken between June 2000 and May 2001 within the Chapeltown and Harehills areas of Leeds.
A personal response to the frequently negative portrayal of these areas, they re-represent one of the most interesting and varied urban landscapes in Leeds.
Intended to challenge the local and national perception of the areas, the images do not represent urban decay but instead portray a vibrant cosmopolitan area photographed using the conventions of the picturesque.
Not only was the work shot within the area, it was shown locally. The exhibition toured making use of existing public spaces: a laundrette, a café, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, a Community Resource Centre as well as the Central Library, St James’ Hospital (as part of the Spice of Leeds festival in 2001) and Chapel Allerton Arts Festival. The exhibition received a huge amount of media interest both nationally and locally, and was very well received by the public who saw it.
A selection of framed exhibition prints is available for loan, and is currently on show at Shine in Leeds.
Limited edition prints from the series are available for sale, with substantial discounts offered for those who can claim a connection to the areas. For a full viewing or for prices please contact Claire directly.
Alternatively Glasshouse Gallery, Leeds, holds a selection framed signed limited edition prints for sale.
The initial project was funded by Yorkshire Arts and Unity Housing Association and the touring exhibition was financed wholly by the Millennium Commission’s Safer Communities Awards. Many thanks to John Parkes and to Karen Watson from East Street Arts for their support.