Art Room: Painting in Time @ The Tetley, Leeds

Recently opened at the Tetley in Leeds, Painting in Time is a collection of works by different artists which push the boundaries of paint away from the static and towards including changing, interactive objects. Many of the pieces presented are on the very edge of what might be called a painting and subsequently change what it means to be a viewer.

Probably the most famous name attached to the show is that of Yoko Ono. Always a controversial figure – both with art critics and Beatles fans – Ono’s Painting to Hammer a Nail has a distinctly transgressive feel. Essentially it is a rather grimy toilet with an invitation for the viewer to hammer a nail into the seat.  Aside from the slightly taboo associations of a toilet with defecation , the noisy act of hammering a nail into a piece of art also causes mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was exciting to add to an ongoing piece of work and yet at the same time there was a lingering expectation of being told off. The line between participation and vandalism are suddenly blurred. The fun of this piece is somehow tied up with an invitation to be…well, naughty.

Similarly interactive is Stock Exchange by Lisa Milroy, which can be re-arranged to create new patterns which other visitors can then judge for themselves and change if they wish.

The most immediately eye-catching pieces are Claire Ashley’s brightly painted, inflating and deflating sculptural forms which gradually change their shape throughout the day. Something about the look of them invites the viewer to touch them. Fully inflated they are impressive and joyful, bursting with life. Half-deflated they take on a rather melancholy air. Presented alongside two abstract paintings, they somehow change the space around them, as though taking us into a new landscape.

Polly Apfelum’s works are described as ‘fallen paintings’. Attractive heaps of glitter are set on long trestles, with the experience of them depending on the route the individual takes. The sight of all the brightly shimmering glitter took me right back to the art room at primary school. As with so much of this show, there is a feeling of playfulness and of shaking off the traditional role of the gallery visitor.

New Media Art is represented by video pieces by Robert Chase Heishman and Megan Schvaneveldt. These are appealingly poppy sequences of changing images which prove very striking to the eye.

Sarah Kate Wilson’s Zumba is a performance piece in which two galley attendants dance with a piece of silver fabric while bathed in strobing lights. The effect is to transform the material into a flowing liquid form which is dazzling and hypnotic. While Zumba is brief in duration, it in many ways embodies all that it is most enjoyable about Painting in Time. This is an inherently joyous show, playing with notions of change and individual experience. Traditionalists will probably find much to enrage them here, but if you let yourself go with it, it’s great fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s