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Leeds Visit: & Model and The Tetley

I studied my Foundation course at Leeds College of Art 10 years ago (Wowsa… that makes me feel old!). There wasn’t too much happening on the art scene then, which made the decision to study at the Glasgow School of Art very easy. In Leeds there were the council run galleries, the Fine Art course at Leeds Metropolitan University, a few proactive practitioners and Black Dogs, which was about it.

A lot has changed since then; artist-led spaces have increased as vacant properties have become available due to the economic climate. I suspect landlords in the city would rather have their building inhabited rather than letting them rot.

If I was on my Foundation this year there would still be a desire to go to London or Glasgow art schools but there would be a very strong inclination to stay in Leeds and make the most of the spaces available for emerging artists with the added support of fellow creative’s.

Arriving in a rainy Leeds wasn’t very welcoming, by the time we got to & Model we were a little wet and wind-beat. Thankfully a warm handshake was on offer from James Chinneck as soon as we stepped in the door. & Model reminds me of London spaces like Raven Row or the old  ibid projects space and Glasgow galleries such as the old tenement space The Modern Institute used to inhabit. The gallery is housed in a three story building, once an office, but looks like it could have been a lived-in property. It’s different levels and various sized rooms intrigue me and I notice myself getting carried away in imagining what I could do with the space as an artist. It’s rough in places but directors Derek, Chris and James have done a great job turning the building into a desirable gallery space. Leeds is a better city for having art venues like this, & Model is a credit to the Leeds art scene.

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Whilst I was there I wondered around the Nick Thurston exhibition Pretty Brutal Library as well as Joseph Buckley‘s One Sixth of a Series Of Elegies: V, ?? & XVII: Retcon! Retcon! Retcon! on the middle floor. His vinyl colour panels laid on the floor drew my attention to otherwise un-noticed elements of the building – a method I use in my own site-responsive practice. No doubt I shall be back for their next exhibition opening in late October, as I am keen to see how the gallery can be transformed from show to show.

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Next on my list of places to visit was The Tetley. Due to open on 29th November, I was given a hard-hat tour of the building whilst it is being transformed from brewery headquarters to cutting edge art gallery (complete with restaurant and cafe). I am genuinely so excited to see what it will be like once complete. The tall atrium space stretches the full length of the building, whilst other smaller off-shoot spaces adorned with wood paneling and parquet flooring allow for artists work on a smaller scale or perhaps have a residency.

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It could be seen as a difficult space; steeped with history and loaded with 1930’s architectural aesthetics. But I would be interested in responding to the space site-specifically, and I know a lot of other artists who would see this as a desirable challenge. I came out wearing white gloves, steel toe capped boots, hi-vis vest, goggles and a hard-hat feeling supremely sexy (not) and overwhelmed. It took me at least a week to digest what I saw that Friday afternoon. I cannot wait to see the opening programme and what the future for The Tetley holds. Another gem for Leeds!

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Joseph Buckley at & Model is open by appointment until mid October

The Tetley, Leeds opens on the 29th November

By Liz West

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