Sense of Place // White Room Gallery – Contemporary Art Exhibition
27th January - 11th February 

Tickets: Free entry

Over the past 20 years, Neepsend and Kelham Island have seen
vast regeneration as industrial abandoned buildings have had a new lease of
life pumped into them making the area a hub of alternative and creative
activity in Sheffield. At the heart is Yellow Arch Studios, home to a live
venue, rehearsal spaces, recording studio and now, the White Room Gallery.
Complete with high ceilings & vast skylit walls, this once industrious
space has now been repurposed into our very own performance and exhibition space
for the whole Sheffield community – To celebrate Yellow Arch have teamed up
with curator Bridget Murray and a whole host of contemporary artists to create
a very special exhibition responding to the theme of place, spaces and the
outdoor world.

In the wake of serious warnings from the latest UN report on
climate change, Sense of Place brings together a collection of artworks
responding to the theme of place, spaces and the outdoor world. The works
consider, examine or reflect upon this subject matter, ranging from modern day
relationships with the natural world to the political uncertainties we are
facing across the globe, manifesting in the continual displacement of people
through warfare and environmental disasters. We spoke to curator, Bridget
Murray, to find out more about the exhibition and what to expect from the
collection of artwork that will be displayed at the White Room Gallery over the
next couple of weeks…

What were your motivations towards bringing together the ‘Sense
of Place’ exhibition’?

Bridget: I wanted to put together an exhibition that
would include a variety of artists and could be open to anybody, including
students or people who hadn’t exhibited before. As well as giving artists an
opportunity to show their work, this mix makes it an interesting venture for
myself, trying to get the balance right. In the past I used to curate ‘Zines’
which brought together an eclectic mix of work in one publication, and I missed
doing it. I wanted a theme that was relevant at the moment politically, but
could be open to interpretation, and therefore attract a range of artists.

Why did you initially decide to use the White Room

Bridget: I’d heard that the venue was looking to use
the White Room in different ways, and especially for arts events, so when I
came and looked at it I thought it would be great to use as a gallery.  The room has lots of wall space, but it also
has its own idiosyncrasies, it still retains some of its original features and
has an unusual layout. I like the idea of showing art in informal spaces,
reaching different audiences, and the fact that it is a café/bar and music
venue was also a draw in that sense.

When selecting artists and pieces of art to feature in
the exhibition, what were you looking for?

Bridget: Some of the artists’ work I had seen from
visiting shows or studios in Sheffield, and others responded to call outs
through various networks. I wanted to show a diverse range of pieces and
approaches that I felt would work together as a whole, but also a good spread
across the exhibition’s theme. Some of the artwork is literally a personal
response to a space, whereas some take on more political themes. There are 30
artists in the exhibition, some from Sheffield but also further afield, as far
as Wales and Belgium.

‘Sense of Place’ exhibits work in many different forms
and mediums and illustrate various subjects and messages, which pieces
particularly stood out to you?

Bridget: I think they all stood out and that’s why I
chose them. Some speak to me aesthetically (eg, Susan Wright, A New Topology.
Matt Midwood, Cloud Studies), some carry a political or physical message about
an area (eg. Grant Lambie, Advent Calendar of War 2018. Nic Gear, Routes of
Understanding), some I like their ambiguity and so necessarily cause reflection
(eg. Karis Hopkinson, Untitled Work. Lina Avramidou, The Presence of Absense)
some are interesting technically (eg. Fumi, Adaption. Jeremy Lee, Conksbury
Bridge, Derbyshire Point) as well as beautiful to look at. Many of the the
pieces work on more than one level and I think will appeal to viewers for
different reasons.

How do you think art can help spread awareness and tackle
international and environmental concerns?

Bridget: I think the more that people are aware of
international and environmental issues can only be a good thing for all of us,
whether this awareness comes from the news, celebrities, art or wherever.
Politically it’s a treacherous time and people have been challenged to consider
our sense of place as a country in the last couple of years in a way that we
haven’t had to for decades. People’s responses to art are always very personal,
something that really moves one person may be equally overlooked by another. On
a really basic level if art can provoke a response, a thought, a feeling, a
question or idea and ultimately a conversation, then that’s a good place to

For centuries we have been using art as a way to record, symbolise and reflect upon current affairs – it evokes a response from the audience and challenges us to think differently about issues that we may or may not always understand. In this exhibition, we are given the opportunity to delve into personal representations of what ‘Sense of Place’ means to an individual or alternatively look at an abstract response to the political and environmental landscape. Today we see art being used as a tool for expression and a way for people to convey a message, a focus for people who have faced hardship to channel their energy into or even a form of escapism for people who are struggling on the frontline. Charities such as Art Refuge UK and Paint Outside the Lines offer art therapy classes for people who have been displaced due to religious and/or political conflicts in London, Bristol, on the France-UK border at Calais and Iraq. In global politics, environmental concerns are increasingly becoming more and more sidelined as messages are getting ignored by our world leaders, will art be able to paint a bigger picture to Donald Trump? Perhaps not, but it raises the argument and keeps the conversation alive. The power of art should never be underestimated and this collection delivers viewpoints and opinions that plant seeds of thought and spark a conversation about our relationship with the world. Having the exhibition in a raw and unassuming environment in the heart of Kelham Island, a place which has seen a rollercoaster of change and reformation, completely exemplifies the messages that are put across by each of the artists, one that is both sensitive to the issues but also ballsy and confrontational to problems that people face today.

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