Landscapes of Labour. July 2018

Landscapes of Labour is a month long project that examines the relationships between land, labour and making. John Berger’s book A Seventh Man follows migrant workers in the 1970s as they crossed Europe to find work. Once engaged with agricultural work and labour in their own towns, the centralisation and industrialisation of their industries led to their being little work. Berger charts the workers as they are employed on building sites in cities, constructing the infrastructure that will prop up the huge businesses and political ideologies that made them leave their homes and families.  It was reading this book that first began the idea of a project focusing on relationships between land and labour.Throughout July 2018 there will be an exhibition that brings together artists and makers who make work of the land, from the land and about the land. There will also be film screenings that present different working engagements with landscapes.

Rahul Jain’s film Machines presents filmed documentation of an Indian textile factory and the conditions that so many people work in. Jain captures the heat and the physical strain of this environment. Operation Sea Lion is an Arena documentary from 1992 about the artist Anselm Kiefer. The film presents Kiefer as an artist engaged with the history of Germany, where he was born in 1940. There is footage of Berlin in ruins and images of women lining up to collect bricks from which the city was rebuilt. Kiefer is shown in his then studio, a disused and ruined brick factory. The rubble has been left in piles and he makes work in the midst of this. It is not a stretch to imagine him making work in the midst of a ruined Berlin.

Isatu Hyde is a ceramicist who makes vessels and pots that are often based on the shapes and objects from historical cultures. Whether this is the re-imagining of a leather water sack into fired clay or using clay mined in Mexico to create traditional kitchen and tableware such as a sourdough bread oven that sits amongst the fire.

Andy Kinnear is a printmaker with an emphasis on woodblock and the emergency of this mode of printing. This work is rooted in history and the way information was spread via print. Enclosure shows the impact of the Enclosures Act on farmers and communities and presents a narrative that was true on many occasions.

Dan Rawlings is a sculptor and maker who constantly engages with his surroundings. In large public commissions as well as small scale metalwork where he often cuts natural shapes into industrial materials, he demonstrates an aptitude for making. His Prototype Canoe is here an artwork, but it is also his canoe and is an example of using the things we make.

James Hopkins is a sculptor, his Pickaxe is a remaking of a used and beaten tool that we all know as something to cause destruction. In this example, it is softened. The resin head looks malleable and the layered wooden handle twists upwards as though the discs of wood were delicately balanced.

Leszek Sikon is a blacksmith whose work often reflects the land. He has forged tools from bullet casings that were dug out of Polish battlefields. Here he has produced knives based on sycamore seeds. Using damascus technique he is able to keep the intricate folds of the steel and, in waves, show his labour intensive process.

Stuart Delaney is a maker. He creates sculptures and furniture pieces that use considered and quality materials alongside clean and coherent designs. He made the desk that this was written on, a wooden top supported by crossed steel legs and frame. There is simplicity in the design but intricacy in the making. This is apparent in the shelf which Isatu’s vessels sit on and the cabinet that Leszek’s knives float in. Both bring together natural shapes and materials with modernist design and metalwork.

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