About six months ago I moved to Leeds to start my degree at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. The course is pretty demanding both mentally and physically, so the only time I get to explore the city is at the weekends after I’ve managed to catch up on sleep, go food shopping and do my washing. As much as it pains me to admit, I am well acquainted with Leeds’ shopping areas, the nightlife and Chapeltown where NSCD is located, and well… not much else. It thus gave me great delight to visit The Tetley Brewery in order to see the Eyes As Big As Plates exhibition. I naively didn’t even realise that Leeds had a river, so walking to The Tetley really was an adventure!
I love art and sculpture, I love folklore, and I also love listening to my grandparents tell me stories when I go and visit them (I’m nineteen and still a sucker for anything my nana tells me), therefore this project was bound to be a winner. In the intimate setting of a projection room at The Tetley amidst the architectural and local history of the brewery Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen’s bubbly personalities were infectious and I loved that that their presentation of the project was met with the same energy by the audience.
First I would like you to imagine a solitary ‘elderly’ person in a landscape of pure natural beauty. But instead of just awkwardly being there in 21st Century clothes sticking out like a sore thumb they are at one with the nature, blending in with Ikonen’s costumes of moss, sticks and grass created from materials immediately available to the area. They are not fixedly smiling with dead eyes, they are thoughtful, contemplating the moment. You can tell that there are stories and memories behind those eyes and it is harmonised by the nature that surrounds them. They are moving sculptures, and they seem to radiate life.
I’m not sure why I felt moved by these photographs, and I find it difficult to describe them in a way that would do them justice. I think it is the history that surrounds each image. The history of nature, of the people and the history of the stories. Instigated by Norwegian folklore, and elderly people’s relationship with nature, the anecdotal tone of the photographs is mirrored by Hjorth and Ikonen who are clearly touched and inspired by the people and locations they have worked with since the start of the project in 2011. Naturally the Ilkely Moor photographs, produced this very week were beautifully close to home and Ikonen’s use of bracken, heather and moss in the costumes reiterated this feeling of being akin with nature. After seeing this exhibition, I can’t wait for them to release a book on the project and will be avidly watching their own blog for future inspiring shoots!
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