The objet trouvé has for a long time been an established presence in the art world. Literally meaning ‘Found Object’ these natural or discarded items have formed the basis of many modern and contemporary artworks. Many artists hold with the idea that any object can be a work of art if a person recognises its merit as an object with aesthetic value.
This theory and practice has been found in the work of many artists over the eight year span of BasementArtsProject’s life so far. Whether it be the installation work of Alistair Woods or individual works by the likes of Paul Walsh or Sohail Khan, the found object is an important component in the production of work.
As society changes, so to does the nature of art. We are in tumultuous times both politically and economically right now and much contemporary art reflects this fact. Claire Bentley-Smith is an artist whose feet are planted in two very different artistic camps; one is that of the commercial art world and the other is the world of the fine artist. This exhibition is a sideways look at the artist’s own early life and growing up inspired by her current experience of living, working and bringing up children in South Leeds.
Bruce Davies | April 2018
Unmanaged Reproach: A resident’s experience of the street sex industry in Leeds.
It’s impossible not to notice a flourishing street sex trade migrating through the area where we live. There are constant reminders of nocturnal hustles and the difficult lives tangled up in it with glimpses of torrid clinches and small-hour screams, detritus strewn on pathways when families start their morning routines and the sinister gazes of lascivious lechers as they cruise round local ladies whist hunting their carnal indulgences.
On my litter walk to clear discarded condoms and drug paraphernalia between my son’s primary school and home I discovered the remnants of a woman’s life in amongst a bonfire ashes and brought them home to assemble two sculptures. They became the starting point of a larger body of work that has evolved to scrutinise wider aspects of the UK sex industry. Child sexual abuse and exploitation, hardcore porn, drug addiction and people trafficking plus the role of global funders and their third sector organisations in controlling the prostitution narrative through academia & research and shaping policy regardless of the negative aspects of the sex trade on communities, especially children, seeing this normalised.
Unexpectedly, this process became a catalyst to dredge the remnants of my own challenging childhood and 20s and I found many common themes between my experiences and those of the girls trapped in the street sex trade here, which is probably why I have felt driven help form a community led campaign to change policy in Leeds away from tolerating prostitution, trafficking, exploitation and addiction towards rehabilitation and empowerment for the girls involved and the community we live in.
Claire Bentley-Smith | April 2019