With BasementArtsProject I have reached a point that eight and a half years ago, when I began this idea, I could not have imagined ever reaching. And that point is one of forward planning rather than backfilling. Whilst it was never difficult to find artists who wanted to do projects, and equally I am never short of people proposing projects of their own, I am now at the point of being able to programme two years in advance with projects currently being pencilled in for 2021.
Since we began this venture nearly a decade ago, we have been diligently chipping away underground, creating a place that serves both artists and community alike. Over time the project has become the foundation for a broad set of ideas that address many issues in art whilst speaking directly to the concerns of the local community. Whilst BasementArtsProject is part of a wider scene that includes national and international exhibitions it does this in conjunction with a programme of events that places international artists at the heart of the South Leeds community in which it exists.
Back in 2017 we produced a book entitled Hypogeal; a year underground with BasementArtsProject. In this we proposed that our project operates like the stage in plant growth before the seed has access to sunlight, the stage in which it grows a single leaf underground that provides the seed with enough energy until it reaches the surface and is able to photosynthesise sunlight. The leaf seed (cotyledon) crucially does not look the same as the leaves on the plant once it is growing above ground. Underground is the ideal opportunity to spend time experimenting, changing, developing into what will happen once the surface is broken. It is with this in mind that we work without boundaries as much as possible and encourage the artists with whom we work to do so to.
Having taken BasementArtsProject exhibitions to Sweden, USA, Manchester, London and Liverpool, as well as a host of other Leeds venues, over the years this year (2019) we are focussing on South Leeds, being the year of the first Yorkshire Sculpture International, in which many international artists are invited to realise projects as part of an event across two cities in a county known for its sculpture. And it is true that there is a massive number of sculptors associated with the area, whether we are talking about Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Damian Hirst, or whether it is collectives such as the Yorkshire Sculptor Group, the area is definitely well endowed in the area of sculpture. Sat here at BasementHQ (aka the kitchen table), five days before the opening night for this Leeds and Wakefield wide event, I reflect on BasementArtsProject’s aspirations for this period during the YSI2019 and it’s concurrent independent spin off, of which we are a part. In considering the idea of what it means to bring established international artists into the area I have looked at how much international talent resides in Leeds.
Since last May I have been talking to artist Keith Ackerman about the execution of a monumental stone sculpture in South Leeds. Since September this has extended to include projects by artists Dominic Hopkinson, Phill Hopkins and Jadene Imbusch. It is these artists that form the basis for ‘On The Corner’ a project designed to reveal some of the more hidden processes of art production. Whether it be the direct carving of stone, how collaborations work between people who have never met before, the conceptual beginnings of a piece or the process of obtaining space and permission to work in a public place, ‘On The Corner’ aims to shed light on the full breadth of the process.
I have already written several articles on this project on South Leeds Life but here I shall be going into a bit more detail from the perspective of BasementArtsProject and hopefully the artists involved.
Over the coming weeks as the project progress’ I shall be writing more pages in the Studio Journal, but for now here is the first of five pages concerned with the ‘On The Corner’ project detailing the beginning of the construction of Jacob’s Ladder by Keith Ackerman
BasementArtsProject is grateful for the support shown for this project so far by INDEX Festival, Henry Moore Foundation, Leeds Art Fund and Cllr Paul Wray