Ian Pepper and Friends | Welcome to My World | November 2016
When Worlds Collide
Having turned the concept of the roving art collective on it’s head back in early 2011, the last six years have seen quite a different level of engagement between artists and audience through BasementArtsProject. Being founder and principle organiser of the Peripheral artist collective between 2005 and 2011 I curated a good many ad hoc projects in a number of temporary spaces, bars, churches, tram sheds etcetera . . . Something that became apparent very quickly was that after a while the number of places in which to exhibit starts to shrink, as venues said no to familiar faces in favour of newly graduated ones. I had myself occupied this position over the early part of the 2000’s, but of course we cannot retain such titles for very long.
It was at this point that I decide to reverse the modus operandi, instead of starting with the artists and trying to find venues, I decided instead to start with a venue and take it from there. After securing a mortgage in the early 2000’s, before the financial crash, I decided that the basement of my family home, a dumping ground for rubbish over the years would be an ideal space for events and exhibitions, if we could persuade people of its worth. By dint of being an owned property the space could be permanent rather than temporary, always free and at the heart of a large community that does not have access to art through reasons predominantly associated with poverty. Not much persuasion was needed and five years later, more than forty projects down the line BasementArtsProject continues to work with artists, many based in Leeds, on projects that have taken us and them to Liverpool, Sweden and the USA.
Welcome to My World is the second exhibition in 2016 that has been led by artist and musician Ian Pepper, and it comes on the back of the Leeds Inspired funded project A Feast of Beeston. The original project saw Pepper visiting South Leeds over the first few months of the year and collecting photographs and audio recordings as material for his project. In May 2016 he presented a series of about fifteen pencil portraits of people from South Leeds and half a dozen larger paintings on board depicting scenes from South Leeds. In the darkened rear half of the exhibition space a series of digital collages, created from abstracted architectural images taken around the area, were projected onto the wall, at points feeling like they were merging with brick and plaster work, itself becoming part of that living history of stories told and stories yet to happen. Accompanying this, the voices of members of the local community echo around the space telling stories of their lives in Beeston, a mixture of the joyful, sad and humorous from those who were born in South Leeds seventy or eighty years ago, alongside those who have come to live here in the last two or three years.
Over the summer, through BasementArtsProject and Vale Circles Community Centre, Pepper staged two workshops based around the idea of portraiture and collage. These were held at Vale Circles and included the users of the centre along with people from the South Leeds Community. To encourage different types of thinking about the reasons for making and engaging with art we set a challenge and made a promise: every single person who made something as part of the workshops would have their work included in a second exhibition that would be completely open to the public, at BasementArtsProject. In that moment Welcome To My World was born. Eventually, on Thursday 24th November, we opened The Basement doors to the public for an exhibition that was comprised of several works by Ian Pepper; a mixture of collages and puppets, alongside the work produced by participants of the August and September workshops.
During the run of the show South Leeds Life reporter Lucy Potter wrote about the exhibition which produced one of the most interesting community engagement aspects to date. A month after the exhibition ended I was contacted by Barry Senior, a member of the local community in his mid-eighties, who had read the article and wondered ‘if I was the bloke who did the art thing.’ I replied that I was, at which point he asked if I would look at something that he had made at night school, when he had decided to do wood working in his early eighties. I said yes. Eventually, about a month later, he returned bringing with him an amazingly carved marionette puppet of William Wallace (Braveheart), his hero. He said that he was going to get rid of it as he had no purpose for it so I offered to take it from him and put it on permanent display.
I like to think that alongside the task of presenting exhibitions and events that in some way add to the development of those whose career is aimed fairly and squarely at the arts, we are also able, because of our positioning in this community, to bring something out of those who may have never before thought that what they are doing might be considered art to others. Barry’s work is now on display in the living room at BasementArtsProject, there for anyone to look at whenever they visit.
Welcome To My World features work by Claire Bentley-Smith, Paul Walsh and the participants from Vale Circles
With thanks to Paul Digby and Will Morris at Vale Circles
PREVIEW | PERFORMANCE: The Creatures of Habit
Thursday 24th November | 7.30pm – 9.30pm
Saturday 26th November | 2pm – 4pm
Sunday 27th November | 2pm – 4pm
Monday 28th November | 11am – 2pm
Saturday 29th November | 2pm – 4pm
Sunday 30th November | 2pm – 4pm
Monday 1st December | 11am – 2pm
Supported by Leeds Inspired.