Audacious show with a sense of humour

Work by Sophie Carapetian
Work by Sophie Carapetian
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The latest exhibition at Leeds art space PSL sees artists with something in common coming together. Nick Ahad takes a look at Glamourie.

Artist David Steans likes to play around with ideas.

It is why he was the perfect person to curate the latest show at PSL – an exhibition full of ideas which are playful – and according to one of the artists involved, confrontational.

“It’s a show that has a sense of humour, and that I think is quite audacious,” says Steans of the exhibition, called Glamourie.

It is quite audacious to name a show after an ancient Celtic word that Steans claims has “fallen out of vogue”. Possibly made up is another accurate description of the word.

Steans says: “A glamourie is a form of Celtic magic where a spell is put on to an object and which transforms that object.”

Maybe. You’ll have to do a fair bit of digging to confirm that this is the actual definition. Perhaps the title of the show itself is a part of the sense of humour surrounding the show?

As he finishes installing the hectic exhibition, which features 26 artists, Steans is enjoying seeing the fruition of an idea and who can blame him, given that he has clearly waited a long time to see the idea become a reality.

“I had the idea about two years ago,” says Steans. “I am primarily very much an artist first, I have sort of fallen into being the curator for this show because it was my idea that brought it together.”

The idea was that Steans wanted to follow in the long tradition of artists sharing exhibition space with their friends and peers. Steans, a Leeds Met graduate, was looking around and recognising that a lot of his artist friends were coming to a significant moment in their practice all at the same time.

He also saw a burgeoning movement of artists who had a link to Yorkshire, either having studied here or being from here, who were starting to make a name for themselves in the visual arts world.

The artists were not yet significant enough to exhibit in some of the bigger, mainstream galleries, but were certainly outgrowing some of the smaller spaces in which their work was sometimes seen.

“I started talking to artists that I knew, friends, colleagues and getting them excited about the idea of having a show where we all brought our work together. I sort of went the wrong way about it, getting the artists and the excitement first and then trying to find a gallery to present this idea,” he says.

Fortunately, when he approached PSL, just outside Leeds city centre, those in charge were impressed and gave him the opportunity to use the space.

“We’d worked with David before, showing some of his work in a previous show, and we are here to provide a space for artists at exactly this point in their career,” says Zoe Sawyer, programme manager at PSL. “The enthusiasm that he had for the idea was a big factor in us inviting this exhibition into the space.”

Artist Rory Macbeth, whose piece features a car that appears to have smashed into a one way sign, says that Steans’ understanding of working as a visual artist has made him the perfect person to curate the show.

“A lot of curators don’t make good curators, because they are not artists,” says Macbeth.

“Because David knows the process of what we are doing and what we are trying to do with our work, I think there is a level of trust that he will make sure our work is presented at least in an interesting way.

“Whatever else, it won’t be a typical or boring exhibition of work.”

Nurturing emerging art

PSL has been a part of the Leeds emerging art scene for the past five years. Glamourie is the penultimate show before it moves to a new venue in the city.

The gallery provides an opportunity for artists in their middle career – not ready to exhibit at venues like Leeds Art Gallery or the Henry Moore Institute, but who have graduated from the spaces available through training.

Glamourie opens at PSL tomorrow and is at the gallery until March 31. Details