Art in the city

New Creative Director at Leeds contemporary art space The Tetley, Bryony Bond spoke to Yvette Huddleston about their current shows and the future.

Six weeks in to her post as the first Creative Director at The Tetley, Bryony Bond exudes enthusiasm and articulates a clear vision of the contemporary art venue’s special position in the cultural life of Leeds and Yorkshire.

“I think the exciting thing about the Tetley is that it’s a real opportunity to be a social hub where artists and audiences can meet,” she says. “There are a few things I want to develop and one is a residency programme to have artists making work here year round, so audiences can interact with them.” Bond brings to her role a wealth of experience gained in curatorial positions at the Whitworth, National Museums Scotland, Camden Arts and A Foundation in Liverpool and is keen to build on the Tetley’s commitment to supporting established and emerging artists, offering them new opportunities in an original and stimulating environment. “I have worked in lots of unusual venues before and I really enjoy responding to a space and making that part of the exhibition,” she says. “So here we have this great atrium space – a big, high-ceilinged open area that is ideal for large-scale installations and then we also have these quite intimate wood-panelled rooms that are quite domestic in scale. It is great to work with those spaces to create an experience that is exciting for audiences.”

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The current exhibitions reflect this imaginative use of the gallery spaces perfectly. On the wall of the 1930s atrium in the former brewery is Roger Palmer’s Winter Garden, an exquisite larger than life-size mural of a tropical palm tree recalling the botanical gardens of the colonial era, based on an etching from an early 20th century horticultural publication. Palmer has been working as an artist and teacher since the 1970s and the exhibition also includes a collection of books documenting his shows and projects, on display together for the first time. Picture Book, also running at the gallery, is a group show by artists exploring the notion of publication as artwork, treating the book as an art form in its own right. Christian Barnes’ A Bathymetric Atlas of the English Lake District is a large-scale hand-made book that reveals the hidden underwater contours of the principal lakes in the Lake District. It is so huge that it needs two members of staff to turn the pages at allotted times. David Barton has brought 256 handmade publications to the gallery, independent publisher Landfill Editions are showcasing their ‘Landfill Library’ and a group installation by illustrators and graphic artists Jay Cover, William Edmonds and Nicolas Burrows features a collection of new and existing publications created both collectively and individually. Photographer and publisher Craig Atkinson, founder of Café Royal Books, a series of publications of British documentary photography, has brought the entire back catalogue to the Tetley – more than 100 publications – plus a new one looking at the history of brewing, which includes images selected from the Tetley archive.

“Leeds is an extraordinary city both in terms of its visual arts and the cultural offer beyond that,” says Bond. “The arts community in Leeds and Yorkshire has been very welcoming and excited about how we can contribute to the arts landscape in an interesting way. I don’t think that culture is a zero-sum game, we can all help each other. By collaborating we can really encourage artists and audiences.”

Both shows run until April 17.