Hello Leeds: Soul-stirring sculpture which depicts a broken modern Britain heads to Left Bank Leeds

Immigration, patriotism, domestic abuse and the pandemic will be at the centre of a new contemporary art installation at Left Bank Leeds.

By Alex Grant
Sunday, 9th January 2022, 4:45 am

From Tuesday, January 13 to Saturday, January 29, 'Monster', by renowned sculptor and artist Giles Walker, is a timely, provocative kinetic installation which explores some of the most challenging and disturbing issues that face modern Britain.

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'Monster’ was first exhibited at The Truman Stables, London, in December 2020 and makes its North of England debut at Left Bank Leeds.

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'Monster’ was first exhibited at The Truman Stables, London, in December 2020 and makes its North of England debut at Left Bank Leeds. Picture: Giles Walker.

The immersive installation features several haunting animatronic sculptures, made in Giles Walker’s Brixton workshop from scrap materials including high heel shoes, lampshades and prams. The sculptures, which move like puppets and mouth-along to the accompanying soundtrack without expression, depict many of the people of modern Britain as Giles sees them – broken, divided and lurching to the far right.

“’Monster’ started with the idea of building a piece that played out the insecurities and pain of a nation in the midst of a communal nervous breakdown. A nation in ill health." he said.

"I even gave the animatronic characters persistent dry coughs, which of course took on a heavier significance by the time the piece was exhibited post-pandemic. The piece is inherently political and is intended to provoke, captivate and disturb, and I hope that the people of Leeds leave feeling more intrigued than when they arrived.”

The soundtrack has been orchestrated by Paul Hartnoll from legendary electronic duo Orbital and is equally as haunting – featuring dystopian dialogue from politician’s speeches to soundbites from outdated racist comedians.

The sculptures depict many of the people of modern Britain as Giles sees them – broken, divided and lurching to the far right. Picture: Giles Walker.

"The job of art is to expose the lies." Giles explained "My thinking behind the piece was that the establishment and how it has hung onto power all these years is based on lies and this sort of false narrative and I think the current government and their shambolic approach is bringing that to a head."

Giles has been creating sculptures for 27 years. Initially a full-time member of the guerrilla-art group, The Mutoid Waste Company, he started building pieces from materials found in scrapyards as the trailblazing collective travelled around Europe.

"We were part of the squatting scene and used to squat in big warehouses and make money by having warehouse parties where we would show our sculptures and mutated vehicles." Giles explained "I joined up in 1989 because they were going to Berlin to build a ramming machine to smash through the Berlin Wall and I have been working in sculpturing ever since."

Left Bank Leeds, a Grade II listed former church building, which sits in the heart of Burley, will host the event.

‘Monster’ is the second significant contemporary art installation that the venue has hosted this year alone, following the success of Leeds-based artist Pippa Hale’s ‘Heaven’ in spring 2021.

Sue Jennings, director at Left Bank Leeds added: “It is an enormous coup for us to have Giles’ phenomenal work at Left Bank. After reopening earlier in the year with ‘Heaven’, which was positive and joyful, we felt it was time to show a different string to our bow and show case work that is the total opposite: haunting, dystopian and filled with horror.

"The intricacy of Giles’ work is unbelievable and makes ‘Monster’ completely unmissable.”

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