Vision for Leeds contemporary art space The Tetley

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

“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, with audiences interacting with them and for artists to work with communities.”

Bond brings to her role a wealth of experience gained in curatorial positions at the Whitworth in Manchester, 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 different and 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 we also have these intimate wood-panelled rooms that are quite domestic in scale. It is great to work with those spaces to create an exciting experience for audiences.”

The current exhibitions reflect this imaginative use of the gallery spaces perfectly. On the wall of the 1930s atrium of 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. “Roger was really keen to make something specific for here,” says Bond. “And his huge wall drawing of a palm tree is based on an etching extracted from an early 20th century horticultural publication.”

Professor Emeritus in Fine Art at the University of Leeds, Palmer has been working as an artist and teacher since the 1970s and the exhibition at the Tetley also includes a collection of his books documenting various shows and projects, on display together for the first time. Picture Book, running concurrently at the gallery, is a group show by artists exploring the notion of publication as artwork.

“They are looking at print and what it means to have a printed copy of something,” says Bond. “Their work is about 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 with some of the artwork included in the books also displayed as framed paintings, independent publisher Landfill Editions are showcasing publications from 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 individually and collectively. 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 – which amounts to 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. “It’s still early days for me but 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. I have learnt over the years that collaboration is always beneficial. By collaborating we can really encourage artists and audiences.”

Both shows run to April 17.