Artistic appetite at the Tetley in Leeds

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There are two new exhibitions at the Tetley – one explores our relationship with food and the other revisits a Sixties scandal. Grace Hammond reports.

Two new exhibitions at the Tetley, Leeds’s exciting contemporary art space housed in the former brewery building, have opened and will continue through the summer into October.

In his first solo show in a public gallery in the UK, Huddersfield-born London-based sculptor Jonathan Trayte presents a collection of recent works especially made and selected for The Tetley.

His work explores our complex relationship with food, from the production industry and global supply chains that engineer and design the products we consume, to its emotional and social role in today’s food-obsessed society.

Trayte’s sculptural installations of large-scale prize vegetables are witty and exuberant. Using bare concrete or brightly painted bronze, the pieces reference other familiar display areas – such as local market stalls, supermarket fruit and veg ailses and elaborate dinner tables.

The artist borrows his lurid colour palette from food packaging – designed to catch the eye of consumers and compete with rival brands. Accentuating their unusual scale with unnatural ornamentation, common vegetables are transformed into glossy objects of desire, too good to eat.

Works on display demonstrate Trayte’s ongoing research interest that has involved the artist undertaking international residencies and visiting markets and factories where food is sold and produced.

He has also engaged with academic research, most recently collaborating with Professor Charles Spence at the experimental psychology laboratory at Oxford University, to gain an insight in how consumer decision-making is manipulated in commercial environments using various means, materials, lighting and temperatures.

Also running at the gallery this summer is the show Stass Paraskos: Lovers & Romances which brings together a collection of paintings by Cypriot artist Stass Paraskos. The exhibition focusses on Lovers &Romances a show that was the subject of an obscenity trial in 1966 following a complaint by a member of the public and a police raid on the show at Leeds Institute.

Paraskos’s trial sparked national and international debate with leading art world figures such as Herbert Read and Norbet Lynton speaking in his defence. Paraskos was the last artist in England to be prosecuted under the Vagrancy Act of 1838 that had earlier been used against DH Lawrence in 1962 when his novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was put on trial.

Painted during era of ‘flower power’ and ‘free love’, the paintings, and the debates they sparked, are revisited in this exhibibtion fifty years on. Freedom of expression and censorship in the arts and beyond remains a lively debate today.

The show presents a selection of works produced in this period alongside archive material relating to the trial. Many of the works – deemed ‘lewd and obscene’ – went on to feature in the group show Fantasy and Figuration at the ICA in London in 1967 and were later acquired by the Tate in 2006.

Having trained and then taught at Leeds College of Art before the notoriety of the trial Paraskos continued to develop his career with a dual focus on being an educator in tandem with being a practitioner.

After a period of living in Cornwall and associating with the St Ives group he returned to Leeds to teach at Leeds College of Art, later moving on to teach at Canterbury College of Art. Inspired by his experience at the avant-garde ‘Barry Summer School’ in the 60s, he went on to establish his own DIY Art School, Cyprus Art College n 1969.

Both shows run at the Tetley until October 9. Admissions is free. www.thetetley.org

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