The New School House Gallery is a small, beautifully presented gallery in the centre of York. Opened in 2009, it prides itself in showing ‘the best of contemporary art’. Catherine Sutcliffe-Fuller’s solo exhibition ‘Land With Opportunity’ is certainly no exception.
Sutcliffe- Fuller is a Fine Art graduate and trained Printmaker. She is currently a long-term artist in residence at The New School House Gallery. This exhibition comprises of work created as part of PH1: Artists in Place, curated by Robert Teed and Paula Jackson. In ‘Land With Opportunity’ Sutcliffe–Fuller documents the ‘truthful reality’ of a changing landscape during the creation of the controversial Monks Cross ΙΙ site on the outskirts of York.
Recently the artist witnessed a yearlong development unfolding in the Monks Cross landscape – particularly poignant for Catherine as she grew up nearby. She remembers the landscape as a place where she picked strawberries as a child and rode ponies in the grassland. Having built such a connection with the area she watched the disused farmland being sold and used for large-scale commercial development.
The artist was granted access to the Monks Cross II site, allowing her to photograph the process and stages of development and later create the displayed collection of prints, recording the various parts of the building process and its connection with the fields surrounding it. The artist’s new work beckons us to re-consider and re-evaluate the effect of urban development and, by consequence, see clearly the landscape and nature it holds in the face of vulnerability and change. It invites questions in terms of the way in which we perceive the landscape and how we use and alter it.
Sutcliffe-Fuller expresses a fascination with “the way we process, view, experience and analyse the landscape, especially when different environments intersect”. This fascination is wonderfully articulated in her work; she explicitly demonstrates the ways in which the shopping centre development and the countryside meet in often stark and contrasting ways. The images show, for example in ‘Ponds for the Newts’, a horse grazing in a field next to a construction sign, in the backdrop of the new fencing which marks the boundary of the shopping centre. Others show the trees and grassland being adapted using building machinery.
These observational works are created through a precise and complex process of printmaking – an example of which the gallery visitor has the opportunity to witness for themselves within the gallery space. Via the display of original line-out plates we can admire the detail that goes into this artistic process. There is also video footage playing – you can sit and watch the artist working and witness the different steps involved in producing the prints. The video offers an interesting opportunity to admire and appreciate the skill and technique which goes into producing the work. It also offers us a well-rounded view of the works exhibited – instead of viewing them simply in their completed state on the gallery walls one can see all of the stages of the creative process. You are literally invited to see Sutcliffe-Fuller at work in her studio.
The twelve prints exist as a unique and necessary documentation of the adaptation of the countryside which changes the landscape immensely and allows us to consider the ways in which we ‘use’ the countryside and change it over time. The land, in this case, is changed from “one economic viability to another”.
The adaptation of the countryside inherently has political and ideological implications and will always provoke conflicting views. ‘Land With Opportunity’ invites these challenging issues to be considered within the conditions of a series of images, exposing the richness of the farmland itself. The artist’s unprecedented skill is demonstrated alongside her ability to ask questions of and represent the poignant topic of urban landscape development.
‘Land With Opportunity’ is currently on show at The New School House Gallery in York until 25th October 2014. For further information please visit the gallery’s website: www.schoolhousegallery.co.uk
Nicola Cappleman, 15th October 2014