Breaking Painterly Boundaries: ‘Painting in Time’ at The Tetley

Ego / NicolaCappleman
Natasha Kidd, 'Overfill', 2015.

Natasha Kidd, ‘Overfill’, 2015.

The Tetley opened its doors as a gallery in November 2013, reviving the site of the brewery’s headquarters. It hosts an impressive programme of experimental contemporary art shows and has pushed boundaries since its establishment. The site is operated by Project Space Leeds, an arts charity founded in 2006.  PSL intends to offer a platform to new and emerging British and international artists, allowing them to make and show work on an expansive scale– to encourage them to push their practice within a supportive environment. The Tetley offers an inspirational and cutting-edge experience in which art is not to be passively observed, but engaged with and actively questioned.

Painting In Time, currently on display, is large in scale and experimental – an array of bright colours that makes for exciting and stimulating viewing. The exhibition spans multiple galleries on the first and second floors, with pieces stretching to the landing spaces. It is a playful show that breaks down boundaries of the conventional art gallery experience – one is not encouraged to see the work in any particular order. The Tetley becomes an exciting setting in this sense – the spectator is put in a position of ‘explorer’ and can freely wander about the display.

Sarah Kate Wilson, 'Zumba', 2014.

Sarah Kate Wilson, ‘Zumba’, 2014.

The exhibition was designed and co-curated by Sarah Kate Wilson, bringing together multiple works by cross-generational international artists. It explores the relationship between time and contemporary painting. Work by the curator herself is displayed within the exhibition. In Zumba (2014), we are encouraged to shake sequined fabric across strobe lighting, offering the illusion of the fabric being fluid.

This display builds on an accumulation of significant moments in the history of the art world, which have marked a transition in both the way painting is exhibited and the conceptual framework within which it is produced. It offers a remarkably fresh way of exhibiting and viewing art, experienced in a progressive and alternative way.

Kate Hawkins, 'Madly Sad', 2014. Copyright the artist.

Kate Hawkins, ‘Madly Sad I’, 2014. Copyright the artist.

The show encourages us to question the finished product of ‘a painting’ – a finished artefact – in relation to the act and processes of painting as a broader, oscillating medium. Works are exhibited in Painting in Time as if in a state of flux – they are not finished in a traditional sense. In some cases they are still wet or still in the tin, as with Rob Leech’s Stella’ (2015), displayed in Gallery 3. Other pieces show the creation and act of painting. The combination of works sophisticatedly presents the process of painting to us as much more than a finite product.

The boundary between spectator and artwork is broken down at points within the show. Kate Hawkins‘ wall-based paintings are hinged in Gallery 1 and the viewer is invited to wear gloves and to move them around as they wish, breaking the traditional distance between artwork and spectator. Other works invite you to change their composition, or even use a hammer and nail to add to the existing pieces. Natasha Kidd’s Overfill (2015) consists of four paintings connected by pipes and a pump. White paint is systematically pumped around the display and is left to drip onto the gallery floor, offering a sense of infinite totality.

Claire Ashley, 'Another Tasteless Hunk', 2013. Copyright the artist.

Claire Ashley, ‘Another Tasteless Hunk’, 2013. Copyright the artist.

Within Claire Ashley‘s 15ft giant inflatable painting, every hour air is dispensed, causing the piece to deflate. Viewers may walk around the rest of the show before returning to the landing to find that the inflatable has altered entirely. This cleverly plays with assumptions of paintings being fixed artefacts. Each time the painting deflates it is sure to land in a slightly different pattern, thus the artwork as a form is continually in flux.

Painting in Time keeps you guessing. This interactive display offers an enlivening chance to view painting by an exciting plethora of contemporary artists and to question the painting process. The show remains at The Tetley in Leeds until 5th July. Entry to the gallery and exhibition is free. For further information please visit the gallery’s website:

Nicola Cappleman