New project space opens at Quarry Hill Campus

University Centre Leeds, Creative Arts’ exciting new project space, BLANK_, opened at the Quarry Hill campus on Thursday 19 September. Designed to showcase fresh and innovative work of up-and-coming local artists, the project space’s first exhibitor will be Rhian Cooke, a 2017 graduate of Leeds Arts University. This year, Rhian has been part of the Yorkshire Sculpture International’s Associate Artist programme, a peer learning network which supports the development of Yorkshire-based sculptors. We chatted with Rhian to learn more about her, her work and future plans.

What inspires your work?

I take inspiration from many sources! Sometimes, it’ll be autobiographical objects such as my bike helmet or my mum’s bird feeder. I grew up in rural Lincolnshire and I’m fascinated by familiar landmarks and landscapes. I like finding places with a mysterious sense of history, and exploring the visual metaphors around landscape boundaries, like countryside stiles. I’m also interested in the material quality and historic forms of moving imagery such as zoetropes and stop motion.

Why did you choose art and sculpture?

I loved art at school and college, and then began to develop the sculptural and moving image side of my practice at university.

Where have you exhibited your work?

After graduating, it was great to be part of two graduate residencies at The Art House, Wakefield and at Serf’s studios in Leeds. At the Art House, I collaborated with the other graduates in residence to open up our shared studio and present our work at the Wakefield Art Walk. With my friend and fellow Serf Graduate in Residence, Aidan Quinn, I put together an ‘end of residency’ exhibition, Common Points, in which I showed a film, Once in a Moon Boot. Working with Random Acts Network Centre North in 2018, I completed The Turning of the Helmet, a film that’s showcased on Channel 4’s online Random Acts platform. The piece was also presented by Creator Space on the Leeds Big Screen in Millennium Square. In that same year and as part of the city’s Heritage Open Days, I created an exhibition at All Souls’ Church, Leeds. I showed a sculpture and film projection piece in response to the font canopy created by the suffragist, Emily Susan Ford. Since then, I’ve presented work in a group exhibition, Associated Matter, with fellow Associate Artists at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Bothy Gallery as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI).

Who would be your ideal collaboration partner?

I’d like to collaborate with a sound artist to develop the sound of my moving image works. I’ve also thought about taking part in international residency programmes or an artist exchange, as I’ve never yet the opportunity to work with art institutions and artists outside the UK.

Can you give us a taste of the series you’re exhibiting at the BLANK_ launch?

You’ll see work that I’ve developed during the YSI Associate Artist Programme. The work concerns autobiographical objects that explore spatial and sonic boundaries. Telling ongoing stories themed around nature, landscape and historic forms of moving image. With YSI support I was able to work with performance artist, Izzy Brittain, and camera operators, Mark Stokes and Laura Smith, who helped me develop the moving image part of the work. I also did some workshops to help develop sound in my work.

What’s next for you?

As I’ve had a hectic year, I’m going to take a break, see some friends and family and keep developing my art while keeping an eye out for some residencies! I might also set aside time for some material investigation and experimentation, as I’m keen to do more sound recording and editing.

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