Art Gene, Bath Street, Barrow-in-Furness,
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
We first became aware of Leo Fitzmaurice through his Up in the Air projects: Up in the Air (2000 – 2001) and Further Up in the Air (2001-2004) two ambitious programmes of artists residencies in Sheil Park, Liverpool, jointly initiated and managed by artists Neville Gabie and Leo Fitzmaurice. The residencies and resulting temporary installations coincided with the redevelopment of the whole Sheil Park site, the demolition of existing 1960s tower blocks and the creation of high quality new homes on the same site.
Up in the Air and Leo’s long standing interest in the subtleties which lie behind the identity of places and his manipulation of often seemingly insignificant objects in everyday life, have made interesting contributions to Art Gene’s ongoing research, exhibitions and projects. Those which aim to uncover hidden assets and opportunities for sustainable change within the social, natural and built environment.
Leo Fitzmaurice has twice exhibited at Art Gene. For Welcome to Paradise we commissioned him to make a new work entitled …Yet I Know This Much is True to celebrate the launch of the newly upgraded Art Gene Gallery. He had previously exhibited in the Art Gene Open Prize 2007.
We are pleased to hear that Leo’s has recently been announced as winner of the 2011 Northern Art Prize.
With a visit to any gallery, one is faced with the gallery’s relationship to regeneration in the surrounding area. With Art Gene this is a facet that is postitively highlighted and responded to as part of the programme. A tour around Barrow’s bleak charms was, for me, an oddly uplifting experience. Like Liverpool, Barrow seems far bigger than it needs to be, and similarly it appears to be spread quite thinly. I got an odd sense that it was going bald. Not surprisingly, a memory of recent losses here seem to override potential for developments. Perversely all new developments bring with them a fear of loss and this is particularly true in Barrow where subtraction rather than addition looks to be the mostly likely starting point. For me though, this point, the potential for removal rather than addition, is precisely what I find interesting.
My work has recently been concerned with materials/structures that hold information and, in particularly, in the public realm, the reworking of materials that exists within this realm. Walking around Barrow I became aware of ‘for sale’ boards, many that had been up so long they had started to fade. I was interested, in particular, in the way these objects’ only function is to hold up words. A wooden frame and sturdy correx board to hold up half a dozen words – what if these frames were put to another use? – That of an actual construction material for a dwelling rather than an advert for one? Once the material has been stripped of its original textual message it could surely function as something else – a unit for an eccentric modular design – Could I actually construct ‘architecture’ from an object that was primarily functioned as information? The resulting structure, if possible at all, was bound to be rickety and hand made and would be more likely to reference a post apocalyptic version of survival, a shanty town shack, rather than the glossy future promised by the regeneration brochure
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
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