Ragged Kingdom – The opening night review
Thursday night saw the opening of Jamie Reid’s Ragged Kingdom at Temple Works, Leeds. A lively evening full of art, music and tepees, this month long exhibition looks set to be fresh and engaging.
Offering a broad selection of works, many familiar and some less well known, the main space of this exhibition moves through artwork from the Suburban Press to the Sex Pistols, from record sleeves to large canvases bursting with pattern and colour. On entering the main space of the Joiners Bar you are greeted by a massive mural, a visual story of Jamie’s Sex Pistols artwork, a collage of cultural and social commentary. It is an impressive mass of iconographic images that encapsulates the feeling of a period when punk culture shook the Establishment to its roots. It is somewhat fitting that this exhibition is taking place at a time when the majority of the country is once again entrapped in Jubilee celebrations – it offers a refreshing counterpoint to monarchy madness.
Moving round the room you reach a collection of artwork from the Suburban Press, a section of the exhibition which is a personal favourite. I think it is the text in these pictures which most starkly brings their message to life, you cannot help but read the words before you, words which with their note of humour make the social state they comment on all the more prominent. They deliver a definite message, evoking an inevitable reaction from the viewer and although strongly influenced by the time in which they were created they hold an equally strong relevance today – something that did not go unnoticed by a number of visitors. Their comments on capitalist society, elitism, the destructive power of money, capture a tone of discontent not misplaced in today’s society. It is fantastic that this art can once again draw attention to this.
There is a definite contrast between the different works on display, from one side of the room to the other. On the opposite wall canvases that inspired the interiors of the Strongroom studios provide a burst of colour, symbolism and pattern, offering a moment of pause, relief almost, as you become entranced by their swirling depths. Next to these lies ‘How To Become Invisible’. The large mass of colour, the figures you don’t see at first glance, make this a work I’m particularly attracted to. The canvases along this wall certainly work well in the Temple Works space. It is a space that is pretty much the opposite to the white-washed walls of many galleries, yet this brings out elements in these artworks that may be lost in a more conventional environment. The yellow paint of the Joiners Bar reflects these tones in the canvases, while the open, stripped-back space compliments these large, colourfully patterned works. It is great that the varying aspects of Jamie Reid’s work can be seen in one room. While these works are quite different, there is a definite connection throughout this exhibition, a sense that we need to re-connect to what is truly important in the world around us, that we need to see and look at things differently.
As you continue into the Loading Bay you stumble upon a rather unexpected sight for the centre of Leeds – two towering tepees, part of a collection of 8 from Jamie’s ‘Eight fold Year’ project, are a highlight of the exhibition. People were genuinely intrigued by these dominating and impressive objects and stepping inside one undeniably brightened people – it is great that art can evoke such a response. Entering a tepee you are immersed in another environment, a work of art becomes a total experience, one which visitors can actively engage with. It is amazing how feeling this involvement enables people to interact with the exhibition, how it immediately drives a response. The Sex Pistols tepee, containing a bed with the infamous duvet cover, was particularly popular and evoked some amusing comments, as one lady put it, ‘well, it’s hardly “Hello Kitty”!’ With an outside that appears traditional, even magical, and decorated in druid symbolism, this unexpected interior offers a contrasting statement and is nonetheless impressive for it.
The ‘Eight Fold Year’ tepee continues the theme of magical symbolism inside. It is relaxing, and engaging – people can pick leaflets off the floor and pause to leaf through prints of paintings and photos from Jamie Reid’s ‘Eight Fold Year’ project. Catching a quiet moment to look through the prints myself I found them to be full of beautiful, evocative patterns and intense colours. It is a mesmerising collection and definitely reminded me of our connection to the world around us. It is a pleasure to look through these prints and see what is next – plus who can resist spending some time in a tepee?!
If you can spare a moment from exploring a tepee, then it would be rude to miss the collages on the walls, created especially for Temple Works by Jamie Reid. Consisting of various posters pasted onto the walls of the Loading Bay, these iconic images are well worth a look – plus the most exciting part? When the exhibition is over the biggest of these collages will be remaining at Temple Works. Down at the Painter’s Bar there was also a film on show documenting Jamie Reid’s work, providing an interesting insight into the background of many of the artworks that can be seen in the exhibition. Not only can you catch a film in the Painter’s Bar but if you have been admiring the prints and show posters on the walls around you, then these artworks are also for sale.
It was not just tepees and paintings on offer Thursday night. Rowan Reid, Jamie’s daughter, is a talented singer, songwriter and musician, and her performance at the opening really livened up the atmosphere of the evening. Many people gathered to hear her set and with some really positive comments it seems that everyone enjoyed Rowan’s music. This was followed with a DJ set by Sunni playing some fantastic tunes that really suited the ambience of the evening.
Outside, you could catch some live art, called ‘Kiss This’, which was fascinating to watch. With a crowd of people gathered, watching, captivated by the creation taking place, the presence and energy of the live artists added to the lively, social feel of the event. What can be created with a spray can, plus the surprising rapidity with which the work develops, always amazes me. Their brief was to transform Temple.Works.Leeds archival props and boards into an installation that will both be inspired by and run alongside Ragged Kingdom for the whole month. The live artists will be popping up throughout the exhibition and it is undoubtedly a pleasure to see artwork being created. These artists offer a freedom of creation and expression complementary to that which Jamie’s work and exhibition advocates.
An exhibition which covers varying aspects of Jamie Reid’s work, Ragged Kingdom displays Jamie’s expansive nature as an artist, offering an insight not only into his art but into a significant period of our culture. Adapted from previous exhibitions of Ragged Kingdom to fit in with the Temple Works space it is clear that the artwork on display is suited to this environment. As an industrial space, designed for working people, Temple Works provides an ideal setting for art that reflects this ethos. This month long event, with music and live art, offers more than just a conventional art exhibition.
It was great to attend an exhibition opening where alongside a lively and social atmosphere people were engaging with the artwork on display. Food and drink was provided care of Mr Peshwari – an Asian take on Yorkshire puddings had particularly favourable reviews! I think that people loved the accessible nature of this exhibition; with a relaxed vibe Temple Works offers a setting where people can really feel a relation to the work on display, express their opinion and even step into a tepee. The live art on Thursday night (and again Saturday daytime) was a highlight – resident artist Joy’s ‘kissing girls’ were particularly admired. Overall it was an enjoyable evening, laid back but high quality. Jamie Reid’s Ragged Kingdom looks set to be a refreshing event, where people can come along and enjoy themselves, have fun, yet also see a fantastic collection of art in an inspirational environment.
Here are just a few comments from people when asked what they have enjoyed most about the exhibition:
“A great exhibiton in an amazing space”.
“The Suburban Press, the bankers, are my favourite – they are timeless”.
“I love the ‘free art’! Being able to pick up stuff in a tepee!” (Best to mention this is regarding the printed leaflets on the floor – not the artworks!)
“It’s nice that you don’t have to act in any particular way, you can just enjoy yourself and see some great art at the same time”.
“An addition to Leeds art scene”.
by Rachel Elderkin
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