This English winter, Leeds Art Gallery presents the first, major solo exhibition of Australian artist Nike Savvas’ work in the country for over a decade. Titled Liberty and Anarchy: Nike Savvas, the exhibition presents several works which have never been seen in the UK and the title of the exhibition comes from the work Savvas has created specifically for the gallery, consisting of 18 large screens, containing tightly bound, brightly colored, plastic ribbons. Sarah Browne, Curator of exhibitions at Leeds Art Gallery, talks about the exhibition.
What has drawn you to Nike Savvas’ work as a curator?
I first saw Savvas’ work at East International and thought that her practice was very ambitious and unlike other work I have seen previously. I have been working at Leeds Art Gallery for two years and was interested in doing a site specific installation with an artist and Nike’s work was one that I considered but without the support from the Australia Council it would not have been possible to be so ambitious and specific to Leeds.
Can you expand on the exhibition Liberty and Anarchy?
Leeds Art Gallery has a strong sculpture collection of 20th Century British Art probably the best in the UK and outside London. Savvas’ work resonates with works in the collection: Bridget Riley and Duchamp amongst others but her practice broadens the relationship between painting and sculpture and the way we experience art. There is currently a really strong infrastructure in Yorkshire for sculpture and Savvas’ work pushes what we might consider as painting, sculpture and installation.
Did Savvas have a significant interaction with the gallery space?
Savvas’ work engaged very much with the specifics of the architecture of Leeds Art Gallery. Liberty and Anarchy has been made specifically for the White Gallery at Leeds Art Gallery. It was not until we began installation that we knew it would work and look fantastic but it was very nerve racking, we depended on the technical expertise of our team here to work closely with Nike to realise the work.
What has been the response to the exhibition?
We have had to date over 30,500 visitors and really positive comments about Nike’s work. We have had a series of well-known artists showing: Damien Hirst, Fiona Rae and Gary Hume, so it was great to have an artist who is not a UK household name but everyone has been really impressed. We have consistently been in the top picks of the National press and we really hope before the show is over to get a critical art review .
Liberty and Anarchy: Nike Savvas, was supported through the Presentation and Promotion grant round offered by the Visual Arts Board.
Liberty and Anarchy: Nike Savvas continues at the Leeds Art Gallery until the 24 February, 2013.