von Mark Burrows

Every year Leeds City Art Gallery kindly posts an information leaflet to my address with all of the relevant details, including a submission form. I am on their mailing-list, and this year was my seventh year running visiting the “Artists Show”. The display of art is very poor, where is the space? For an annual artist`s show, one would expect a bit of a fuss as hundreds of artists have painstakingly prepared paintings especially for this event and kept a space in their diaries since the beginning of the new year looking forward to the summer-time event. I have wandered and pondered over hundreds of fascinating works produced by the artists who reside in Yorkshire and Humberside. This year, there were needs. Take the entrance to the exhibition. I expect banners attached to the building advertising this two month event (this year between the dates of 10th July to the 17th September, 2006), there is nothing. Even inside the building it is quite a search for any advertisement regarding the “Artists show”. I eventually located a small, A4 sign advertising “Artists show upstairs in the North room” written in a rushed looking word-art printout displayed on a small stand at the bottom of the first stairs as you enter the gallery. I headed up the winding stairs, and searched for the “North room”. This room, however, is not marked (or was not when I visited in August).
I entered a room by chance (as I had left my compass at home), and had to search for an indication that this indeed was the location of the “Artists show”. The search itself is a major distraction from the art displayed. As I entered, instead of looking straight ahead, or to my left to start the natural clockwise tour of the room, I looked around for the “Artists show” sign. I eventually discovered the A5 leaflets marked with the exhibition`s name, so I picked one up and commenced my delayed tour. Let me take you on the tour patiently browsing, waiting for the moment to be dazzled in the face like looking into the sun, when that amazing painting leaps at you, and calls your name from the other side of the room shouting “hey you, look at me, I have the WOW factor, I`m brilliant, come closer”. I was hit by the striking red bricked colour of a red bricked building entitled “Lady Ann”, by Tony Noble.
It was one of those must-look-closer paintings, where the detail of each, individual brick was painstakingly painted. During my admiration, another painting shouted at me from the opposite side, I couldn`t quite work out what it was saying, but it must have been jealous. This was entitled Underpass, by David Patrick. Despite the brilliance of this painting, I was immediately distracted by what I thought was extremely poor positioning. The long, narrow painting had been hung at the lowest, possible point. The paintings above took attention away from Underpass as they seemed to stack on top of it. This painting really did have to underpass the ones above, but definitely surpassed the ones above. The minutes passed as I was attacked by something slimy. This was in the form of a small white canvas, with a snail slowly, sliding in from the left. It was nicely framed with dark wood, complimenting the colour of the snail. On closer look, I could make out the pale, yellow stain from the snail`s trail around the canvas. It had been on quite a journey. This was called Feeling Slugish. It missed a little something, a ‘g’ perhaps.
I certainly felt sluggish as I moved away wondering where in the purchaser`s house it would be displayed. Continuing our tour, the main room of the gallery leads to a small, cramped area. Watch out as you weave around the other visitors. I chose an anticlockwise journey, and was in voting mode as I passed the YEP sponsored “Have Your Say!”, when I discovered Bandita, a fascinating annotated typed sheet under a red ink drawing and a red pen displayed together. Continuing anticlockwise, I stumbled upon Bathplug. A pencil drawing of a bath plug on a white background. Like Feeling Slugish, this one had also been sold which raised further questions of the purchaser`s intentions of the location of display. Where else apart from the obvious place? As we prepare to leave this cramped area of our tour, my “Have Your Say!” winner will attack us like a laser beam from those retro computer games I played years ago. I could almost hear the explosion of the bright beams of light leaving the canons of the futuristic machine. This exciting, colourful, spray-paint on canvas was called JMAC/2004-0535, by James MacLeod. Let`s grab a joystick, and attack its nearby enemies! After I “had my say” and headed back down the stairs out of the building, I couldn`t help thinking about the amount of art lovers who would miss this event because of lack of simple signs encouraging drop-in viewers from the many passers by in the street. I was impressed with how many were sold though. On my visit in mid-August, nearly one in four had those little red dots attached next to their proud pieces. But with only 73 items chosen out of over 500 this year (compared with over 90 from 430 last year), it raises the question … what were the other 400 or so paintings like? I would love to see a massive exhibition displaying the unsuccessful works of art. I have seen the “Artists Show” for this year, and now I want to see all those other paintings which were stored, awaiting collection by the disappointed majority. The successful contributors to the “Artists Show” should have a certain prestige because of this, as they have “a little extra something about them…”. “Artists Show” comes around only once a year, I think it deserves a bit of attention. Trusting the panel selected these chosen few because they were outstanding compared with the other contributors because of the “… little extra something…”, then the show needs a little extra to be celebrated as a show. They need to be presented individually, and have as many people as possible visiting these works. Leeds needs to see them, Leeds needs.