Deconstructing the West Yorkshire Hoard — exhibition

PhD candidate Lorna Johnson brings together an exhibition of work made in response to the West Yorkshire Hoard, to coincide with the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds.

Deconstructing The West Yorkshire Hoard presents an artist's response to the West Yorkshire Hoard, which was unearthed by a metal detector in a Leeds field in 2008 and 2009. The hoard is made up of seven objects, including four rings, which date between the seventh to 11th centuries.

The exhibition (in Studio G.09) is comprised of two pieces: Overlie (film and drawings) and Golder than Gold (collage). It attempts to unpick aspects of value, reuse and flux; exploring the questions raised when the material nature of these objects is queried.  The aim is to offer new ways to think about the interpretation and display of hoards, in the broader context of contemporary art responses to heritage.

Overlie (film piece, June 2019)

Overlie questions the different parts of the six gold and one lead objects that make up the West Yorkshire Hoard; by viewing these parts separately, can the perceived value of these objects change?  Does the viewer have a preference to just part of the object? The order and positioning of the objects denotes the random order in which the objects were found; the chance finding, and sequencing of these hoarded objects is completely detached to the value or differing age of these objects. The film is made from drawings based on photographs taken by Leeds City Council (Leeds Museums and Galleries).

Overlie (drawings, May 2019)

Each drawing was produced to show a visual breakdown of the visual components that make up the six gold and one lead objects in this hoard. The outline and detail drawings are made using black Indian ink. The material gold drawings are made using gold ink, each with six layers of ink, to denote their fellow hoard gold objects. The material lead drawing is made with graphite pencil (graphite being the material referred to as lead, its much safer and less poisonous mark making counterpart). The drawings are based on photographs taken by Leeds City Council.

Golder than gold (collage, April 2019)

Golder than gold, is a six pair collage piece which focuses on the gold purity aspect of the six gold objects within this hoard. Using the Portable Antiquity Scheme's material breakdown of each object, the gold quality is determined by how much gold, silver and copper is present as per its scientific material analysis. Each pair shows the most and the least amount of gold, alongside the silver and copper percentage that also makes up each gold object, challenging our concept of something that is termed and looks so wholly gold. The collage bases are photographs of fool’s gold with gold, silver and copper card representing each percentage of their scientific analysis breakdown.

Detail from collage by Lorna Johnson entitled Golder than Gold

About the artist

Lorna Johnson is an artist who lives and works in Leeds. She is currently undertaking a practice-led PhD in at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.  

Working predominantly to make artist-made objects, sculptural installations/assemblages and collage, Johnson’s work is inclusive and experimental. Whilst there is a respect for the traditions of the techniques, she strives to offer a refreshing open approach to the materials and methods that might be utilised.

Her instinct as an artist is to cherrypick and she sees this as part of her role as an artist. She is drawn to objects and materials where the monetary value is questionable: materials, objects, trades etc. that could be perceived as more disposable and non-precious (it’s not made of gold, something else can replace it, not usually kept for long, there’s only a scrap left). Visually this is explored through the combinations of materials and quantities of items that she chooses to use and make, and the associations people may have with both material and object. This is currently taking a central role to the research she is conducting as part of her practice-led research, Yorkshire Hoards – Understanding the objective/ subjective value of the objects we continue to earmark, lay, maintain, stow, put away through the artist’s edit.

Johnson exhibits both nationally and internationally.

Twitter: @lornamjohnson @TheArtistsEdit
Instagram: @lornamilnerjohnson @theartistsedit


Overlie | the drawings - finger ring - round bezel, filigree, granulated decoration – outline, material, detail. Courtesy of Lorna Johnson.
Golder than gold – double (No 1 - & No 1+) – collage. Courtesy of Lorna Johnson.