Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin
Independently created by our final year undergraduate Fine Art students, Sitting With It celebrates the work of 62 graduating artists through a range of contemporary art practices.
Sitting With It — this year’s BA Fine Art Degree Show at the University of Leeds — encapsulates not only the physical parameters of sitting, resting, looking, but also questions of the gaze, perspective, authorship and power.
What are the implications of posing, depiction and framing? Who is depicting the sitter, and is the sitter an active participant?
Open to the public from Friday 10 June, Sitting With It showcases a wide range of artworks including performance, painting, printing, sculpture, photography, film and installation.
Publications produced by the artists — a mixture of artists books covering photography, writing and drawing — will be displayed in a custom built library area. Visitors will be invited to sit and interact with the books, which will include a collaborative Sitting With It publication — a collection of written and visual works to accompany the show.
The exhibition will take place across the studio, exhibition and shared spaces in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. It has been independently organised, curated and marketed by a team of graduating students who are also showcasing their work in the show.
Suilven Hunter with one of her ceramic sculptures.
George Storm Fletcher, a BA Fine Art student and member of the curatorial team, said:
“The past few years have asked us to take stock of our life decisions, to ‘own’ where we are, and consider our working and domestic environments. The interiors of contemporary life are a lot more loaded than they were before. In a time of flux, we ask you to sit with uncertain concepts; and question the ethical implications of making art in the UK.
“Sitting With It prioritises rest over rapidity. We acknowledge the privileges and politics of taking time out from work and side hustles; to be still, read, and absorb art and ideas. We also accept that large exhibitions can pose a physical and mental strain on the audience, and that this can be a barrier to digesting and enjoying the works.”
Francesca Fryer, work in progress. Photo by Ella Astill.
Francesca Fryer, BA Fine Art with History of Art student and member of the curatorial team, said:
“The curation process was challenging because there are so many people and such a range of work, but at the same time I feel like it came together a lot more quickly than I expected.
“When we sat down as a curation team, we all had the same ideas, or at least similar thoughts, and knew how we wanted the exhibition to be experienced. We wanted it to be comfortable but not in a physical sense; as in anybody could come to our show and feel relaxed within the space and have time to sit with the work, concepts and space in general.”
Ella Astill, dark room enlargements. Courtesy of the artist.
Ella Astill, studying BA Fine Art and lead organiser of Sitting With It, said:
“The entire process of planning and realising the Degree Show has been very hard work. Even so, I know that every single email chain, meeting and late night has been worth it.
“We have really thought and reflected upon what our core values are — how these currently sit within the art world and how we want them to underpin our show. I know how intimidating these spaces that hold art can be; even as an art student, I often struggle to make sense of art or feel comfortable within art spaces.
“I hope that anyone who feels a similar way amongst art can just sit with it. I invite everyone to approach the art, concepts and conversations within our Degree Show at their own pace.”
Emily Hodgkins, work in progress. Photo Ella Astill.
Dr Joanne Crawford, Head of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, said:
“This exhibition will herald the first opportunity in three years where we can all physically come together as a school to celebrate the finalists work and success. As we collectively bustle around in the ’now’ of the exhibition spaces created by Sitting With It, the shifting temporalities within these will enable us all to engage, to be still, and consider the world that is yet to become.
“Everyone in our school community has watched these artists grow and develop into caring, engaged and passionate individuals and we are so immensely proud of each and every one of them. They have worked so hard to get here and we are so happy to be invited to celebrate in their success.”
A Private View took place on the evening of Thursday 9 June, giving students, staff and their invited guests the opportunity to celebrate together inthe school for the first time in over two years. Sitting With It is open to the public from 10 to 25 June, daily from 10am to 5pm.
Astrid Butt. Photo by Ella Astill.
In the words of the 62 graduating artists:
“Grayson Perry reminds us that ‘we go to art galleries on our days off’. This is at the heart of our curation.
“We do not all have the same 24 hours in a day, but we invite you to spend a portion of your free time Sitting With It.
“With this act of faith, we promise to engage with our audience – in discussions of approachability and clarity – as much as you are with us.”
Then let us begin!
Find out about Sitting With It and the graduating artists taking part.
Read blog posts about the show, written by staff and students.
Follow the graduating artists on Instagram: @sittingwithit2022
Courtesy of Astrid Butt and Ella Astill.