Exhibition preview: Unheimlich at Leeds Met Gallery until May 17 2008.
Ever get the feeling that something you encounter, even though it's everyday, isn't quite right? And when that feeling hits you, you become unsettled, but you're not sure why?
Freud called it the uncanny, (or 'Unheimlich' in German), and explained it as occurring when thoughts and feelings from childhood that have been repressed in adulthood are suddenly re-awakened. When this happens, the familiar becomes unheimlich (unhomely).
That's the feeling that artists in this new exhibition at Leeds Metropolitan University Gallery are trying to evoke, with suburban objects subverted with bizarre twists. The intention is to unnerve rather than shock, leaving a sensation in the viewer that lingers long after they have moved on.
Five artists have contributed to the show, with varying approaches that vary from subtle to outright strange.
Rachel Goodyear, Girl with long hair, 2008. © the artist
Matt Lippiatt juxtaposes familial objects like a personalised birthday cake and teenage fan doodles with allusions to destructive behavioural patterns. His mass of homemade missing person posters are particularly disturbing, changing the sense of the other objects in a distressing way.
Rachel Goodyear captures glimpses of everyday life, but adds something not quite right – burnt gateposts, abandoned clothing and violent images of birds and animals throw up narratives that you wouldn't normally associate with the items.
Clara Ursitti, meanwhile, looks at the vagaries of sensory perception in how our mental landscapes are defined. In her recent Helen Chadwick Fellowship (an Arts Council England role), she worked at the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, learning more about how perception works to inspire a new body of work.
The resulting work imagines a parallel future where the fate of humans and dolphins is intertwined, exposing a fantastic, hidden history.
Stephen Bishop builds a tension between the natural world and the manmade in his installations, which include a fox impaled on neon light tubes. The effect is to bring free spirited wildlife into collision with the mundane materials of everyday human life.
Pete Smith has created complex, animated installations that recall his days in menial employment on the factory floor. Mechanical limbs and other automata take on a life of their own in his works, that are reminiscent of American sculptor Robert Gober and Gregor Schneider, (who created the spooky art house, Die Familie Schneider).
The exhibition is curated by Matt Roberts, Chairman of Matt Roberts Arts, a not-for-profit organisation that creates opportunities for early career artists in new locations and contexts.