Clay, Peat and Cage – UK premiere of work by Yorkshire-based artists at York Art Gallery
DATE: 16 September 2021
October 1 2021 – February 13 2022
The UK premiere of a collaborative performance to camera series by Yorkshire-based artists Jade Montserrat and Webb-Ellis is set to open at York Art Gallery this October.
The triptych ‘Clay, Peat, Cage’ (2015) explores the North Yorkshire landscape, where Montserrat and Webb-Ellis have lived for the majority of their lives, and addresses issues around ownership of land, nature, and the body, as well as the notion of belonging or unbelonging.
As well as the triptych, several of Montserrat’s sketchbooks will also be displayed, revealing intriguing insights into her working processes and the trajectory of the films’ development.
Collectively, these artworks will be displayed alongside the major exhibition ‘Young Gainsborough: Rediscovered Landscape Drawings’, staged in partnership with the Royal Collection Trust, the National Gallery of Ireland, and Nottingham Castle.
They offer a contemporary counterpart to Gainsborough’s landscape practice, re-discovering and re-imaging landscape in the 21st century, with the performances to camera portraying an exploration of the Yorkshire landscape.
Montserrat and Webb-Ellis said: “These film vignettes document performances of physical acts – refusals of containment or control. In the act of gouging clay from the earth, splashing through wet peat, and entering a fox trap, the performances open up conversations around land ownership, race, trauma and belonging, through the lens of the body.
As collaborators, we are working through these ideas as an unfolding conversation, examining our respective subject positions and the role of our friendship within this unfolding web of meaning.”
Jade Montserrat is an artist based in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, who makes visual and live artworks which explore race and the vulnerabilities of bodies, the tactile and sensory qualities of language, and challenge the structures of care in institutions.
In 2019-20 York Art Gallery acquired nine intricate works on paper by Montserrat, through the support of the Contemporary Art Society. These works combine Jade’s own writing with quotes exploring ideas of identity, belonging and care and employ text and imagery to interrogate ownership, the body and the legacy of colonialism.
Webb-Ellis are British / Canadian artist filmmakers who use film, dance, music and installation to create work which aims to offer ways of imaginatively accessing the political through the lens of the subconscious and the body. They are long-term collaborators with many artists, including Jade Montserrat.
The display of ‘Clay, Peat, Cage’ is part of the ‘Young Gainsborough’ exhibition which will see 25 newly attributed Thomas Gainsborough drawings going on public display for the first time. The beautiful drawings, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection, were re-attributed to Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) in 2017 and transform our understanding of him as a talented landscape artist at the beginning of his career.
Taking inspiration from Gainsborough, visitors will also be able to see the work of the Teenage Art School who have worked with Jade to create their own abstract landscape collages.