The iconic 66,000sqft Georgian courtyard of The Piece Hall in Halifax is about to get even more impressive as the former cloth hall turned contemporary leisure, retail, culture and heritage destination prepares to unveil its first visual art commission – The Blanket by British artist David Murphy – in partnership with Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Murphy has a track record of creating dramatic open-air installations, perhaps best for his piece Spear, which reached 30m across Lake Semerwater in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in a nod to a preserved Bronze Age spearhead that was discovered there in 1937.
The large, floor-based composition of The Blanket directly responds to the spectacular colonnaded architecture of the hall and its history as a global centre for textiles. Murphy describes how the clean vertical and horizontal lines of neoclassical masonry reminded him of ‘the warp and weft’ of weaving, and in turn inspired the ‘woven’ effect created by the shallow grid of subtly curved red steel tubes that form the basis of the piece. Measuring 15m x 8m, visitors are invited to physically interact with the sculpture. Perhaps layout their picnic blankets and enjoy an al fresco sandwich alongside?
The North West’s cultural legacy of textiles and weave threads throughout Murphy’s practice, and the installation of The Blanket will be marked by an accompanying solo exhibition of his work, co-curated by YSP’s Deputy Curator Damon Waldock. Spanning embroidery and stitch-based designs through to painting and other sculptural pieces, as well as working drawings and sketches relating to The Piece Hall commission; this should provide an excellent opportunity to delve deeper into the artist’s multi-faceted practice.
A programme of workshops and events has also been organised to accompany The Blanket’s arrival, including The Blanket Tales (a families’ storytelling tour of The Piece Hall, recounting the history of its textile trade), a free wire-sculpture making workshop led by artist Natalie Bellingham, and a weekend of art and light installations featuring long exposure photography activities and orb-making craft.
The Blanket’s unveiling comes just ahead of this year’s Yorkshire Sculpture International, the UK’s largest sculpture festival – presented by the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and YSP – which takes place across the region from 22 June until 29 September 2019.