The exhibition of five painters’ work at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery hones in on five specific locations around the country, revealing the rifts in the socio-political landscape of our time. Where We Live captures the moment when our attitude to home and its meaning is constantly adjusting in the midst of a pandemic.
Trevor Burgess, who initiated the exhibition, is a London-based artist whose subject is contemporary urban environment of London and the Places to Live series documents different residential buildings across 60 paintings. Perhaps because they began as a collection of images from estate agents’ property ads in newspapers that Burgess had collected, they have a somewhat faded and nostalgic quality.
Jonathan Hooper focuses on Leeds, often working from photographs of everyday scenes with unassuming buildings taking centre stage. The compositions are elevated by his adventurous use of colour, from acid greens to muted oranges.
Sheffield-based Mandy Payne’s work is inspired by Brutalist architecture, often using spray paint and oil paint on concrete. Between 2012 and 2017 the artist focused on Park Hill – a Grade II* listed Sheffield council estate while it was undergoing regeneration, yet her eye was drawn to the unaltered parts of the enormous building. Documenting its transition, the striking paintings are a powerful nod to Park Hill’s history and a documentation of a structure in flux.
Often painting figure-less, in-between spaces like pavements, brick walls and doorways, Narbi Price’s paintings for Where We Live document the town of Ashington in Northumberland, which was once the largest mining village in the world, and home to the Ashington Group of Pitmen Painters. Resulting from hours of walks around the town, the works are subtly touching in the context of the transition that Ashington has gone through. No longer a mining village, Price records it as we would find it now: a changed, post-industrial landscape that would be difficult to recognise by the original residents.
Lastly, Judith Tucker depicts the chalets on the Humberston Fitties in the Night Fitties series. The works focus on the buildings themselves as the subjects, and the interplay between darkness and illumination of the twilight hours. Look out for the emblems of Englishness in the form of flags that often appear centrally in Tucker’s paintings.
The painters in the show interrogate the ideas of home, displacement and urban landscape while documenting its shifts. While they all depict seemingly everyday architecture and the kinds of urban spaces that many of us are accustomed to, the works shine a light on our surroundings and offer an alternative, tender perspective. You’re guaranteed to leave with a heightened awareness of even the most familiar of places.