In the large inner courtyard of what, in 1779, was a space used for the trade of fabrics, today bright sculptures inhabit the area. The Piece Hall, located in the heart of Halifax (West Yorkshire), is currently hosting the first site-specific project by a London artist who makes fun and games a central theme of her artistic production.
Alice Irwin is fascinated by the world in constant movement; she spends a lot of time observing people, capturing all their minute details and peculiarities, reinterpreting the silhouettes of human beings and encouraging spectators to become children again, evoking distant memories through simple, playful forms, interpreted by everyone in a different manner. In her illustrations, as well as in her sculptures, the underlying message is mixed with personal sensations and feelings reminiscing the past in new and different ways.
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Some gallery shots! . This first print is called ‘Embrace it!’ A large original Screenprint. The 4th image is of 11 original etchings for each sculpture made for People Play. A lot of the work in the gallery is new work. Including a screenprint series responding to a man sitting on a bench. . 📸 @ellisjrobinson #peopleplay #aliceirwin #piecehall
Alice grew up in the countryside; when she needs to unplug from the world, she gets on her bicycle and wanders through the quiet and peacefulness of nature where she finds inspiration for her projects. From the genuine, unaffected smile with which she looks at the camera when her photo is taken, as well as the enthusiasm which flows out when she talks about her creations, it is clear she’s a down-to-earth sort of girl. But her ambition and tenacity are great: class of 1994, she graduated in 2018 from the Royal College of Art in London (where she obtained a MA in printmaking). During her studies she won numerous awards and her works have been showcased while she was still a student; her first solo exhibition was in 2018 and recorded, in just one week, more than 1,700 visitors.
The artist explores the ancient techniques of printing and engraving, and experiments with different sculpture forms by combining tradition and innovation, transitioning from two-dimensional to three-dimensional forms. So as not to take her work too seriously, she says that tried to experience the creative process as a game; she often works on several pieces simultaneously and usually starts by drawing. Her work is based on the contrast – both visual and of meaning – of sensory and psychic stimuli. The simple shapes, which characterize all her work, refer to the human condition and modern technology. The playground is an important space inherent to the theme of her work, as she always wants to keep some aspects of it playful, naive and comic, in contrast with other more profound and provocative ones.
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People play opening this week @thepiecehall. Private view this Thursday and Public opening this Saturday!! Outdoor sculpture and gallery show…a new body of work including new prints and sculptures…with lots of exciting little extras!! . . 📸 @ellisjrobinson . . #peopleplay #aliceirwin #piecehall
People Play is the title of the project that should have been open to visitors from February 28th through to June 1st 2020 at The Piece Hall complex in Halifax. Currently closed due to measures implemented to contain and combat the COVID-19 virus, we don’t yet know if the dates will be extended but the artist is working on creating digital content so that her work can be explored and admired from home.
Inside the Gallery a selection of her works, curated by Damon Jackson-Waldock, is on show so that visitors can discover the universe imagined by the artist: present are prints, engravings and small sculptures. But it’s in the inner courtyard of the 18th century complex that Alice created a vivid connection between past and present, between history and contemporary art.
Commissioned by The Piece Hall Trust in collaboration with The Artworks, Arts Charity Dean Clough and and Yorkshire Sculpture Park [YSP], Alice’s work is both playful as well as a reminder of the workers and families belonging to the textile industry and the victorian mills of Halifax. The coloured silhouettes (also prevalent in her prints and illustrations) are fruits of her imagination, reminiscing childhood memories; in People Play they have become large three-dimensional sculptures. These figures, which seem light and playful, represent the stories of children who worked long hours in the factories – hours taken away from fun and games, an activity that should be an integral part of a child’s life, but which is very often taken away from them, even in todays world.
Alice’s installation is lively yet at the same it can leave a sort of bitter aftertaste. It commemorates some of the people who worked there in the past and it becomes a tool with which to live and interact with the same space, without forgetting its history.
While we await the opportunity to be able to walk among these beautiful sculptures, here is a video in which Irwin explains the project and how the sculptures were made:
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Translated by Ludovica Sarti