Location: Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK
Date: 04 January – 15 March 2020
Paradise is a very personal place. Over the course of my life, it’s a word that has kept recurring in a variety of guises. I was born into a religious household, where the Quranic allegories of the seven heavens formed part of the backdrop to family life. As I grew up and my experiences broadened, I realised the paradise that others spoke of was often radically different from mine, yet never too far from our consciousness.
My first solo museum exhibition explored what the idea of paradise means in a contemporary context. Made especially for the Chapel at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, it responded to the contemplative and spiritual atmosphere of this beautiful 18th-century building.
Whilst developing Something About Paradise, I travelled around the country asking people of faith, as well as atheists and agnostics, what paradise represents or looks like to them. Descriptions of indistinct and imagined places, as recalled from their memories or envisaged in their dreams, were then interpreted and woven together into sculptural forms that I think of as ‘mindscapes’. Using the spoken word as my research method enables me to remain the only person able to unlock the individual narratives behind this mysterious collective topography.
In the nave, three large, organic forms are punctuated by a diverse range of landscape features and architectures drawn from across the world. From temples and churches to modernist houses, these structures reveal the spiritual and the earthly in unison and without geographical borders. The absence of realistic colour in favour of a monochrome palette gives the work an otherworldly feeling that is further emphasised by a fanciful and inconsistent use of scale.
Alongside these dreamlike mindscapes stand a series of ornate, hand-cut wooden gates that evoke the often referred to threshold or gateway to the heavens. A ladder also reaches up high on the altar wall, suggesting paradise as something that is physically remote from us or that signifies the pinnacle of a journey. By combining stories and uniting them all in a general longing, Something About Paradise is an invitation to reflect on areas of commonality in our frequently polarised society and to open up possibilities for a profound and hopeful dialogue between people.
Photography by Jonty Wilde.