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Leeds Welcome | Seagulls Paint opens brand-new gallery with ‘Cuts and Blocks’ exhibition

Seagulls Paint opens brand-new gallery with ‘Cuts and Blocks’ exhibition

Words and photography by Lauren Entwistle

Tucked away in a fairly unassuming corner of Aire Mills, Kirkstall, Seagulls Paint has been busy working away on something beautiful.

Collaborating with Hungarian artist Leon Varga, the team behind one of Leeds’ most hardworking social enterprises revealed their first major exhibition last night, ‘Cuts and Blocks’ – housed in what used to be an old warehouse.

art, portrait, face, paint, leon varga, painting

Over the past five months the team, led by Seagulls’ owners Cat Hyde and Kate Moree, have been clearing, sweeping and white-washing the space to get it ready for its grand unveiling.

“After the Boxing Day floods, there was a business that had this space that decided to move on. Luckily, we have a great landlady who offered the warehouse to us for a few months rent free to see if we could do something with it.” Said Moree, on how the project came to be.

“We’ve always had this desire to create a gallery, because there’s some amazing spaces in Leeds to show art… but we’ve always found there’s a bit of rave on the side of it. We wanted to create something more ‘old school’ and traditional.”

The first artworks being shown at The Gallery are certainly that.

Huge, hand-painted portraits line the walls. Multiple eyes watch as viewers walk around the room, gazing out in multiple tones of technicolor and striking black ink. If you stand close, one can see the multiple layers of paint, painstakingly applied then scraped and stripped away to create different textures on each of Varga’s pieces.

They are gorgeous at a distance, but up close is another treat for the eyes.

Varga’s work, which is heavily based around the concept of reflecting identity, features the portraits of several members of Seagulls’ staff and volunteers, making the project one that is deeply personal.

A 1960’s Polaroid camera is first used by Varga to take pictures of his subject (you’ll find no new-fangled DSLR’s here) before developing with a variety of shades and tones. He cuts them out, chops them up and plays around with them before setting to work on painting the huge canvas.

One of Seagulls' volunteers stands next to his portrait by Varga

Leon has lived in Leeds for twelve years and uses his own experiences of trying to retain identity frequently in his art.

“Identity is very important to me. My origins go back to Hungary, but I settled down in Leeds and got married to an English girl – so my work is often about how you convert your personal identity, or try to save it – with minimal damage.”

Cuts and Blocks will be at The Gallery from 20th April to 14th May 2017. For more information, go to http://seagullsreuse.org.uk/the-gallery/

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