I’m at the Northern ballet in Leeds, it’s mid afternoon and the dancers are performing mini sketches of a preview of major new work for us. They are in a dance studio with the lights on full and their great Pam Hogg (filmed interview with Pam Hogg by John Robb here) designed costumes still need a stick or two! It’s like watching a band at their rehearsal room whilst they preview next year’s key album and already you can sense something quite brilliant going on. The ballet is part of major work celebrating the life of modernist sculptor Barbara Hepworth and there is more info on the Hepworth gallery website.
Dressed in tight body hugging wood print costumes they are showing us moments from Linder Sterling’s (major interview with Linder here)new multi discipline based on the life of Wakefield English modernist sculptor Barbara Hepworth whose work was full of movement and life and pulled off that magical trick of making stone alive without ever making it obvious.
Being Linder there are so many angles going on here that your mind explodes with excitement.
The idea to get a key northern artist to celebrate another key northern artist is a great start and a celebration of the fact that genius can come from Wakefield and Wigan and not just the spoilt world cities. Linder is also incorporating her own love of collage into the show and many other of her styles and ideas to make this something quite special.
Someone mentions the fact that Linder, along with choreographer Kenneth Tindall has put the sex into ballet and that normally it’s a very dry form and certainly there is an erotic tone to some of the ballet which are re-enactments of the Hepworth carvings which, with their sexy curves, added an unlikely fuckability to cold hard lumps of granite and come to life and exploring all her key themes but with dancing instead of carving. Some of the other dances are on other themes and the dancers body shapes and moves to Stuart McCallum’s electronic neo – trance score are quite stunning.
Before the demo performance Linder explains the whole idea behind the artwork and it’s typically brilliant. This is the Linder who created the iconic and still the best piece of artwork from the punk era with her collage sleeve art for Buzzcocks Orgasm Addict single and has never stopped pushing forward.
This is a ballet with many other art disciplines entwined in it from collage to light box sculptures, cut paper collages, film and comes with costumes designed by the legendary Pam Hogg- who Linder called up and had never worked with before- who has never designed for men or for ballet before.
Called The Ultimate Form, the ballet is based on the work of Wakefield based artist Barbara Hepworth and the world premier is on May 11th at the Hepworth gallery in nWakefield with a major performance in Paris lined up as well.
We had a sneak preview of the ballet yesterday and it is an amazing piece of work that all the ideas and connections make you float with their brilliance. Linder has always been a truly inspiring artist and her contribution to pop culture is massive from the aforementioned Buzzcocks, to her sleeve artwork for Magazine, her continued friendship and inspiration to Morrissey, and many other key moments in pop culture that she has no interest in staking claim on as she has been busy moving forward throughout the decades with many other new works.
Arguably this is the culmination of everything she has been working on with all her favourite disciplines represented in an astonishing concept, with the ballet just the spine for so many ideas.
More than a ballet this is a celebration of northern artist, a woman who’s statues were sometimes made of wood- a wood that is celebrated by the fab Pam Hogg’s stage wear for the dancers who are dressed in wood prints and stone prints to reflect the granite statues and all complete with peaked head gear that we laugh about looking like me and Pam’s quiffs.
The ballet is part of a major work as the Hepworth Wakefield presents three separate but linked exhibitions by artists Alice Channer, Jessica Jackson-Hutchins and Linder Sterling.
All three artists have engaged with the legacy of Barbara Hepworth as part of the process of making new works for their exhibitions here. Light-boxes, collage assemblages, sculptures made from everyday objects and ambitious installations are among the diverse practices employed by each artist in their inventive art that explores representations of the human body.
This will be the solo debut of Berlin-based Jessica Jackson-Hutchins; Alice Channerâs new work follows on from her recent solo show at South London Gallery; and Linder Sterling builds on work inspired by a residency and performance at Tate St. Ives.