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‘Heaven’ comes to Left Bank Leeds in form of inflatable sculpture

A new art commission, ‘Heaven’ will be unveiled at Left Bank Leeds as it welcomes the return of the community following lockdown. 

A Grade II* listed former church building in Burley, Left Bank Leeds is working with Leeds-based contemporary artist Pippa Hale, who created the ‘Bridge’ sculpture at Belgrave Retail Park in Stanningley back in 2018.

Ms Hale worked with children from the local community, a giant inflatable interactive sculpture is the artist’s interpretation of drawings created by the children when they were asked to describe heaven and will strike a bold contrast to its surroundings of the traditional nave in the ecclesiastical building.  

Artist Pippa Hale worked with young people and families between lockdowns during the summer of 2020  to devise a series of 3D shapes. 

The installation will sit in the heart of the 100-year-old building, proudly placed between the original neo-gothic stone colonnades and arches. 

Designed to be enjoyed by all ages, the larger sculpture (8m x 4.5m x 5m) features a collection of abstract forms in contrasting colours and sizes, jostling together on a bouncy base; a separate work (various sizes but the large part 6m x 3.75m) has been developed particularly for babies and very young children with 12 soft, moveable pieces. Ms Hale added:

“When experiencing contemporary art, we’re so often told ‘don’t touch, stay back!’ which can be really frustrating when seeing artworks with children.

“Heaven is the complete opposite of this – I wanted to make something beautiful and interactive, but more than this – playable. I’ve really enjoyed taking the kids’ drawings – their scribbles, shapes and patterns – and turning them into a ginormous 3D artwork that you can touch, climb and jump on, hide in; a place to play with friends, resolve conflicts, take risks, meet new people.

“I want it to be joyful and fun! I am so looking forward to when we can all come together and enjoy a little piece of ‘Heaven’ right here in Leeds.” 

Ms Hale is also working on ‘Ribbons’, a sculpture selected as the ‘Feminist Public Sculpture for Leeds’, commissioned by Leeds Arts University in collaboration with Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.  

A sculpture that is also playable, ‘Heaven’ is an unusual fusion of more traditional inflatable art and large-scale leisure pieces.  Inflatable art dates back to the 1960s when mass-produced plastic made it cheaper, allowing artists including Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons to experiment with a new medium. These works were often striking but not interactive.

Sue Jennings, Director at Left Bank Leeds, added:

“Left Bank Leeds is a stunning building that is coming back to life as an important place for so many people in the local community as well as a significant and distinctive cultural venue in Leeds.   

“It’s also somewhere that is a hub for the neighbourhood, a safe place to meet, something that has been more important than ever over the past year. We wanted to re-open our doors with something positive and joyful, and ‘Heaven’ is just that. Created by and for our local community to generate a smile and eventually, bring us back together. We hope that it becomes a hopeful re-start to life after lockdown.” 

Left Bank Leeds began as St Margaret’s Church, which was built in 1907 and paid for through the efforts of the community. Home to an Anglican congregation for 85 years, the church closed in 1995 after the building became too difficult to manage. In 2002 a charity, now known as Left Bank Charitable Trust, was set up to reinvent the space as an events and arts venue; Left Bank Leeds was born.

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