Leisure is a collaboration between Montreal-based artists Meredith Carruthers and Susannah Wesley. Working together since 2004, they use a wide range of media, including video, sculptural installation, collage, and text. Their practice considers ideas of connection, collaboration, creativity, and relation, and in the past has often highlighted the work of overlooked women, such as the landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and playwright Lina Loos. The relationship between parenting, play and the creative process has also been a subject of their work in recent years.
For this exhibition, Leisure draws on educational theories articulated by the artist, architect and educator Simon Nicholson, who was the son of well-known artists Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. Particularly relevant here is his 1971 essay The Theory of Loose Parts: How Not To Cheat Children, which advocates for children to have freedom over their play environments. Included in the exhibition is a film made as part of Having Ideas by Handling Materials, a unit from an Open University course Nicholson taught in the late 1970s and early 1980s and wall-based works by Leisure, some of which the artists have made collaboratively with their own children. Alongside these are a series of creative workstations inspired by the wheeled plinths Hepworth employed in her studio to store and move around her large-scale sculptures. Visitors of all ages are invited to use these workstations to experiment and make things in a free and unguided way, experiencing for themselves what it means to “have ideas by handling materials.”
Creating a participatory environment that overturns the usual notion of the gallery as fixed and sterile (a place to look but not touch), this exhibition is as much concerned with exploring the processes and ideas underlying the making of art as it is with art as an end product. The freedom of this experimental approach comes with a transformative potential that carries wider implications in society at large. In the process of having ideas by handling materials, we not only rethink how we make, exhibit, and experience art—but ultimately how we lead our lives.