16th September 2019
Material-Process-Object is the first exhibition of the 2019/20 academic year in The Gallery at York College, and is the culmination of a project led by York College alumni Paul Digby, celebrating the front line of the UK’s public sector.
Developed between 2016 and 2019, the project involved Paul working with the emergency services, drawing and sculpting them in classical poses, in addition to collaborations with different community groups including schools, universities, galleries and museums. As well as the sculptures and drawings Paul delivered a series of workshops to Shakespeare Primary School and the COOP Academy Secondary School in Leeds, as well as Lionwood Infants School in Norwich. Each child created a small clay figurative sculpture and these are included in the exhibition Material-Process-Object.
Watch this video to find out more about Paul's incredible project:
“There are two key strands to this project, the first is aesthetic and conceptual. This representation of the emergency services as statuesque, massively sculptural figures in splendid isolation. They are isolated pictorially, and this actually reminds us that these crucial and often very separate roles that our emergency services, play in our lives can be isolating and at time, traumatic. They are ordinary people who perform extraordinary roles and in my experience possess extraordinary abilities and determination. The second aspect is the role of art as a collaborative practice, the artist Joseph Beuys I think coined the term ‘social sculpture’ back in around 1968, but since that time, ‘socially engaged practice’ has come to be more widely understood and more widely valued as a vehicle for dialogue through and around the arts.”
Professor Neil Powell, Pro Vice-Chancellor Norwich University of the Arts
“Paul Digby’s drawings of public sector workers are truly remarkable. Each portrait takes around four months to compose and devotes meticulous attention to technical equipment, uniform, posture, embodiment and expression - not of landowners or of CEOs, or even celebrities - but of public sector workers in the emergency services. Digby’s art calls out and celebrates the people who work every day to save our lives and our homes, the people whose rewarding work makes them fit only for pay and job cuts in the age of austerity.”
Ruth Holliday (2019), Professor of Gender and Culture, University of Leeds
The condition of the socially engaged artist. His work is both dependent on and a product of successive, and successful, collaborations. With the current economic climate forcing society to prioritise basic, physical needs over that of our mental and emotional health, art is at risk of becoming side-lined (despite increasing studies suggest a fundamental parallel between the two). More than just presenting the likenesses of public sector workers, Digby’s collaborative practice points to the artist’s position as the missing emergency service, the resulting body of work articulately addresses the urgent and vital role art can play in our lives.”
Claire Allerton (2019), East Gallery NUA
At York College Paul Digby studied Hairdressing Apprenticeship (1989), BTEC 1st Diploma in Design (1991-92) and BTEC General Art and Design (1992-94), progressing to Norwich University to study a degree in Visual Studies (1997). Paul then completed an MA in Fine Art at Leeds University (2002). Over the last twenty years he has been a successful practicing artist, working around the country.
Material-Process-Object runs from 16th September – 24th October in The Gallery, York College