Katrina Cowling

Near to the Wild Heart


28 September - 16 December 2023


Blenheim Walk Gallery

Visiting hours

10:00am-4:00pm Monday to Saturday

Preview: 28 September 2023 5:00pm-7:00pm

Location: Leeds Arts University, Blenheim Walk, Leeds LS2 9AQ

In her solo exhibition at the Blenheim Walk Gallery, Katrina Cowling adopts a critical eye and an exploratory approach to interrogate material and metaphor in the post-industrial city.

Cowling’s work, the use of materials and the way she works with them are influenced by her lived experience in the post-industrial landscape of Bradford. Drawn to materials that are discarded, overlooked, and abandoned she attempts through her practice to give them life. She is also interested in the textures, rhythms, and physical make-up of the streets on which she grew up. Named after Clarice Lispector’s introspective novel ‘Near to the Wild Heart’, the exhibition evokes a fractured interior landscape and a restless mind. Both Lispector and Cowling seek to find moments of freedom and joy in the commonplace and in interactions with the world around them. She navigates her mixed feelings of isolation, displacement, and tenderness towards the urban wilderness of this often-melancholic Northern landscape.

Interested in the urban industrial as a site in which materials are valued for their rigidity, strength and structural integrity, Cowling disrupts these qualities in search of something more porous and intimate. Everyday construction materials are reshaped into vulnerable objects in varying states of collapse, fragility, and movement. The relationship between resilience and vulnerability is explored both literally and metaphorically. Aluminium, slip-cast porcelain, polythene, MDF, acrylic mesh, steel grate, glass and concrete are transformed into anthropomorphic, playful, non-canonical figures, that are balanced precariously, trembling, leaning, and supporting.

The exhibition Near to the Wild Heart consists of a body of works from different cycles of the artist’s creative process, including new works produced as part of her Kenneth Armitage Sculpture Fellowship, Leeds (2021-2023) at Leeds Arts University in partnership with The Kenneth Armitage Foundation and in association with The Henry Moore Foundation. Invested in the process of making, Cowling develops a creative dialogue between her materials’ properties and herself as a maker, allowing for new ideas and forms to emerge unintentionally. Material limitations, tools and process, a machine or even her own body dictates the form. Each object occupies and transforms the space in its own way, through shifting the edges, aligning, or unfurling.

Katrina Cowling (Bradford, UK) is an artist based in Yorkshire. She has just completed the Kenneth Armitage Sculpture Fellowship, Leeds (2021-2023) at Leeds Arts University. Katrina has a place at the Royal Academy Schools in London to study for her Postgraduate Diploma from October 2023 for three years.

Her intuitive practice spans sculpture, drawing, writing and installation with a focus on materiality, process and the body in space. As a trained neon-bender and maker of light, she has explored the seductive combination of electricity, light, glass and noble gases for eight years, playfully disrupting the formal and conceptual tropes of this elusive and dying craft.

Shortlisted for the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award in 2021 and recipient of the Pangaea Sculpture Production Award 2019. Selected exhibitions include ‘If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain - 1960-2022’ at The Hepworth, Wakefield; ‘Of Brightwork and Edgelands’ at the Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry Biennial (2019); ‘propelling her shiny vehicle’ at the Briggait 1873 Hall, Glasgow (2019); ‘EBC020’ at the East Bristol Contemporary (2018), Bristol; ‘Scantily Clad’ at STCFTHOTS, Leeds (2016).

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