News / 04 Apr 2022

Three artists awarded commissions as part of new APP Commissions Programme


Leeds Arts University has awarded commissions to Herfa Thompson, Omid Asadi and María Camila Cepeda Gnecco as part of its 2022 Access and Participation Plan (APP) Commissions Programme.

The 2022 APP Commissions Programme aims to increase the presence of practitioners of minoritised ethnicities interacting with the University and to challenge and develop pedagogy by generating inclusive debate. The Programme is part of the University’s 2020-21 to 2024-25 Access and Participation Plan, an ambitious five-year plan to develop access to, success during, and progression following university for students from underrepresented groups, including students of Black, Asian, and other minoritised ethnicities. The creatives will be provided with a research and production budget and artist’s fee.

Herfa Thompson is an artist, currently living and working in Leeds. Born in London, she has lived across several countries in Southern Africa, Scotland and Martinique. These places have inspired the core themes of her practice which looks at black bodies, relationships and their place in joy and relaxation as well as their place in nature through visual storytelling. She has exhibited work at Ace Arts with UKNA in Nottingham; The Harris Museum, Preston; Serf, Leeds and commissioned to create a mural at The Tetley, Leeds. She studied Sculpture and Environmental Art at The Glasgow School of Art.

Herfa said: “I feel incredibly honoured to be awarded the APP Commission 2022. I’ve had this idea for so long growing in my head for some time thus it feels so surreal to have the chance to be able to execute it. I am really looking forward to having a chance to listen to people - allowing them to share their stories and document them in a shared space and in turn, getting to know my community better. I am so excited to see how people will play with the project; to see where it will go and where it won’t go.”

Omid Asadi was born in Iran in 1979, where he was raised and spent his adolescence and early adult years. Before pursuing art full-time, he was also a former engineer and a champion boxer in Iran. During the year 2007, Omid immigrated to the United Kingdom. Becoming an artist was the last thing he imagined himself being. However in 2012, when he was 34, he began studying art at a beginner's level in college. Fast forward to 2018, where he gained his MA in Fine Art with distinction, from the Manchester School of Art. Contrast is the main focus in Omid’s work. It can be identified between mediums, materials, colours, textures, cultures, meanings, nature etc. Through contrast, he practices different disciplines to investigate issues regarding the current human condition, immigration, identity, environment and childhood memories. His recent works are based on the Heterotopia idea by Michel Foucault. Currently, he lives and works in Manchester.

Omid said: “It is an honour and a privilege to receive Leeds Arts University 2022 Artist Commissions. I would like to thank Leeds Arts University and the judges panel for selecting me. This award enables me to explore and develop my artistic practice further and it gives me a great opportunity to work with the Leeds Arts University.”

María Camila Cepeda Gnecco was born in 1996 in Bogotá, Colombia. She is a visual artist whose practice moves across a variety of media including sculpture, animation and painting. Cepeda studied a BA in Fine Art at Leeds Arts University (2016-2019), and an MA in the same field at the Slade School of Fine Art (2019-2021), where she received the Slade's Almacantar Award for her degree show. Her work has been exhibited internationally in Italy, Colombia and the UK with most recent exhibitions including "The Next Big Thing" [Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre], "London Grads Now" [Saatchi Gallery], and "(In)visible City" [UK Mexican Arts Society].

Maria said: “Having received this commission has been a huge reason to celebrate and I'm especially excited about the upcoming time which will be fully dedicated to making this project. I am very grateful for this opportunity, which will help me develop further professionally, while bringing an ambitious idea to life alongside invaluable support.”

The submissions were judged by a selection panel with invited external panellist, Ashley Karrell, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience and Resources, Professor Dave Russell, the University Curator, Dr Marianna Tsionki, and the Access and Participation Development Manager, Dr Laura da Costa.

Professor Dave Russell said: “On behalf of the panel, I am delighted that the University has been able to offer this opportunity to such talented practitioners following a fascinating shortlisting process. I’m also grateful to all those who took the time to submit proposals, the standard of which gave us some really difficult decisions about which to support. We hope that these and future commissions will help inspire and shape our future creative community.”

External panellist Ashley Karrell is an award-winning director, photographer, film and theatre-maker with a career spanning 20 years. He has produced a broad spectrum of work that includes visual art, commercial and experimental video productions and mass participation pieces across and outside of the UK. Ashley graduated from the Northern Film School in 2005 and is now the director of the production company Panoptical and Expression Of You CIC, where he delivers large and small-scale productions at public exhibitions, events and festivals, and pursues work, which explores ideas of community, is socially engaging, and internationally-minded. 2022-23 Marks a new journey of creativity with the release of four short films, BFI Doc Society funded hybrid film #BlackBoyJoyGone, ACE funded dance theatre film Displaced, Journey's Festival - ArtReach funded refugee dance and animation film Reckoning and Spread The Word funded documentary Runaways London. He is also expanding the legacy of his 350 women living art project and developing his feature film trilogy. 

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