Review: Heroes by arts collective Pyramid of Arts @ Leeds Town Hall

By February 19, 2016

Art & Photography. Leeds.

On an unassuming wall of Leeds Town Hall just to the right hand side of the door where you walk in is a small display of images. During my visit many people walked past without a glance (perhaps they had already seen it, or, as I suspect, they probably hadn’t noticed), and the woman behind reception looked at me a little strangely when I mentioned that I was there to see an exhibition by art collective and charity, Pyramid of Arts. “Exhibition?!” she gaped, “Well, there are a few pictures on the wall behind you if that’s what you mean.”

Titled ‘Heroes’, the small display comprises of a number of mixed media photography pieces created by Young Adult members of Pyramid of Arts, an art collective of those with and without learning disabilities. One image each has been created by the 11 strong Young Adults group around the idea of heroes and responding to the theme ‘Don’t Stand By’. The images surround a 1938 Nazi propaganda poster for Action T4, the Third Reich’s program of forced euthanasia for the incurably ill, physically or mentally disabled, emotionally distraught, and elderly. The poster reads ‘60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People’s community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too.’ These words of hatred are countered by the uplifting words, which accompany each image, to describe their chosen hero.

One Direction, Santa Claus and Darth Vader are all paid tribute to on this wall of heroes, each in a touching and wholly original way. Rugby League fan, William Stapleton, pays tribute to his team in a painting of the Headingley Stadium stands with the words ‘Leeds Rhinos are the best’, showing how the personal can also be local, and how sports stars can inspire others to become heroes. For partially sighted Adam Bates, Darth Vader’s mask reminds him of his own experience living in partial darkness. His image shows himself in a homemade Darth Vader mask, wielding a makeshift lightsaber, as another example of how personal these hero figures are.

It is, however, the images of family members which resonate throughout the display and clearly pronounce the fragility, vulnerability but also the ability to overcome. Colleen Ward’s image of her father and description of how she dealt with his struggle with cancer is deeply moving and explained in such a beautiful way on the text panel which accompanies the photograph. These examples show the multifaceted way that Heroes provides a profoundly sorrowful insight into loss and grief whilst also maintaining hope and defiance so critical when facing adversity.

To find out more about Pyramid of Arts and what they do, go to their website.