Creating a new sculpture for Leeds City Museum Window Frame Project

Artist Jenni Danson reveals the work behind making The Curve, her new sculpture specially designed for Leeds City Museum

I am particularly  interested in empty and ignored spaces. We tend to take notice of a space when it has an object in it. We look at the object but usually ignore the space containing it. If we see nothing there we pass on to the next object. I want to look at the space and its boundaries.

A metal frame with coloured lines crossing through it.
‘The Curve’ – image courtesy of Jenni Danson

Adapting a concept to a space

My first thoughts for The Curve was to make the curves within the entire window space. As always with an installation the practicalities of the space and the physical requirements of the piece start to take over. This means that in the end the work arises almost organically from the process that produces it.

Inserting the curves into the entire window space proved physically impossible in the time available: it was not possible to attach uprights to the wall, the work would interfere with the motion sensors, and the lighting was a fixture.

A metal frame with coloured lines crossing through it
‘The Curve’ – image courtesy of Jenni Danson

Experiments and construction

Further thought lead to the idea of a third scale model of the window space. Various materials were considered and Perspex was chosen because of its transparency, which would allow the curves to dominate.

The biggest problem with making the Perspex frame was finding corner pieces. I  tried out various commercial corner pieces and eventually cut Perspex corner pieces. This involved a full scale drawing of the base and making a pattern for each corner.

The frame was constructed  at home, thankfully it held together and stood up in the way I intended. It then had to be pulled apart, transported to Leeds City Museum and reassembled in a corner of the special exhibitions gallery.

I  had originally intended to use coloured fishing line but could not get this delivered in time. So the threads used were a combination of cotton, polyester and linen.

Inspiration from stained glass

A metal frame with coloured lines crossing through it.
‘The Curve’ – image courtesy of Jenni Danson

The colour choice was to a certain extent instinctive, I usually have a vision of what colour I want a piece to be. In the case of The Curve I wanted to echo the colours in a stained glass window which uses a lot of strong red and blue. There are many possible curves within the frame work. Any two sides as long as they are at an angle will produce a curve, and I chose several of these to show. Each curve was made using a continuous  thread, with the ends glued to the frame.

The curves occur because a straight line is a tangent to a curve. Repeated straight lines in close proximity will allow the curve to appear (the reason the old toy Spirograph worked).

Once the piece was finished it was carefully lifted into place by the museum’s technicians. The success of the piece for me is that it does what I envisioned at the beginning despite the changes along the way.

I hope that The Curve will make the viewer think about the shape if the window and the other curves that exist within the space.

By Jenni Danson, Artist

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