Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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174 CULTURED esign objects and artwork in galleries are often accompanied with subtle "please do not touch" signs, but Tayah Leigh Barrs is intent on doing away with that ubiquity with her new London exhibition space, Studio_Leigh. The gallery, housed over three floors in a 19th century former varnish factory in Shoreditch, opened its doors in late September with an exhibition that invited 27 emerging and established artists to explore a new visual dialogue, applying function to their work. "I've always been interested in the overlap between creative boundaries," says Barrs, a former art director for photographer Mario Testino. "I wanted to invite artists to find a natural point in their practice where physical use and function meet in unison." The artists—all UK-based and hailing from different disciplines—were paired with designers and local artisans to create tactile objects including furniture, textiles, glass and woodwork. Video and scent were also part of the exhibition. Barrs, breaking down the traditional art/viewer barrier, encouraged visitors to interact with the objects, creating an immediate intimacy and connection with the work. In some cases, viewers even left their own creative traces. "I think it was beneficial for people to come in and engage with these functional, physical objects," says Barrs, who commissioned all of the works in the show. The exhibition included Florence Peake's Skin Press Body On, a mirrored massage wall that explores ideas of interactivity, tactility and movement: Viewers were invited to rub themselves against it, becoming the performer. People could sit on Joseph Frazer's Kissing Chair that featured inward-learning arms to encourage its sitters to hug, while Richard Healy's hand-knitted jumper pays homage to the love story of composer Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Opening this month is a solo show by Mary Ramsden, (who was included in the inaugural group show), that will feature a page-turning series of work exploring the crossover between product design, art and books. PLEASE TOUCH THE ART Tayah Leigh Barrs wants you to get intimate with the work in her new London gallery. BY SAMANTHA TSE PORTRAIT BY ALASTAIR STRONG D

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