Colin Taylor
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'Lightspace: A year in the round'


Like many who have experienced the Royal Exchange, it is impossible not to stop, look up and around you. It doesn’t matter if this is your first or your hundred-and-first encounter with the space, this is what you do. With hindsight, this observation of a common human reaction was the origin of this exhibition.

There were no preconceptions about what might come out of it, merely a commitment from the theatre company to support it and allow me access during a year-long exploration of the two architectural structures; The Royal Exchange Building and the theatre module. There was also an agreement, at some point in the future, to have a cup of coffee and discuss it further.

Not unsurprisingly, each project has its own challenges and complications and it takes time to work out what the problem is, let alone start the search for a solution. Having previously spent two years producing imagery about the rise of a single building in Spinningfields as it grew to fill the public space created for it, I knew that anything learned during that project, would not work here. But I also knew that this would be where to start. I think it was the American painter, Perle Fine who said that vague dissatisfaction was often the catalyst towards the next painting’ and certainly for me, painting is a continual process and each image produced is merely a bridge between the previous and the next.

I can’t speak for other painters when I say this, but I believe it is an impossibility to simply parachute in a pre-formed mindset or practice and seriously expect it to work - there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ methodology – but a process of visual acclimatisation along which to travel. No surprise then that my initial explorative images proved far too impermeable, too clunky and without the lightness that I was starting to look for.

The reciprocal spatial relationship between the two physical structures, one cushioned inside the other was always going to be a constant theme of the project, but it quickly evolved and extended to include the imagined landscapes created each month within the theatre itself. Although it’s an oversimplification to say this, I think this is where the project gained its own singularity and rather than be about two physical structures, it also became about the light and how it binds the forms together in each single image.

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