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Jill McKnight: Desire Lines

Retrace the paths carved by generations of Leeds residents in Jill McKnight: Desire Lines, a new exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery, open from 25 March.

Jill McKnight, We, 2022 © The Artist. Photo: Jules Lister.

The new body of work by Leeds-based artist Jill McKnight explores the physical and metaphorical paths carved by generations of Leeds residents in the city’s landscape and history. McKnight takes inspiration from a wide range of stories where the ordinary and extraordinary are interwoven, using sculpture, print, sound and video to investigate the joy, wonder and humour that can be found in everyday life.

Jill McKnight is a multidisciplinary artist working across sculpture, drawing, performance, writing and installation to record lesser heard voices and to explore her own identity as a working-class artist. Her work has captured the attention of Yorkshire Sculpture International multiple times and has been shown at The Art House in Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and in the Great Exhibition of the North.

Desire Lines features newly commissioned artworks by the artist produced as a result of a recent six-month residency, in which Jill immersed herself in the collections of the British Library and Leeds Art Gallery. It is the latest project that the British Library have commissioned in Leeds - and their first collaboration with the gallery. With help from the British Library Sound Archive, Jill McKnight listened to a range of Leeds perspectives and stories among the 6.5 million recordings in the national collection.

The recordings capture unique glimpses into the intersections of class, place and characteristics like ethnicity and language. Within the library’s Accents & Dialects collections, a Millennium Memory Bank interview from 1998 captures resident Claude Hendrickson’s thoughts on the cultural richness of their neighbourhood, saying, “Chapeltown is really a microcosm of the world. We came up with something like 45 different communities physically living in this area. We’ve got Bangladeshis, we’ve got Pakistanis, we’ve got Indians, we’ve got Jamaicans, we’ve got Barbadians, Trinidadians, Saint Kitts and divisions, we’ve got Irish, we’ve got Italians, we’ve got Serbians, we’ve got Latvians, we’ve got Polish, we’ve got Ukrainians, we’ve got Vietnamese, we’ve got Japanese, we’ve got Chinese, we have all these denominations and more living in our community.”

As a joint commission, Jill McKnight also immersed herself in Leeds Art Gallery’s unique fine art collection which comprises over 15,000 artworks and is often considered the best fine art collection outside London. Jill was particularly interested in exploring Leeds-related artists and narratives, especially those connected to women and industry. As a result, her work has been inspired by significant artists like Jacob Kramer, Edna Lumb and Charles Ginner to name just a few, which will also be shown alongside her own work in the exhibition.

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See Jill McKnight: Desire Lines at Leeds Art Gallery from 25 March 2022.

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