Colour Forms comes to Barnsley

To mark the 300th anniversary of inoculation to Britain thanks to the remarkable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an ambitious new art installation called Colour Forms – Straws upon the Water has been created by Yorkshire-based artists, Lenny and Whale.

Inspired by the Sun Monument at Wentworth Castle as well as microscopic images of viruses, artists Fabric Lenny and Katrina Whale have worked with families from Silkstone Primary School to create a family of brightly coloured spheres.

(c) Timm Cleasby

The sun is an emblem of enlightenment and the idea behind inoculation mirrors this. These cheerful representations remind us that viruses can be the cause of disease but also the cure, if utilised as a vaccine to promote immunity.

Of course, trying to complete a project to this scale and with involvement from schoolchildren whilst in a pandemic threw up some challenges, but also interesting opportunities for the artists.

“Because we obviously couldn’t do any workshops in school, we sent out kits for the children and their families to complete at home. We never met any of the families, but it was really effective and the response was exceptional.

“We had over 100 drawings and photos emailed back to us, with the children taking photos of the models they’d made in their gardens or saying they’d visited the fernery at Wentworth Castle to identify places the final spheres would sit. It made the project grow much richer and deeper,” Katrina said.

Molly (c) Timm Cleasby

The final installation includes a Mother Sphere, six Sibling Spheres, two benches, plus Molly the molecular structure. They were all fabricated in Brighton before being hand-painted at their Holmfirth studio. There is also a soundscape to accompany the art installation which has been composed and performed by Nick Lewis with vocals by Hayley Youvell.

As community artists, Lenny and the Whale look to bring the magic of creativity to non-traditional art spaces and Colour Forms is no exception. The trail started off at Wentworth Castle and has since moved to Cannon Hall Museum where it stands proudly in the Walled Gardens until Wednesday 12th May. It will then travel to Elsecar at the beginning of June.

The project has been funded as part of the Wentworth and Elsecar Great Place Scheme, a partnership between the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and supported by Historic England.

(c) Timm Cleasby

Barnsley Council’s cabinet spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, Cllr Tim Cheetham, said: “One positive we have gained from the Covid-19 pandemic is how people have reconnected with the history and heritage of their hometown, not just the geography and greenery. We don’t want people to lose that connection, so it is now on us at Barnsley Council to work with other organisations to keep people engaged.”

Want to learn more about Lady Mary Wortley Montagu? Read about her here.