Artist Haroon Mirza’s latest exhibition, which goes on display this month, takes inspiration from its host gallery.
Utilising the adjacent River Calder to create a unique audio composition, the new installation of light, sound and found objects uses The Hepworth Wakefield’s art collection as materials for his own work.
“I’m interested in the idea of art being more than something that is just visual,” Haroon explains. “With the work at The Hepworth, one of the things I’ve been interested in looking at is the idea of ready-made materials, but also existing artworks. So I often work with works of art and incorporate them into my own installations – it’s turning works of art into material for art. So the collection at The Hepworth comes into this, and it sheds light on the idea that an artwork for me is the same as a found object.”
Haroon likes to play with the idea of function and is interested in how found objects can become works of art, and how works of art can become functional. “There’s the Marcel Duchamp tradition of the ready-made, where an artist takes an everyday object and places it within the context of art. But he also spoke about the reverse ready-made, which is the idea of taking a work of art and giving it a function,” he says.
“One of things I am doing is displaying plinths from The Hepworth – empty plinths with nothing on them. I’m displaying several plinths which are joined together by LED lights at their base, so the plinths become a support for LED lights.”
He says he doesn’t want gallery visitors to get bogged down in trying to understand his work on an intellectual level.“It’s an experience like you would have going to a gig or something like that.“
With the use of materials in his work that can expire, such as light bulbs and electronic equipment, it was interesting to hear Haroon’s position on the status of his artworks once things stop functioning as they were originally intended. “That’s the moment when the work becomes a sculpture,” he says. “If you’ve got this big assemblage of lights, and objects, and things all together that is generating sound, then it’s an audio-visual work. But when you switch it off, it’s still an interesting object.”
Haroon was awarded the prestigious Northern Art Prize in 2011. Since then his career has blossomed. “Winning the Northern Art Prize definitely helped things. It gave me the confidence as an artist,” he says. “Before that moment, I never really took myself seriously as an artist. It’s given me a lot more attention, especially in the north. Museums in the north have started collecting my work. Right now, I have work on show in Leeds, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, and now at The Hepworth. Immediately, it didn’t feel like it changed anything, but now I think that it’s one of those things that curators and museums look to with confidence – it’s a fantastic endorsement.”
Haroon began his artistic career in Sheffield, so returning to Yorkshire means a lot to him. “Yorkshire’s an incredible place with an amazing history and art history. For me it was being able to work in a big city like Sheffield, establish myself as an artist, and not have to worry about money as I might in London. I’m not surprised that people like David Hockney want to live in Yorkshire – it’s not just that it’s the subject for his art, but there’s this lifestyle that goes with it.”
Haroon Mirza, The Hepworth, Wakefield, May 25 to September 29.