Katrina Palmer: The Necropolitan Line
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
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British artist Katrina Palmer (b. 1967) fills our galleries with stories as she develops new work in her first institutional commission.
Palmer presents writing and amplified sound as sculpture, working with fragmented narratives to evoke physical and psychological human interactions with objects. Her narratives take the form of books, her exhibitions fill buildings with sound, performances and readings, and in both the city and landscape she creates site-specific walks that are guided by audio tracks. With a research-led approach, Palmer explores real and imagined sites, her stories weaving together fact and fiction.
The starting points for Palmer’s exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute are the Cross Bones Graveyard in Borough and the London Necropolis Railway, which once linked Waterloo rail station to Brookwood Cemetery, Western Europe’s largest necropolis. The former was a medieval unconsecrated burial ground for women that closed in 1853, by which time it had become a paupers’ graveyard and had far exceeded its capacity. The latter was established in 1854 as a solution to the poor conditions and overcrowding of the capital’s cemeteries, such as seen at Cross Bones, and remained in use until 1941.
In The Necropolitan Line the Henry Moore Institute’s galleries undergo their most radical architectural intervention to date. A railway platform runs right through the galleries, and the surrounding dimly lit spaces are filled with fragmented chronicles. Like all platforms, this is a site for departures, beginnings and endings that draw on stories of romantic goodbyes and abandonments, as well as expectation and anticipation. The Necropolitan Line offers a promise of a journey that unravels themes of death and decay, the body and the dispersal of matter. Traditionally sculpture is associated with material occupying space: here the logic is inverted. Palmer’s sculpture, in contrast, is a study of absence and negative space.
About the artist
Katrina Palmer studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London, where she completed her PhD in 2012. In 2015, she realised End Matter, a commission in Portland, Dorset made with Artangel, awarded as part of the 2013 Artangel Open in collaboration with BBC Radio 4.
Palmer is currently a tutor at The Ruskin School of Art and in 2014 was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists. Her books The Dark Object, The Fabricators’ Tale and End Matter have been published by Bookworks.
This summer she was shortlisted for the prestigious Contemporary Art Society Annual Award 2015 for a project at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, in collaboration with the Henry Moore Institute.