On Longing: new Lesley Hilling exhibition

On Longing: new Lesley Hilling exhibition

Fascinatingly intricate works made with salvaged wood and found objects tell personal yet universal stories

By Abby Trow
Copenhagen by Lesley Hilling

The Knight Webb Gallery in Brixton, south London, is hosting On Longing, which runs to the end of July. It features Hilling's floor standing and wall sculptures made from waste wood and found objects sourced locally in Brixton or handed down from Hilling's family, with its roots in working class London. Pictured above: Copenhagen. Hilling is a member of the environmental art collective Human Nature and was a finalist in this year's Aesthetica Art Prize.

Click on images to see them in larger format. Scroll down for our Q&A with Hilling.

All of artist Lesley Hilling's works are made from discarded materials, many of which relate personally to her.

These can be parts of old pianos, watches, chess pieces, cigarette packets and discarded photographs, as Hilling believes in creating new artworks out of old objects due to her increasing concerns about human consumption and the impact of waste on the environment.

'I try not to bring anything new into the world as there's enough stuff here already,' she says. And when you consider Hilling's working class roots and background, her artworks have a real British sense of 'make do and mend' about them.

These intricate works, which take up to a year to assemble and complete, have won Hilling a growing fan base who love the pieces for their organic yet architectural forms and understated elegance. 
Stoneflower by Lesley Hilling
Quite a complex puzzle.. details of El Barrio (which in case you don't know it is Spanish for area)
Detail from On Longing
Beyond the Blue Horizon
A Patch of Blue
Al Madina
Endless Night

Q&A with Lesley

How/why did you start making your pieces?
'I used to be a graphic designer and when we moved into using computers I found I was sitting at a desk most of the day. I felt I wanted to use my hands a  lot more and actually make things. I had always been a big collector and I started to make box constructions that housed my collections of strange ephemera. This was in the late '80s. As I became more involved in making art I went on an adult education evening class and learnt how to do all the joints and how to properly use wood working tools. I already knew a bit from watching my dad do things when I was young. So this led me to make more constructions using wood.'
Why recycled wood?
'Part of the reasoning behind using recycled wood and found objects was because I didn’t want to bring anything new into an already filled up world.  I've always been inspired by artists who use assemblage so it was natural for me to take that path. I've always found a certain magic in old wood, it’s really diverse in it’s colouring, texture and shape. Wood left out in the elements or worn by the sea has a grey hue and aged furniture comes in all sorts of different shades of brown. And of course there is wood that has a build up of layers of paint - it’s all very evocative in a simple and truthful way.'
Your work looks immensely intricate - do you make a plan and follow it or do pieces evolve once you start?

'They definitely evolve!  I start with an idea and as I’ve become more practised the end result is usually pretty near what I originally intended. But sometimes pieces can take on a life of their own and mistakes and diversions can lead me off into new ideas and ways of working'.
You’re a member of Human Nature - for you, how can art change the way people see the natural environment?
'I think art can change us as individuals - everyone should do something creative and a greater emphasis should be put on creativity in schools. It’s important that groups of artists get together to make work that challenges preconceived ideas and makes people think about how we can affect change.  So yes, I think anyone visiting a Human Nature exhibition will leave with a positive vision of the natural environment and be thinking of ways to get involved and help look after our world.'

And following on from this… do you feel your work has something to say?
'I like to think it speaks to us of our past, our memories and the way we live together in our cities. It’s a lot about construction and the overlay of buildings and different peoples and cultures. I’m not sure that ‘it has something to say’ but if the viewer enjoys looking at it or is moved by it then that’s enough for me.'