A resident of Hastings, England, British artist Leigh Dyer uses his hometown as a backdrop for his art. It seems that everywhere you look in the historic East Sussex town, one of his sculptures is in view; they’re in restaurants and bars and have also been commissioned for public squares. It’s as though Dyer considers Hastings his house and has set out to decorate it.
As a self-taught artist working almost exclusively with recycled metals, Dyer sculpts impressive movement and life into traditionally clunky, disobedient materials. Michael Hambridge, public art officer for Hastings Borough Council, once commented about Dyer’s chess-inspired installation in Butler’s Gap: “It has artistic sense but it’s grounded and unpretentious. He’s one of our own and we are very proud to employ him.” In this work, sculptural sea creatures overtake giant chess pieces; a shiny metallic octopus captures a rook in its tentacles while a matching conger eel smothers a king figure.
In “Monkey Brand: Sculpture by Leigh Dyer,” the artist’s latest show at Brumfield’s Gallery in Boise, Idaho, Dyer brings his works into the traditional gallery space, but he has organized the space like a study, and he has melded together furniture and sculpture through his works. Imposing trophy heads are mounted on the walls; bird skeletons perch on shelves; monkeys rest on the backs of chairs that surround a table with a chess set on it. Each animal is positioned to be looking at or reaching for something, activating the interior space. While his work visually recalls taxidermy, it also shares a similar approach in that he essentially revives lifeless material, transforming discarded and industrial metal into dynamic creatures.
Dyer often uses unconventional materials, like nails or other hardware, or fine details to draw viewer in, only to step back and take in the whole sculptural form. Ultimately, he hopes that people will interact with his sculptures, much like the way he has with his hometown. Dyer has said, “Through my practice I aim to engage the viewer with their surroundings, encouraging them to look again or alter their relationship with a particular place or site.”
“Monkey Brand: Sculptures by Leigh Dyer” is on view at Brumfield’s Gallery, Boise, Sept. 13th–Nov.1st, 2014.