Leila Houston (London, 1977) is a visual artist whose work investigates the social, political and historical aspects of a place and the impact we have on our environments.
Houston uses site-responsive installations to explore connections between the external atmosphere and the internal sensation within places, providing reflections on the language of architecture and the associations we draw through memory and the senses. Working predominantly with video, sound and structure, much of her artwork cultivates immersive atmospheres for the spectator, often inviting them to take part or contribute to the work.
In straightening out the petals, Houston investigates the very human fascination with fear and our desire to feel it. In her continuing experimentation with sound, this work creates atmospheric soundscapes that bring colour to the space, exploring the way in which objects absorb or become a part of their environment.
Using the age old Jack in the Box, Houston has reappropriated the toy to explore what we are attracted to and the sinister underbelly of it. Drawing on themes of inequality and poverty that run throughout much of Houston’s work, straightening out the petals invites the audience to revisit traditional motifs and symbols in our society and what they represent.
Houston has contrasted recorded sounds with the rhyme ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’, which dates back to the 1700s and originates in cockney rhyming slang (weasel and stoat for ‘coat’) for the poor at the time pawning their coat for money in hard times. Swans, a symbol of elegance and an animal owned and protected by the Crown, wind themselves around the reappropriated box. A bird bath is recreated, inspired by Houston seeing and recording her niece and nephew developing their own in the garden, drawing back to innocence and affinity with the natural world. Raging seascapes are captured in Houston’s photography and video work, depicting the conflicting excitement and dread that water can evoke.
How does nature nurture us? How has the material world moved towards or away from this?
Straightening out the petals, an ongoing development, a work-in-progress that will evolve, culminating in a final exhibition later this year.
Leila Houston (London, 1977) is a visual artist whose work investigates the social, political and historical aspects of a place.