New Gallery: ‘Heavier Than Air’ David Kemp & Tom Leaper

29th May 2021 - 26th June 2021

A joint exhibition by David Kemp & Tom Leaper.


Tom Leaper and David Kemp first worked together thirty-five years ago, producing several large-scale site-specific public sculptures in urban and rural post-industrial landscapes, forests, abandoned railways and steelworks up north, and on demolished Dockland sites in London.

Since then, they have continued to develop their own work and distinctive styles and skills.

This is the first exhibition they have had together in thirty years. Whilst illustrating great diversity, it may also demonstrate the influence that fifty years living and working in the broken granite post-industrial landscape of the wild “Tinners Coast” has had on their sculptures.

David Kemp

David Kemp likes to describe himself as a future archaeologist reassembling the scattered detritus of previous technological societies, unearthed amongst the remains of a post-industrial landscape.

Posing as “The Department of Reconstruction – Building a Better Yesterday” he reassembles these fragments from the ruins as museum pieces, artefacts, relics, icons and god-dollies illustrating myths, legends and fables that have endured into the post-Anthropocene era.

David has also worked on a much larger scale, and has installed many site-specific public sculptures in post-industrial and urban landscapes throughout Britain. He has collaborated with Kneehigh Theatre, designing and developing unique outdoor theatre performances in Cornwall and Malta.

Tom Leaper

Born in Newlyn into a family of studio potters, Leaper developed his own artistic style while working in the pottery before going on to study sculpture. He’s worked in Cornwall for the past 35 years and its culture and landscape imbues all that he creates. Leaper’s practice involves large-scale public projects and private commissions alongside his studio work. Being involved in his community is very important; Leaper has worked closely with local charities and organisations, firmly feeling that art is for all to enjoy.

Leaper is highly skilled in metalwork, particularly bronze and stainless steel. He has also embraced cutting-edge design processes and media such as fibreglass and Jesmonite. Alongside using drone site-mapping and AutoCAD design, Leaper 3D scans his handmade works, which are then digitally enlarged and milled before being cast. This allows him to retain the inherent organic qualities of hand-formed sculpture at an impressive scale. His Jesmonite pieces are at once striking and oddly harmonious.

Leaper’s practice is uplifting; he believes artwork can have a profound effect on people without being serious in tone or political in subject. He is drawn to organic shapes as more expressive in their simplicity than complicated, figurative designs. Leaper selects bright colours that contrast the natural forms. This playful juxtaposition is used to enhance the power of the shape where a muted palette would dull it. Ultimately, Leaper’s work offers the viewer a subtle, thoughtful experience. He doesn’t ask them to wrestle with difficult concepts, but rather to be heartened, and in this pleasing engagement reflect more deeply.