Tread Softly

An Arts Council Collection National Partner Exhibition 

Many of the works within Tread Softly exist in a place where fact and fiction blur and where fantasy melds with memory, affected by both time and distance. Negotiating and defining identity is a momentous journey, with early experiences leaving indelible marks on our characters, as fragile dreams are pitted against the sometimes painful ingress of the adult world.

Powerful works by Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry reveal how art was ultimately a salvation amidst difficult circumstances, Perry’s Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot stating “I got out ‘coz I could paint”. Other works consider the way in which fragments of experience linger in the memory, like a perfume that triggers highly personal reminiscences.

Photographs by Fiona Crisp and Nigel Shafran recall family caravan holidays at the seaside and present the emotionally charged everyday objects left in a room by a departed father. Mary Kelly’s iconic Post-Partum Document and Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance also scrutinise the parent-child relationship, bringing intensely private and quietly moving moments that are often unseen and take place silently in the home, into the public gaze.

Tread Softly also features new commission Shame Chorus (2017) by Jordan McKenzie, a work originally conceived as a live performance that explores memory, sexuality, community and catharsis though collective action and singing. Renowned psychoanalyst Dr Susie Orbach conducted interviews with members of the London Gay Men's Chorus, exploring early, formative experiences of shame and coming out. Giving voice to often-internalised feelings, their stories were then set to music by leading musicians and composers (Billy Bragg, Leo Chadburn, Shane Cullinan, David McAlmont, Verity Susman and Jack White) and words with narrative texts by London-based writer Andy White.

Other artists featured in the exhibition are Vanley Burke, Tarik Chawdry, Saad Qureshi, Kathy Prendergast, Marion Coutts, Susan Hiller, Permindar Kaur, Bedwyr Williams, Dennis Morris and Jo Spence.

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Related Events

The Arts Council Collection : Tread Softly

"Some art holds the door open and you can go in with your sensibility and your imagination and do something else that’s different. Some pieces feel complete and there’s no point in replying."
Jackie Kay on BBCR3 

27 July
Bothy Gallery, YSP
Join acclaimed poet and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay for a wonderful summer evening of words and poetry, written in response to works featured in Tread Softly. Jackie's poems are also available in a free printed pamphlet. 

BOOK TICKETS via the YSP website 


Further Information

> Please meet at YSP Centre 10 minutes before the start time

> The Bothy Gallery will open until 18.45

> Refreshments and light snacks will be available to purchase 

> Free parking is available

> Tickets for this event are non-refundable


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.