Purkiss was born in Chemnitz, Germany and graduated from Leipzig University with a degree in Journalism and Photography. She worked for an advertising agency before moving to England in 1984. After four years at the London bureau of Associated Press, she became a freelance photographer. Her commissions include regular work for government agencies, museums and galleries and her photographs have been published in national and international newspapers such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Die Zeit and Nature.
“I see photographs as documents of people, recorded in the context of their environment and their time. The interpretation of my subjects, or my part of being creative, lies in selecting the context, the environment and the moment in time.”
The exhibition documents artists at various stages in their careers, covering three decades, through photographs borne out of Purkiss’ personal interest in sculptors as a subject and those commissioned as part of her regular freelance work for press and government agencies, museums and galleries.
The artist’s most recent photograph – previously unseen – shows Tony Cragg in his studio in Wuppertal, Germany, preparing for his major YSP exhibition, which also opens on 4 March 2017. Other new works feature Sophie Ryder during the installation of her exhibition in Salisbury Cathedral; and Martin Creed outside the entrance to the Barbican in London’s Silk Street, near his office.
Andy Goldsworthy, whose site-specific installations at YSP include Hanging Trees and Shadow Stone Fold, is featured in a photograph taken on Cocking Down, West Sussex, in 2002 during the inaugural walk of his Chalk Stones Trail. It was assumed that the stones would last approximately two years, and 14 years later the weathered stones still exist. Fellow land artist, David Nash – whose wooden, stone and charcoal works are also shown in the open air at YSP – is seen chainsawing a large block of wood, with the scenic backdrop of the rugged Blaenau Ffestiniog landscape.
Earlier works show Dame Elisabeth Frink in her Dorset studio in 1990, prior to her 60th birthday, sat alongside the sculpture Seated Figure II; and Lynn Chadwick in the garden of his home in Lypiatt Park, Gloucestershire, in September 1995. Dhruva Mistry and Trupti Patel were photographed in their studio in Essex, in October 1991, at the time of Mistry’s election as a member of the Royal Academy of Arts.
In YSP’s 40th year, the exhibition offers the chance to reflect on the wealth of talent that has graced the Park’s rolling 500-acre landscape, from young Visiting Artists such as David Murphy to sculptural masters like Sir Anthony Caro.
The exhibition coincides with the release of Purkiss’ new book Sculptors: 1986–2016, which features portraits of more than 70 British sculptors, including those exhibited in the YSP show. A photograph of YSP’s Founding and Executive Director Peter Murray CBE, who has written the foreword for the publication, is also featured.