About Tread Softly: An Arts Council Collection National Partner exhibition

Tread Softly presents works from the Arts Council Collection in which artists explore childhood experience and familial relationships, revisiting and reassessing pivotal moments and people within their lives.     


Many of the works within the exhibition 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.

‘Tread Softly is an immensely thoughtful, thought-provoking show, with all its different elements brought beautifully together by Kay's warm and inclusive poetic voice.’

- Yorkshire Post

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.

Download the Tread Softly Talking Together Card
Download the Tread Softly Matching Game

Download the Tread Softly Exhibition Leaflet