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Archive for the 'Show' Category

“Arty Wow Moment”: Review of Angels of Anarchy @ Manchester City Art Gallery

 

UPDATE ADDED:  5 March 2012.  Tremendous blog post on Francesca Woodman and her work over at Wayne Ford’s Posterous.   Her tragically short life is put under the microscope and the resulting post is a wonderfully informed and a comprehensive look at her background, work and influences.  Thank you Mr Ford!

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It has to be said I probably attend my fair share of exhibitions, but what doesn’t happen very often is that I enjoy one so much I feel a powerful urge to blog about it.  But the “Angels of Anarchy” exhibition currently in residence at Manchester City Art Gallery really does deserve to be seen by anyone with even the vaguest interest in the visual arts.

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My last real big “arty wow moment” in Manchester was back in 1997 at the David Hockney exhibition, the one with all his photocollage stuff.  OK, well yes, I did also have one seeing the footage of Gandhi visiting Darwen at the Procession exhibition (Cornerhouse, Summer09).  But that doesn’t really count as it wasn’t the art that made me hold my breath with wonder, rather the actual event happening at all and being recorded forever by someone with a movie camera.

pearblossom_hockney

To be truthful, the only reason ‘Angels of Anarchy’ even twitched on my radar was due to the inclusion of some of Lee Miller’s photographs.  I am not really a big fan of Surrealism.  A few years ago, when I got to see some of Dali’s best work up close, I could appreciate the beautiful brush work but I didn’t find myself particularly moved.  It was all a bit too clever for me.

Surrealism emerged in the mid-Twenties, a potent, shifting and bubbling period in the art world.  Most of the celebrated artists and thinkers were male (Breton, Dali, Freud, Magritte, Man Ray, Picasso) and these are the names which are inextricably linked with the movement and whose work we have become accustomed to seeing.

Where the curators of this new exhibition have struck gold is by choosing to limit things to a unique viewpoint, namely the part women played as creators.  This helps to make the work relevant, it introduces a much more human aspect and allows the viewer to better understand and feel the emotion pouring out from the artists work on show.

Exhibition spaces can often feel cavernous, cold and intimidating.  Manchester Art Gallery have got things right here though.  Subdued lighting, warm rich colours and intelligent grouping of images make for a meandering and intuitive journey.

The work takes all forms, from painting and photography through to film, sculpture, books and poetry.  Many of the pieces can usually be found ensconced within numerous different private collections, there are 150  images from the 1920’s through to the 1970’s.

After viewing the exhibition I came away with much to think upon.  Many images deal with the representation of women as sexual objects; beautified, empowered, sad, disconnected, shackled.  Sometimes it felt like a celebration, stumbling into someone else’s party, women united and enjoying each others artistry, support and friendship (Lee Miller’s portrait work).  This is women experimenting and questioning, using their art to examine traditional roles and their place within a wider world and trying to find a voice.

leemiller_plate

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to see powerful work such as Lee Miller’s ‘Severed Breast’ (a freshly removed female breast is photographed served up on a dinner plate complete with cutlery on a white linen tablecloth, the was showcased in Vogue the magazine Miller worked for at the time) and Meret Oppenheimer’s wickedly disturbing “Fur Gloves With Wooden Fingernails”.  I really like the work of Manchester-based artist Rachel Goodyear and I believe her images would feel right at home in the slightly gothic and fetish-themed room where Oppenheimer, Penny Slinger and Josette Exandier’s work is displayed. Within this leatherbound haven you will find a fur teacup, a blonde human hair whip (fairytale/Rapunzel?) and bird skeletons.

meretoppenheimer_furgloves

Argentinian painter Leonor Fini’s work stands strong and powerful.  A remarkable women, artist, costume designer and novelist.  I was wowed by her “Little Hermit Sphinx (1948)” with it’s subtle colours and exquisite technique, capturing decay and innocence, a guardian for life and death.

leonorfini_littlehermitsphinx

Batting for the British corner I found Edith Rimmington’s painting “The Oneiroscopist (1947)” haunting, weird and beautiful.

edithrimmington_theoneiroscopist

Photography is well-represented in the exhibition.  I mentioned Lee Miller’s work earlier, but there is an abundance of powerful work.  I discovered the images of Francesca Woodman (Kate Bush a big fan apparently).  This US artist took the photograph chosen for the Exhibition poster and “Untitled” (1977) a self-portrait showing her hanging from a doorway really stayed bouncing round my mind long after I had left the gallery.  Using long exposures she generates a ghostly atmosphere, made all the more powerful when you discover she had a troubled life and committed suicide aged 22yrs.

francesca-woodman_doorway

Dora Maar’s photographic portrait of an armadillo embryo is freakish, spooky and rather innocent, whereas her “Sans Titre” seashell with a hand is classic surrealism, another of her prints hints at her striving towards a more documentary style and one can understand there is a truth to rumours of her appreciation of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange .  Maar is perhaps better known as Picasso’s muse, but I would love to see more of her photography.

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A big star of the show is Frida Kahlo, probably acknowledged as one of the more celebrated female surrealist artists, her work is vibrant and pulses with it’s own distinctive style,  symbolism and themes.  I must make an effort to see the film “Frida” based on her life,  she overcame huge odds to create such powerful paintings.

fridakahlo_diegoyfrida

A new discovery for me was Kay Sage, an American painter working mostly with oils.  She created beautiful, linear landscapes filled with futuristic structures all coloured from a sublime palette.  Sage’s work felt decidedly modern and distinctive, her painting “The Hidden Letter” immediately made me think of Phillippe Starck’s famous iconic lemon squeezer (or am I alone in that thought!).

kaysage_starck

This really is a feast, an exciting opportunity to see such a range of high quality work in one place.  The Gallery has made sterling efforts to enhance the experience, with a programme of talks and tours, games and interactive websites.  All part of a quietly terrific marketing and social media campaign, steered by Wilmslow agency Wonder Associates. Fantastic to see an arts organisation making such an effort to find and engage with their audience.

Further reviews of the exhibition can be found at the Guardian, Independent, Prospect Magazine, creativetourist.com and for a queer slant try Chroma Journal. Angels of Anarchy continues at Manchester Art Gallery until 10th January 2010 and was curated by Dr Patricia Allmer, MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University.

UPDATE: Nov 2010.  Just found a well-written piece in The Telegraph newspaper (England) today on Francesa Woodman.  It’s well worth a read, particularly  if you have an appreciation of Francesca’s work and would like to learn more about her (sadly) rather tragic and short life.  It also highlights the fact that some of Francesca Woodman’s work will be on display at the Victoria Miro gallery in London 17 Nov 2010 – 22 Jan 2011 and also in the New Year 2011 a major retrospective will be on show at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art and then on to the Guggenheim in New York in 2012.

Next year, a major Woodman retrospective will travel to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, and on to the Guggenheim in New York in 2012. Before that, though, an exhibition of around 50 of her photographs, including some rare colour prints, opens at the Victoria Miro gallery in London on Wednesday.

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Cutting Room Experiment: the aftermath @ #smc_mcr

cuttingroom_smc

I managed to make my second appearance at #smc_mcr earlier this month.  In an exciting departure from the norm, the event was held at the BBC on Oxford Road and many thanks to all the organisers for making it happen and run so smoothly.  These meet-ups are always very open and welcoming; fashioned from a happy blend of creative wannabees, digital sages and the odd normal earthdweller snuffling up the crumbs.  (I am  a paid-up member of the first category).  This time we had some home-made cakes (awesome apparently), Teletext bingo and a subsidised bar.  Who could ask for more.

From the #smc_mcr wiki: “The Social Media Cafe is a place for ALL people interested in social media to gather, get acquainted, and to plot, scheme, and share.. emphasis on open and interesting conversation!”.

Given the Network’s copious skillsets, some great tweets and blog posts are always on offer if you are not able to get down on the night and you want to catch-up with the fun.  Check out Tim Difford’s extensive coverage on One Greener Day for more on this last meet-up.  I am going to concentrate on giving some feedback on the Cahoona and Ear to the Ground session which dealt with the groundbreaking “Cutting Room Experiment” which took place on 20th June in Ancoats.  To use their own words they were aiming to put on “the biggest user-generated event in the world” aiming to publicise the opening of a newly designed square in New East Manchester called The Cutting Room.

First off, I was a little torn on the night as I also fancied the Twitter talk (being a relative newbie into Twitterworld) and the fact that the session was delivered by an artist and writer (@thecharmquark) gave added interest.

In the end, I opted for the Cahoona fellas as I had heard a little of the experiment and wanted to find out how it all panned out.  Plus I’ve always found a good de-brief is often a worthwhile use of half an hour.

The session began with details of the Cutting Room Experiment’s inception and aims, then the plan of attack was mapped out, to hopefully ensure the experiment’s success.   It was clearly demonstrated that key online tools were utilised with creativity and skill, the resulting spread of publicity and visitors to the website, testament to the guys picking a winning strategy and social media playing a starring role.

However, things did seem to fall down a bit on the day of the experiment, 20th June 2009.  Though the target of 400 people attending was achieved (though the photo’s shown during the session didn’t illustrate that very well) the vibe was,  I think, that a larger audience was expected.

© TST 2004. http://www.space-hoppers.co.uk

© TST 2004. http://www.space-hoppers.co.uk

One can only conclude that different strategies are required to engineer different responses to any campaign.   The hardest deliver of all is real people.  Ones who wear out their own shoe leather, co-ordinate their day and put themselves out to attend an event.  The poor weather on the day may explain some of the problem ; sadly a common issue for outdoor promoters living in a rain shadow.  I guess that the harsh truth is that the user-generated ideas chosen were simply not a big enough pull.  Despite a fun-looking Spacehopper race and Manchester Science and Industry setting up Alka Seltzer rockets.

Sometimes, if enough buzz is created, then people will make an effort as they don’t want to miss out on an exclusive and potentially trendsetting event (moreso if something is free).   Maybe a band plays a secret hometown gig,  celebrated writer reads from a latest novel or respected thinker delivers a talk on an engaging subject.  The aim is to make those at the event feel they are lucky and are attending something with real pull.

I guess the Cutting Room Experiment showed that great publicity and user-generated ideas are not quite enough when the aim is to deliver a big audience on a wet Saturday in Ancoats.  Once the event date was drawing closer I wonder whether even more time and effort should have been concentrated on targetting the local population and reaching them using the more traditional routes?  Maybe the public still want a bit of old-fashioned entertainment once the avatar has been allowed the day off.  A bit of bribery might help too …. 50 free spacehoppers anyone?

Click through to Technical Fault’s blog where you will find a link to the whole #smc_mcr Cutting Room Experiment session, his own on-the-button thoughts, plus an excellent critique of the night.

LATE ADDITION.  Link to @MartinSFP ‘s freshly uploaded video of the Teletext Bingo session.

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Shot Up North exhibition reaches Newcastle @ the Biscuit Factory in March …

biscuitfactory_ext

I blogged during the light nights of June 2008 about my decision to enter the Shot Up North Awards.  SUN is a showcase designed to reward the best in professional photography north of Birmingham and to increase the profile of Northern Photographers in general.  50 images are chosen to be printed in the SUN catalogue, this wings its way to most of the movers and shakers in the Northern creative fraternity.  The winning work is also printed and framed and exhibited at various venues including Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Newcastle, Belfast and Birmingham.  So not a bad little showcase at all.

This was my first time for entering any kind of award, so I tried to canvas opinion from my inner advice circle (you know who you are – and thanks!).  In the end there were 3 or 4 images that seemed to be the most popular, which I then entered via the Shot Up North website.  Each image entered incurs an entry fee, so it isn’t just a case of entering hundreds and hoping one will produce success – unless you have money to burn of course.

After the judging I discovered I was successful with one of my images, which I had taken during the summer, at the Feast Festival in Manchester.  It was chosen for exhibiting, inclusion in the SUN catalogue and is also available to purchase as a limited edition print (framed or unframed) via Comme Ca Art.

I had to supply some blurb to go in the brochure and having to write this proved far more strenuous than taking the shot I can tell you!

“I find our physical world fascinating in all its forms from tiny seeds to panoramic landscapes, even crumbling buildings have a soul which sometimes cries out to be captured.

The image (see below titled “lanterns”) was taken at a recent Festival in Manchester, locals placed the floating lanterns on the Lake and created such a beautiful and powerful scene, I just tried to catch the moment – the merging of the community, nature and mankind in harmony, rebirth or farewell?  It made me think of so many things.”  (Gill Moore).

biscuitfactory
The exhibition has now reached what looks like a very nice venue in Newcastle called the Biscuit Factory.  It is Britain’s largest commercial gallery with two floors of space.   Apparently my image has been chosen to go on the front cover of their latest gallery brochure which previews the SUN show, which, if true I shall take as a real compliment.  I will endeavour to get my hands on a copy and post up on the blog.

For now here is my image “lanterns” and the overall winning image (and my favourite too) a stunning shot titled “Alpine Choughs” taken by Robert Pogson.

lanterns

robertpogson_sun

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“Where can I buy original Art in Manchester and why should I?”

The appetite for owning original works of art has grown steadily over recent years.  Maybe because it is one way to make a house feel individual in these times of flatpack ubiquity.  A well-chosen piece of art can reflect a chink of character of the owner and prompt a smile or moment of pause in the thick of our busy lives.  No bad thing at all and not something that often happens with a Billy Bookcase.

christophbangert

I’ve been asked the question a few times this year “Where can I buy affordable original art?”.  As I am based in Manchester my answer is somewhat limited but here are the options that I know about in my locality:-

  • ArTzu Gallery on Ancoats near the Art Deco Express Building.
  • Artland Gallery under the Quaker Meeting House opposite Central Library, Manchester.  An exciting new venue which ran a stunning exhibition of Jan Chlebik‘s  cityscape photography recently, latest exhibition is by New York Times photographer Christoph Bangert (see image above).
  • Blyths art gallery central Manchester.
  • Castlefield Gallery close to Deansgate Metro Station.
  • Colin Jellicoe Portland Street, Manchester.
  • Comme Ca Art various spots including upstairs at the prestigious Lowry Hotel, Salford/Manchester border.
  • Cornerhouse Projects (downstairs in the bar) close to Oxford Road Station, Manchester.
  • Cube Gallery (architectural related work)  see upcoming exhibiton from award-winning photographer John Davies.
  • Islington Mill, Salford/Manchester border.  Growing artists collective with studios and galleries, often special previews & shows.
  • The Lowry, Salford/Manchester border.  Has occasional exhibitions and work for sale from artists (often local).
  • Manchester Craft and Design Centre Favourite spot for emerging work, textiles, painting, photography …. all sorts.
  • Mooch Art new venture in Northern Quarter plus online gallery selling mostly local artists; painting and photography.
  • Revolve Gallery used to be Manchester-based, moved in Sept 2010 to an impressive space in Clitheroe (just north of Preston in the Ribble Valley).
  • Richard Goodall Gallery Northern Quarter, mostly illustration and photography linked with music promotion and posters, had Leonard Cohen’s work on show last year.
  • Waterside Arts Centre (Sale) nice Gallery space featuring local artists all media from painting, photography through to mixed meda and between.
  • Wendy Levy Gallery very respected Gallery based in West Didsbury top notch artists represented here including Liam Spencer.

daniel_danger

Finally, just in case you find galleries a little intimidating, then you might want to check out a new event on the calender, it’s the Buy Art Fair 24-27 Sept 2009 which enjoyed a very special inaugural launch last year with 3,200 visitors and over 200 artists on display, well staged at the nice, light and airy Urbis, Manchester.  Never spend more than the price of a new sofa, prove your skill at spotting new talent, support creativity and art, make your home original and breathtaking and you never know you might make some money on it too!

UPDATE : For an alternative take, check out a great blog run by a New York Gallery owner Ed Winkleman.  His blog is a really useful place to pick up terrific candid advice on the art world, the nitty gritty of running a Fine Art gallery and to see how sales are going on the other side of the pond.

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Manchester artist Ben Kelly’s new exhibition “Painting the Blues” @ Manchester City FC Museum …

benkellyartexhib_feb09

Award-winning local artist Ben Kelly had a busy time last week.  Sadly, I couldn’t make his Preview Night due to work commitments, but judging by all the feedback and coverage, things went very well indeed.

His exhibition is called “Painting the Blues” and features new work created over the last 12 months.   The aim was to capture the highs and lows of Manchester City Football Club.  Any City fan knows more than most, the world of football is a hugely unpredictable one, where “emotions change from triumph to despair in the space of ninety minutes”.

Even for a club with Manchester City’s history, the last 12 months have been a rollercoaster, yet Ben was given free rein by City to wander wherever he wanted, with unprecedented access to witness activity behind the scenes  aswell as the regular matchday frenzy.  One has to congratulate the club for creating the opportunity for an artist to try and capture the season on canvas and as a huge City fan this was pretty much a dream assignment for Ben.

thefinalwhistle

He is certainly an artist on the rise; having won a massive £15,000 in December 2006 in a competition organised by the Lowry and Umbro called “One Love – The Football Art Prize”.  He beat 800 other artists from all over the country to scoop the prize when his painting “The Final Whistle” was chosen by a panel of judges, one of whom was Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger (in the news this week with his ‘Angel of the South’ White Horse commission).
stop_benkelly

Next project on the horizon was an exhibition at the prestigious Cheshire gallery Firob & Peacock in Knutsford.   This work showcased some of Ben’s landscape paintings; each piece took the viewer by the hand on a beautiful foray into the woods.  Featuring forests and icy stillness, this exhibition was full of intense atmospherics, Lowry-esque figures almost lost within impossibly elongated trees.  Delicate tints and the occasional dramatic splash of vividity created wonderfully engaging work.

Grab the chance while you can, and see Ben Kelly’s latest work here in Manchester at the City of Manchester Stadium Museum, open now and ending on the 31st March 2009.  All work is for sale, though I understand quite a few were snapped up at the Preview.

Which leads me on to the subject of my next post …. “Where can I buy original Art in Manchester and why should I?”.   Yes indeedee, coming soon … check back on the blog tomorrow (probably!).

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Winners Manchester Blog Awards: what is a Blog anyway?

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Last month I was surprised (but very delighted) to announce on my blog that I had been shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards 2008 in the category of Arts and Culture. The winners were announced recently at a fun shindig hosted in the Northern Quarter, Manchester at Matt and Phreds Jazz Club.

Sadly (for me anyway) I didn’t win but see later in the post for who did !!. It was a really well organised evening (thanks Kate over @ The Manchizzle and the MLF folk), highly sociable and glued together with a musical soundtrack and some brilliant readings from many of Manchester’s top bloggers. I particularly enjoyed the night’s final two guest readers; Maria Roberts (Single Mother on the Verge) and Chris Killen (Day of Moustaches). There is good coverage and critique over at The Mancunian Way.

Both are very talented writers and have used their wonderful blogs to gain book deals. Maria’s debut book will be on Penguin and is due sometime June 09 and Chris’s “The Bird Room” will be published by Canongate Books in January 2009.

Here are a few grainy pictures I snatched from the evening …

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jenn

kate

bar

… some more photos are over on samscam. Sam was all over the place during the night and managed to get some great shots, he came over and said hello and seems like a very nice chap. There is also a podcast put together by one of the winners, he actually had two blogs nominated that night Manchester Buses (which won) and 14 sandwiches; how does he find the time !!??

After perusing all the nominated blogs I was delighted to see my favourite won best overall blog … and I don’t even have a baby! Check out travelswithmy baby, I loved the cutting dissection of Susie’s visit to Trof near Oxford Road :-)

Here are the winners ….

Best New Blog: Winner: Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Katherine Woodfine
Best Writing on a Blog: Winner: Every Day I Lie a Little, Jenn Ashworth
Best Arts and Culture Blog: Winner: Northernights, Danny McFadden.
Best Personal Blog: Winner: Travels with my baby, Susie Stubbs
Best City or Neighbourhood blog: Winner: Manchester Buses, Martin SFP
Citylife Manchester Blog of the Year: Travels with my Baby, Susie Stubbs

There are lots of people out there who don’t read blogs, in fact they don’t really know what one is and I am sure events like the Manchester Blog Awards can only help to raise interest and standards. I have trouble explaining what a Blog is when I am asked.

Just look at the list of winners above, you have:-

  • meticulous and specialist musings of a slightly eccentric topic,
  • a funny and honest fly and the wall account of life with a little’un in tow,
  • superb up-to-the minute info and analysis for followers of the clubbing scene,
  • personal flowings from a gifted and funny writer with a commissioned novel on the way.

I think the key is once you find a blog you enjoy, it is like finding a friend, something you will dip back into regularly, it’s a new kind of reading. This year I discovered a fab new band The National via a blog I read … for that I a shall be eternally grateful to the “girl on a train“, aswell as having great taste in music, she is a talented observational writer with a dry wit.

The blog is an organic form, as a creator and shaper it can be exactly what you want it to be; conversely it can have a tendency to wander off depending how tight the reins are clamped !! But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Scatterdrum is more like an influences scrapbook for myself and I really enjoy sharing links to great talent and topics, I am no gifted writer but hopefully, my blog allows people to glimpse a little of my personality. Hopefully this works in tandem with my website which showcases my photography work. It has provided me with a new creative outlet and pushes me to constrain my thoughts and share. Just for the sheer process of writing it is good for my brain and my discipline.

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