New contemporary art in Manchester
What a fantastic start to April for lovers of contemporary art in Manchester. Camera Optional at PS MIrabel, and Dividing Rules: The Lines Between at Paper Gallery. Saul Hay’s new exhibition Manipulate at their Castlefield Gallery, and a new exhibition ‘Obras’ by Tom Musgrove at Didsbury Parsonage. Mary Griffiths exhibition Wild Honey starts at The Turnpike Leigh. The Whitworth has a film installation by British artist Isaac Julien which is rooted in the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004.
Contemporary art – Tom Musgrove ‘Obras’ at Didsbury Parsonage
Contemporary art – ‘Manipulate’ – Saul Hay Gallery 7th April – 3rd June
Another really great contemporary art offering from Saul Hay. ‘Manipulate‘ explores the manipulation of shape, materials, and composition and evokes a strong sense of mood, emotion and place. Ian and Catherine, and the six participating artists have created an exhibition of painting, collage, sculpture and mixed media, which comes together to create a great experience for the visitor. Well worth a visit.
MARY GRIFFITHS WILD HONEY 14 April – 26 May 2018
The Turnpike, Leigh
The former colliery at Astley Green, near Leigh, is the source of Mary Griffiths’ latest body of work to be shown at The Turnpike this spring, connecting mining, drawing and landscape, past and present.
For a year she has immersed herself in the everyday activities at what remains of the mine, making drawings of its headgear and winding engine, its museum and the birds and plants that now occupy the site. These lyrical drawings are shown alongside geometric abstract works that have been inspired by the mining machinery, the coal that was dug out, and the primeval forests that laid down that carbon 300 million years ago. Darkness and brilliance, the intense colours of engine and landscape, the steady work of a wild beehive – all shape the art that Griffiths has created.
Fire from Lancashire coal drove Manchester’s engines and made it rich. From Wigan Museum’s collections, Griffiths has selected carboniferous fossils of plants and animals that lived in the forests and swamps of Lancashire 300 million years ago. These impressions of trees, ferns and insects are Nature’s own drawings, capturing in stone the beauty and delicacy of the ancient forest.
She has made a new large-scale wall drawing inspired by the underground workings of Astley Green and the flat landscape to the south – of canal, motorway, ship canal and river. This drawing will cover a complete wall of the gallery. Shining like a dark mirror, as viewers gaze at it they will see their reflections, becoming part of the drawing.
Griffiths worked closely with the retired miners and engineers who have preserved elements of the site, incorporating their knowledge and experience into her art. New drawings have come from studying aspects of Astley Green Colliery including Engine No. 1, wire rope used for haulage and the colliery headgear. The finished abstract drawings are an examination of the processes, forms and structures of generating and transmitting the power needed to mine coal and the machinery used to cut coal. They take their tone and structure from the machinery, but, rather than being literal renderings of these, the drawings valorize the mathematical precision, engineering prowess, and technological skill and dexterity of engineers and workers. The finished works seem cosmological in their geometry; somehow of the far future and also of the ancient past.
Ten Thousand Waves at The Whitworth
is a spectacular immersive film installation by British artist Isaac Julien and is the most recent in a series of major moving image acquisitions by the Whitworth. The acquisition of Ten Thousand Waves was supported through Art Fund’s Moving Image Fund.
The film is rooted in the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004, in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers drowned off the coast in northwest England. Exploring contemporary experiences of desire, loss and separation, Julien interweaves news footage of the rescue mission with the mythical Chinese legend of Mazu the Sea Goddess, protector of seafarers, alongside scenes of the Guangxi province in southern China where the cockle-pickers’ spirits journeyed back to the ‘Middle Kingdom’, and Shanghai, a city rapidly transforming as a result of burgeoning Asian markets and urbanisation.
Combining archive footage with fiction scenes shot in China, Ten Thousand Waves alludes to both traditional and contemporary Chinese visual culture. It features leading Chinese artists and performers including actresses Maggie Cheung and Zhao Tao, video artist Yang Fudong, master calligrapher Gong Fagen, cinematographer Zha Xiaoshi and poet Wang Ping, whose verse pays tribute to the ‘lost souls’ of those who died in Morecambe. The film’s score fuses Western and Eastern styles, incorporating music and original score by Jah Wobble and the Chinese Dub Orchestra as well as by the classical composer Maria de Alvear.
This acquisition of Ten Thousand Waves marks the first film by Isaac Julien to be acquired for a public collection in the UK outside of London. Landscape, and the impact it has on the lives of people within it, is a central theme throughout the Whitworth’s historic and contemporary collections and Ten Thousand Waves serves as a vital contribution in exploring this complex condition.
PS Mirabel & Paper Gallery – 7th April -12th May