Art in Manchester – Contemporary Art for February

Art in Manchester has plenty to see this month with ‘Thumbs Up’ at Castlefield Gallery, Utopia’s at The Whitworth, and two exhibitions and some free workshops at Air Gallery. Arthur Neil at Contemporary Six. We also have news of an socially engaged artist led community art project in Old Trafford plus how to enter the New Light Prize exhibition 2020

Thumbs Up: Castlefield Gallery

Exhibitions Dates: 24 January – 8 March 2020.

Art in Manchester
Thumbs Up Castlefield Gallery

Artists: Michael Beard, Frances Disley, Harry Meadley, Leslie Thompson.

Castlefield Gallery and Venture Arts are presenting Thumbs Up, a group exhibition in which the four artists have each responded to the physical spaces of the Gallery and reimagined how their work is displayed, and the ways that the audience will interact with the exhibition.

Art in Manchester
Harry Meadley, Touchstones Part 1 Officers Meeting, 2018, HD Video 00_29_01 [Courtesy of the artist] Thumbs Up Castlefield Gallery
They have devised the exhibition in consideration of the seasonal lull at this dark and cold time of year, to create a warm and welcoming experience that offers a flexible and restorative environment for visitors. While also taking a playful approach to the role of the Gallery as a host for its guests.

Leslie Thompson, Animals From Memory, 2018 – Thumbs Up Castlefield Gallery

The artists’ responses have also been shaped by an ongoing dialogue with the creative team at Castlefield Gallery to give curatorial advice and support. The group have also been advised by academics and experts from the University of Salford on topics including botany, energy efficiency, psychology, and horticulture, in order to create an enveloping environment and a warm, inclusive and welcoming space within the gallery.

Art in Manchester
Michael Beard, London Thumbs Up – Castlefield Gallery

Both Castlefield Gallery and Venture Arts are deeply invested in improving accessibility to the cultural sector for everyone, especially emerging and learning disabled artists who may struggle to feel empowered in this context. Recently the partnership between Castlefield Gallery and Venture Arts, was recognised as part of an ongoing partnership with the Whitworth at the Manchester Culture Awards, winning the award for Inspiring Innovation.


Air Gallery – Altrincham

Air Gallery are taking a different approach for their first exhibition of 2020 where both shows are ‘works in progress’ and will alter and change over the duration of the exhibition and culminating in a closing show later in February.

Gallery One: The Last Supper – Ella Boston

Art in Manchester
Trolley Landscape – Air Gallery

Gather around the dining table of 2050 and experience dining in a post-climate-breakdown world. You are invited to interact with the exhibits to explore how might we harvest, prepare, nourish, consume and enjoy food in an environment in which mass extinction and climate change has devastated the food chain. 

The dining table will be the platform for the research and interactions over the exhibition period. Over time the table will begin to tell a story through hand made objects, utensils, satirical graphics, food stuffs and tonics that explore how the dining experience might look, feel, taste and smell as a result of climate change. 

Gallery Two: Clay: In Residence – Gabriella Rhodes

Untitled – Air Gallery

Clay: In Residence is an immersive installation of clay and objects set in a temporary, curated studio space. Raw, dry and fired material have been displayed alongside sketches, tools and studio furniture. The residency is a meeting point between ideas and processes that aim to explore the possibilities of the material and its relationship to the space around it.

Additional activities have been scheduled for: SUNDAY 16 FEBRUARY

In Between Marks: Drawing and Sound Workshop


Free but Booking recommended

To accompany our exhibition ‘Clay: In Residence’, we are hosting a free workshop by Gabriella Rhodes and Katrina Wilde.


Free, No booking but limited spaces.

On the same day there will also be an immersive dining experience in our exhibition ‘The Last Supper’ by Ella Boston. Sample the tastes, smells and sounds from a post apocalyptic future in a sci-fi dining experience to remember.

This experience will also be repeated on Fri 21 Feb 6-9pm and Sat 22 Feb 3-5pm

Closing events Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd Feb

Utopias – The Whitworth  Art Gallery

31 January – 27 September 2020

Timorous Beasties, London Toile, 2005, hand screen-printed linen, courtesy the Whitworth, The University of Manchester

On the day that Britain left Europe the Whitworth opened Utopias – an exhibition that playfully and provocatively ask how myth, memory and nostalgia have informed what a British utopia looks like in the nation’s popular imagination.

Artists include Jenny Holzer, Grayson Perry, Nathan Coley, Stephen Walter, Paul Scott, Langlands & Bell, William Hogarth, Samuel Palmer, Timorous Beasties, JMW Turner, John Constable, Gwendolen Mary Raveret, Thomas Gainsborough, John Sell Cotman, Madge Gill, George Clausen and Walter Crane.

Walter Crane, Living Picture: A Pastoral Scene, photograph, courtesy the Whitworth, The University of Manchester

In his seminal book Utopia (1516), Thomas More gave name and form to an idea that captured the human imagination – that of aspiring to an ideal future, an improved world, a better society.

More’s idea of an island free of external authority and dependency lives on – such convictions played a central role in Britain’s exit from the EU. Both the leave and remain sides envisioned utopias in their campaigns – and they are and always have been less about Europe and more about how British people envision themselves and their country. This offers a glimpse into a divided society in search of a common identity – one that is perceived to have been eroded. Utopia is, at its essence, about creating a perfect world, yet in this way, it is always in opposition with the present.

Art in Manchester
Nathan Coley, You Don’t Know About Me, 2019
Handprinted Zuber wallpaper, aluminium lightbox with LED lights
Courtesy the Artist and Parafin, London
Photograph: Peter Mallet

In the timeframe of the exhibition, the art of the past and that of the present will live side by side, addressing us in conflicting ways. Through these exchanges, the works of art make a space for the viewer to occupy – to ask how artists have created, confronted and played with singular narratives of a British utopia.

Art in Manchester
William Hogarth, The Invasion, Plate 1: France, 1756, etching, (courtesy the Whitworth, The University of Manchester)

Central to the display, will be a 1516 example of Thomas More’s Utopia (John Rylands Library Collection, The University of Manchester) which will serve as a catalyst for examining the contexts of place and nationhood to ideas of utopia.


 Artist Lynda Sterling converts Old Trafford butchers into Community Art Studio

OT Project Space

OT creative SPACE is a brand-new social enterprise in Old Trafford which brings together working artists and local people, through art, to build community cohesion and creative engagement.

In October 2018 Lynda Sterling, a socially engaged artist and mother of four, bought an old high street butchers and started a huge renovation project. 12 months later Lynda and family have made a home above what will be an art studio with fully accessible community space. There will be room for six artists to work in a shared space across the ground floor and basement and space for community workshops and events alongside a window gallery.

OT Project Space

“why shouldn’t art be available to local people in their everyday lives, when you nip to the corner shop for some milk?” “this project gives locals a voice , a chance to share with others, be creative and be part of something that reflects the whole community”

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OT Project Space

The first project, funded by the Arts Council, ‘Answers on a Postcard please’ demonstrates the organisation’s mission to bring together professional artists and the community. Lynda and a team of artists worked with groups including refugees, parents and toddlers, youth and sheltered housing residents to create a thousand postcards. Between the 8th-23rd February 2020 Ayres Road in Old Trafford will become a giant gallery exhibiting the art made in during this project.

Contact details: / 07751230962

OT creative SPACE CIC – 27 AYRES ROAD, M16 9WA

Arthur Neal – Contemporary Six  1st -14th February

Art in Manchester
Arthur Neil – Contemporary Six

Neal’s paintings straddle the figurative as well as the abstract, but always the objective is balance. The artist is renowned for his sophisticated use of colour and his eye for complex composition — he is a painter held in the very highest of esteem by his contemporaries and collectors alike. For this reason, it takes a little good fortune to have visited the Gallery over the past two years and to have viewed one of his paintings in the flesh, but the collection for next month’s showcase features original works with an exciting variety of styles, subjects, and sizes.

Art in Manchester
Arthur Neil – Contemporary Six

The showcase will run from 1 February until 14 February.



Entries open 1st MARCH 2020

With over £15,000 worth of awards on offer, including the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award; plus a touring exhibition to three of the North’s most renowned public galleries; and a trip down to the cultural heart of London at the Bankside Gallery, the New Light Prize Exhibition is fast becoming one of largest open exhibitions in the country.

Deadline for Entries – 31st MAY 2020
In our 10th Anniversary year, the New Light Prize Exhibition 2020 will launch in September at Scarborough Art Gallery; before spending the Spring at Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery;  and the Summer in Newcastle at The Biscuit Factory; with a grand finale in London at The Bankside Gallery, Southbank.