Manchester Galleries Feb 2018

A short trip to the Galleries of Manchester


Yesterday saw myself and fellow photographer, Ellie Dunne, head to a very cold Manchester to check out a variety of exhibitions on around the city. First up we visited the Holden Gallery, one I didn't know existed until this trip! Moving onto the Whitworth and finally the Manchester Art Gallery. There was a variety of work on show, not only photography but some interesting sculpture and performance works, below you'll find a brief overview of my opinions of the varying works.


The Holden Gallery - Break in Transmission


Break in Transmission as described by the Gallery:


On the surface, the act of translation is relatively simple – the everyday process of one thing being translated into another. With language there is usually an equivalent word or phrase, even if variations allow for some degree of preference or selection. As we move beyond language and start to translate from one type of thing to another, more complications occur. How do ideas take on visual form? How might emotion turn into action? In the transmission of information there are always differences and distinctions which occur as part of the process. For Break in Transmission there is a specific interest in the pauses, gaps and breaks that can happen along the way. This could occur for a number of reasons: through the natural shifts between language and the visual, an act of mis-translation (either deliberate or accidental), it could be the effects of a loss of language which relates to more specific conditions such as aphasia, dementia and other neurological states. The important question lies in what might be lost in these interruptions in the everyday and what significance it might generate.

Throughout the exhibition, there is a fascination with the process of the transmission of information and what happens when things are put under strain, or placed into a different context. The works show a diverse range of responses, but connects through artists who have a shared set of concerns in the pleasures and pitfalls of language, communication and meaning.


The space in which the exhibition took place was a more traditional, white walled gallery but there was a mix traditional hanging as well as purpose built areas. I liked the way the space was occupied by the work, lots of open space between works to force movement of the viewer. Some works were even split up around the space, hanging on different walls or in different sections, so to view each part the viewer had to move around the space to find each part. Few photographs made up this exhibition as it was mainly a focused on words and how we humans communicate using our complex languages.

Sam Durant, If You Are Not Angry You Are Not Paying Attention, 2017


Sam Durant's work, was one of particularly interesting to me, it consisted of large square light boxes, with a brightly coloured acrylic frontage which would form the basis for some form of text. I was fascinated by his choice of font, especially in 'If You Are Not Angry You Are Not Paying Attention'. This work, which is referencing what people and the media were saying during the Brexit campaign used a font that looked as if it had been scrawled on a placard moments before a rally. This creative choice of font, grounds the work in its context and arguably makes it more effective in what its trying to portray. The use off appropriate font is an important part of the effectiveness of text.


We were additionally able to briefly speak to the Galleries assistant curator, Zoe Watson, who explained how the galleries relationship with the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) was both a blessing and a curse. The Galleries integration with the MMU allowed them to be more fixable what works they could show and when but meant that the University created challenges with oversight. For example I wanted to buy a copy of Break in Transmission, the book the gallery had created to accompany the exhibition, required me to fill in a online order form through the MMU's website because the gallery could not sell its own resources even though they would had access and the ability to ship the book themselves. This brief exchange gave an interesting view into how the administrative side of art galleries function and the complications that can bring.


The Whithworth Gallery - John Strezaker

John Strezaker, Mask XII, 2005


Strezaker's work as described by the gallery:


"Using vintage photographs, old film stills, postcards and book illustrations, John Stezaker makes collages that subvert their original imagery, creating unique and compelling works of art. Collages from his Mask series will be shown, in which glamorous sitters’ faces are overlaid with scenic postcards featuring waterfalls bridges, seascapes; Untitled (Film Portrait Collages) in which photographs of B-movie actors are spliced together; and other works that combine and mirror photographs to subtly destabilise the image. This exhibition marks the gift from Karsten Schubert to the Whitworth of nineteen collages by John Stezaker, and a further three collages presented by the artist himself."


This work was an interesting appropriation of found images that saw them reinvented and reborn into something new. A similar idea to something that I've been working with on my own 1500 Volts DC project but not to quite the same extent. The images were carefully put together and often matched similar visual aesthetics. For example Mask XII features a man's face looking straight into the camera but a landscape image of a stone bridge crossing a river obstructs the views gaze from the mans eyes. The arches of the bridge however almost look as if they are creating replacement eye sockets and almost complete the image rather than distract from it. An visually interesting style that almost plays tricks on the eye.

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Additionally, the Raqs Media Collective: Twilight Language exhibition was on but I've been invited to a curators talk in a few weeks about this so I'll save my thoughts until then.

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Manchester Art Gallery - Waqas Khan

Untitled, Waqas Khan, 2017


The Manchester Art Gallery explained his work as:


"Waqas Khan’s minimalist drawings resemble webs and celestial expanses. Inspired by patterns of biological organic growth and also by the lives and literature of Sufi poets, his work is a meditation on life, togetherness and the universe. His contemplation is made visible in ink on paper and his work invites our contemplation. Using small dashes and minuscule dots, his large-scale, monochromatic works are composed of either red, blue, white or black ink. In a carefully created installation, the visitor is led around the space from small scale drawings, to a large scale floor based work, to new drawings made especially for Manchester."


This work, to me showed the importance of limited copies and time. These huge drawings that consisted of tiny little lines to create these almost random looking patterns that become more complex the closer the viewer sees them. These drawings are one of a kind, never to be copied which arguably adds to their value and importance.

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