In Haunt

By Steve Marland (former Photography Lecturer at Manchester School of Art and creator of the Modern Mooch site https://modernmooch.com/ - exploring Modernist architecture and culture).

The year is 2019 - a cry for help goes out across Greater Manchester - a cry from HOME.

It states:“At HOME, we believe that everyone’s an artist. That’s why we’re launching the Manchester Open Exhibition – a major open-submission art show which is open to anyone who lives in Greater Manchester.”

Flash forward to 2020 - there’s a huge gallery full of art, of all shapes, sizes and kinds, arranged in the manner of a hastily assembled jigsaw, very much in the ancient tradition of the Paris Salon. Up close and personal paintings, prints, photographs, mixed-media, moving image and performance, a jumbled up jumble sale of an exhibition, where much - though not all - is for sale.

The private view in January was full of artists’ friends and family, celebrating their moment in the sun, one moonlit winter night.

The work leans heavily toward the figurative and representational, with noted exceptions in the abstraction of Mateusz Beznitz, Gary Andrew Clarke, and Tim Rushton. Spanning loose diaphanous washes of painterly Expressionism, hard edged Neo-Constructivism and a complex organic layered approach to paint.

There are any number of portraits, self or otherwise, naturally occurring or carefully contrived in paint, photography and print along with three-dimensional work.

Manchester OpenThere are many contrasting approaches to photographic portraiture, the documentary style of Gwen Riley Jones’s Jacky and Lorna, Mark Hobbs’s classically contextualised rendering of Big Stick - Niamh and the studio construct of Elle Brotherhood’s Nap Time.

Stitch, time-based presentations and performance are all part of the all-inclusive deal – why not pep up your life with Tara Collette’s toys poppers potions and pills?

There are landscapes imagined and otherwise, Richard Davies’s hard hitting brutalist photograph Mancunian Way - counterpointed by Jo Begg’s softer award winning etched images of contemporary concrete Balfron Tower. There is Di Terry’s evocation of last year’s moorland fires in the red raw painting Too Close To Home. Drawn from life Jane Cockayne’s vigorous drawings en plein air in North Wales Church Bay Tuff 1&2.

In the round there are the lighter-than-air delicately constructed Spheres of Marian Jazmik, and on the rectilinear side Jacquie Hewitt’s Diatoms textured glass slabs, transparent, angular - elegantly refracting the light. Horace Lindezey wins my heart for foremost titling with Julie Hesmondalgh’s Wedding Dress, a ceramic confection in white and gold encased in a crystal casket.

Manchester Open

Overseen by HOME’s Curator Bren O’Callaghan, this is a show of, by and for the people of Greater Manchester, with well over five hundred contributors. The gallery’s drawing power is increased exponentially as mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, along with aunts, uncles, friends and fellow travelers flood through the doors to see the work of their kin and compatriots.

Other highlights include Chrysta Bell photographed by Shay Rowan, Jonathan Hargreaves' Painting For Yelena, the Dad’s Doorways series of ceramics by CJ O’Neill, Derwent Edge photographed by Andrew Brooks, Ian Mckay’s Kes! Kes! C’mon Kes! – Kes, Ruby Tingle’s Slough Mass (Algae), and Tim Rushton’s 6 Epochs. There is also a range of live performances taking place in the gallery space every Thursday from 6pm - Open House Thursdays - see online for details.

There is so much warmth and energy here - a hot bubbling hotchpotch of all that is good about being an artist in modern everyday go-ahead Manchester.

Haunt Manchester spoke to a selection of the artists included to get their views on being a part of this new venture for the city:

Jo Beggs

Jo Beggs

"I am a hobbyist printmaker, and have been for about fifteen years, fitting in the odd day at the Studio (Prospect Studios in Rawtenstall) around a pretty demanding job as Head of Development for the Manchester Museums Partnership. I’d like to have more time to make work but I guess the restriction sometimes focuses the mind!

"I’ve always loved prints but hadn’t turned my hand to making them until I started working at the Whitworth. The rich print collection there was a real inspiration and I realised that I’d like to know more about the process. I booked a class with printmaker Alan Birch and it’s been a bit of an obsession ever since.

"I’ve had work in Open exhibitions at Sale Waterside, Chester and Stockport but was delighted when HOME announced a Manchester one. It’s a great way for amateurs as well as professionals to get their work seen.

"Selecting what to submit is always a bit of a nightmare. However, I like to show new work, so the two I have in the HOME Open are from the past year. I also tend to choose things that represent my usual work/style, most of which depicts modernist architecture in etching and aquatint.

"I don’t think of myself as having an artistic career – but I am delighted to have sold a work in the show and to have been selected for the bOlder Prize. Maybe I do have an artistic career?! One of the things that has been lovely is that lots of people have said “I saw your work in the HOME Open – I didn’t know you were an artist!”

"I love the eclecticism and energy of the show. I’ve been twice and still not seen half the exhibits. I plan to take time over it in the next couple of weeks."

David Hancock

"I am an artist based in Manchester. I was born here and have lived in the city all my life. I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 1996 and a Masters at Liverpool John Moores in 2010. In 2014, I completed a PhD at University of Salford, and I am a full time lecturer on the Fine Art course. I also teach on the Masters. I have appeared in a number of prominent exhibitions such as the John Moores 21, Young Masters, The New London School (Mark Moore Gallery, LA), and the BP Portrait Prize. I have had solo and group shows across the UK and Europe as well as New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Hong Kong. More recently, I have had solo exhibitions at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Touchstones Rochdale, 20-21 Visual Arts Centre in Scunthorpe, and Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge. Later this year I will have a solo exhibition at The Whitaker in Rossendale. I am also the director of PAPER and the art journal, the Fourdrinier.

"I thought [the Manchester Open] would be a fun thing to do as well as getting my work exhibited at HOME. I knew it would be problematic in terms of the hang as they were planning on selecting hundreds of works, but in that context it was nice to just let the work stand and fall on its own. Having visited the show a couple of times, I don't think you can look at it as a whole. You have to look at individual works. I spent about an hour the other day walking around. I noticed works that I had ignored on my first pass. It’s a real hotchpotch of work. It’s nice to see a number of artists I know and works I’m familiar with in another context.

David Hancock"It was great to see the positive response with thousands of people turning out for the opening. I took a group of Masters students to see it last week. I wanted to them to select two works: one they liked and one they didn’t, and we will discuss them at our next session. I was interested in the lack of information presented alongside each work. The catalogue only has names and titles. It means that you have to consider what the artist was trying to do by just looking at the work. In some instances the title hints at the artist’s intent, but in most the work remains entirely open to interpretation. It is rare that you get to see work in this way. I have no issue with interpretation, but without it in this instance, it makes for a useful exercise in how a work conveys its meaning and what can you learn from this.

"For me it’s an opportunity to signpost people to an exhibition with my work in at a major venue in Manchester. As an artists based in Manchester, it can be really difficult to get shows in your own city. I’ve shown my work in major galleries across the UK and internationally, but never in Manchester itself. But Manchester is where I’m from. It’s where my family and friends are. It’s where my networks are, and sometimes it’s really useful to be able to tell people that you have work in a gallery in Manchester that they can go and visit. It gives you credibility where you live and work to the people you know outside of the art bubble.

"I think this exhibition is for a different audience than myself. There was nothing in the show that I wasn’t familiar with. It wasn’t a surprise to me. I’ve been working as an artist in the city for 25 years, managing studios for most of that, and running a gallery for over 7 of those. I already know what a fantastic city Manchester is for creativity and the immense talent here. I go to exhibitions regularly in the city as well as open studios. I also can understand why some artists chose not to enter and have been critical of it. What I think it does do is make a point, and a very good one, which is that Manchester has a great deal of talent and can compete with anywhere. The term 'local artists' can be very diminishing and patronising. I think the organisations in the city have only started to acknowledge that there is a strong independent scene in the city with an international reach. It has been like this for decades. I was optimistic that the British Art Show opened a dialogue with artists working here, and hopefully that will be embedded into it.

"I heard a rumour that HOME were going to be running the Open every two years. I think that this is a mistake. It would lose its uniqueness. You’d probably end up with mostly the same artists showing new work, which would get boring, and then if you don’t select them, you don’t provide a sense of what’s going on here. It’s a catch 22. There is a danger that selection becomes an issue and it becomes a competition, which goes against its ethos. It would lose its democracy. I think as much as possible they have tried to include everyone. 544 works is a lot and I think they have tried to be as inclusive as possible. Every decade would suffice."

Website: www.david-hancock.com

Instagram: @davidhancock73

Facebook: @david.hancock.71465

PAPER: https://paper-gallery.co.uk/

The Fourdrinier: https://www.thefourdrinier.com/

Elle Brotherhood

Elle Brotherhood

"I'm a photographer and Director at On The Brink Studios, which looks to build conversations around creativity, through events and workshops. I mainly specialise in portrait and still life photography for commercial and private commissions. I also make things to sell in the studio.

"I had been thinking all the while what I would enter whilst applications were open. It came to the last day and I thought I just have to enter something! I had our son with me all day. I didn’t want this to stop me and so during his nap (which was around 20 minutes long) I ran around the house, grabbed things that felt significant to me at the time, put them all on and took a series of portraits.

"It was a choice between two images and I still love the other also. I picked the image by seeing what emotions were evoked in me when looking at them all. I sympathised with that version of me. Trying to look after our son and do a good job, the other try to contribute to keeping our business going. I felt the image I chose had a phone in, I wanted that as I felt I’d done so much business work on it during this time. The position was also something for me. The way I’m kind of suspended, trying to balance it all.

"I think [the Manchester Open] has helped already in sparking my creativity after some time and giving me the confidence to show a part of my life visually and with honesty. To be able to express myself and to figure out where I am and where I’d like to go with my work in the future. I think seeing where you want to go helps you work towards it and I’ll keep on creating and see what happens with it. So far things are good, I’ve had some really lovely responses to the work and to start conversations with art is always a good thing.

"We went on the first night with our son, he had an Artist badge on as well as he was my inspiration. It was so busy and we couldn’t stay long but the emotion running around that building was incredible. People’s pride and uninhibited expression. I’m heading back to have a tour with Bren, man that man can talk about art in a really engaging way. I’m also meeting my mum and aunt there, artists in their own right. We are all artists." https://www.instagram.com/ellebrotherhood/

We also spoke to Christian Asare,  an artist significantly involved in the volunteer-led community action group Rainbow Noir, who led an Open Door Tour of the Manchester Open exhibition back in January:

“My name is Christian Asare; I’m British Ghanaian, 30, Manchester based and a multi-disciplinary artist. My work is an exploration of language, race and culture across often overlapping disciplines. It's influenced by my culture, environment and history.

“I paint mainly in oils, write poetry and prose and I’m also trained in 12 subgenres of dance, with a specialisation in Afro contemporary urban choreography, movement and performance.

“My tour at the Manchester exhibition sought to explore the various aspects of perception and interpretation when viewing visual art. As a Visual Artist, I wanted to encourage audiences in the Rainbow Noir Tour to explore visual Art using more than just their eyes and minds. Rather than focusing solely on the content and composition of the artworks, I encouraged the group to explore using their other senses, discussing the effect texture, form and even smell have on individual perception, image content and depth of understanding when viewing a new work.

“With a smorgasbord of eclectic curated works from a plethora of Artists across a broad range of mediums, I found the Manchester Open exhibition to be an exciting platform for emerging artists in Manchester.

You can find my Artwork, information on future exhibitions and contact details for commissions on Instagram @xtianasare.”

The Manchester Open runs until Sunday 29th March at HOME, including a full programme of tours, events and interventions.

https://homemcr.org/exhibition/manchester-open/

#mcropen2020

Photographs 1, 2 & 3 by Jason Lock. The rest - provided by the artists. 

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