In Haunt

Delving into darker aspects of artistry, exploring spiritual and religious symbolism, and creating captivating work… it’s Manchester Gothic Arts Group, also known as M:GAG.  Haunt Manchester has followed the work of M:GAG over the years (previously featuring them here), and now, just in time for spooky season, we present a virtual exhibition of the work of this inspiring group: Something old, something new, nothing borrowed, nothing blue. This includes a retrospective, encompassing some of their most iconic pieces, as well as featuring selections and statements from each artist.

Formed as a collective in 2005, the concept for the group emerged out of Manchester’s Gothic social scene, especially ArA – a  Gothic club-like night held in Sacred Trinity Church and previously covered by Haunt here. With Arts Council funding, Liz, Kolyn and Matt first exhibited together in 2007. They were later joined by Neil, Julie and Carl,  going on to produce work for many exhibitions through-out Manchester and Salford over the intervening years. This has included the city’s annual Gothic Manchester Festival, with the seventh year last year seeing M:GAG launch proceedings with an exhibition at Sandbar: Gothic Times.

Manchester Gothic Arts Group

Above - Installation 

As part of Unmasked, M:GAG  produced some collaborative group work - a precious experience that  they have not had opportunity to repeat much since. That included a large acrylic and mixed media work comprising 6 canvases on the themes of Manchester and Underground. Also a couple of installations to represent both the traditional gothic and futuristic gothic (cyber) styles often seen at clubs like ARA. This photo is of a part of the trad goth installation. 

To contact the group about purchases or exhibitions, please send a direct message via www.face-book.com/ManchesterGothicArtsGroup or contact them via the website: www.mgag.org.uk 

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Manchester Gothic Arts Group – a retrospective

Beheading 

Manchester Gothic Arts Group

This was the promo image used for the very first MGAG exhibition, Unmasked in 2007. It's Matt, Kolyn and Liz and recreates the beheading of John the Baptist with a gothic twist. 

Unmasked aerial shot 

Manchester Gothic Arts Group

This is a photo from above the 'Unmasked' exhibition. Kolyn's studio was and still is in Sacred Trinity, Salford, and the nightclub Kolyn and Matt started with their wives, ArA, is held there. It was a natural location to start the group and hold Unmasked. The group constructed everything themselves, including the walls and lighting, staffed the week-long exhibition, were filmed by Channel M and produced a full colour catalogue for it! This was only possible with an Arts Council grant, but that gave them a great start. There was also a grand opening event with the wonderful Rosie Lugosi giving a guided tour to the exhibition in her inimitable way. 

Crafting the Weird 

Manchester Gothic Arts Group

This photo is of the MMU-commissioned exhibition M:GAG produced with Professor John Hyatt for the Gothic Manchester Festival in 2015, the Lovecraft inspired 'Crafting the Weird'. MGAG took over a wing of the Holden Art Gallery with John and this shot shows a long wall of artwork, wrapping around the edges of the room. There was also artwork in the display cases that can be seen in the shot (and another 2 behind camera), a central artwork for people to walk around too, more pieces from MGAG on other walls out of shot, and some video art playing in front of the couch just on the edge of the photo. 

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MEET THE ARTISTS

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Kolyn Amor

Concept - Content - Context  

Seeing is believing or believing is seeing? To be or not to be - that is the question? So what is the answer?  

The world can be seen as a fixed objective reality and/or a subjective experience - an endless cycle of being, doing and becoming. To Kolyn, the layering, juxtaposition and manipulation of canvases, objects, physical spaces and images all aim to create alternative meaning, exploring both the known and the unknown - whatever that might be from one moment to the next... or even back.  

Having gained a BA(Hons) in Theatre Studies and Dramatic Arts, Kolyn first worked in care homes for people with brain injuries and vulnerable children. Subsequently, he became an actor/writer in a professional theatre company, performing in a wide variety of venues including: schools and youth centres nationwide, the O2 Apollo, Wembley Conference Centre and the Phones 4U Arena.  

Later, he established The Altaer: a continuing exploration into creativity, individuality and spirituality. This was established in Hulme, within an artists’ co-operative, then found an independent home in Sacred Trinity. Since then he has regularly exhibited and curated artwork (for over a decade now), not only within the church, but in many other spaces including: The Lowry, Manchester Cathedral, Corn Exchange and the Northern Quarter (including Nexus Art Cafe, Cord, The Bay Horse). With supportive stars he also runs a monthly event for goths/alternatives at Sacred Trinity, called ArA. You might even catch him on ‘Songs of Praise’...  

‘That Voodoo People’’ 

By Kolyn Amor

Digital Art, 2020 

Magic people, voodoo people! The shimmy lights through you. Influenced by many religions, notably Christianity. Surprised? Shake, wobble or vibrate, and let the lights of the Spirit shine.  

  

‘The Hanging Garden (Syber Styx)'

By Kolyn Amor

Photography and Digital Art, 2020 

Lost in a forest? Or a marsh? Then pick up your styx and help Charon paddle you across from Earth to Underworld. But don’t forget to have a coin in your pocket, or there might be hell to pay.   

‘What’s That Coming Over The Hill’ 

By Kolyn Amor

Digital Art, 2020  

So you think you’re safe from a reptile invasion? Common Lizard, Sand Lizard, Slow Worm, Adder, Grass Snake. All around you. Once bitten, twice shy. So maybe don’t have a swim in the Irwell (AKA ‘Black Lake’). You don’t know who you might encounter- perhaps even The Giant Gila Monster!  

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Liz Watkin

I am an artist and collector of images, ideas and fragmentary evidence of past lives. I love the alchemy of creating something new from disparate and unexpected elements. I am fascinated by layers; I use them in my work to build up meaning, colour and textures. I enjoy the freedom to work with materials that will express my ideas and build up the narrative.  Old ideas can be expressed in new ways with different mediums. The layers I build may be in paint or print, with acrylics, inks or cold wax medium or altered photography. I work on paper, canvas and board. Sometimes I include three dimensional objects in my work.  My inspiration comes from many sources: history and culture, spirituality, nature, landscape, and the sea. I have always been particularly drawn to darkness and mystery, Victorian times, the horror genre and Goth culture. 

Spiral 

By Liz Watkin

Spiral was the first painting I sold as an MGAG artist from our exhibition Unmasked in 2007. This work developed from exploration and research around archaeology and artefacts found in the layers of earth that were uncovered at the sites.  Ancient landscapes and rock paintings informed my work. The skull is one of the most identifiable parts of human remains and is key to placing the work in both the past and the present. The spiral is an enduring symbol that links us over the vast amount of time that has elapsed. The clock face draws attention to the inescapable passage of time. As we seek to understand our past we learn more about how we came to this point in time.  

Phantom 

By Liz Watkin

Almost everyone knows the story of Phantom of the Opera. A beautiful, tragic and haunting tale about love and loss.  Sadness and heartache is woven through the story despite the glamour, grandeur and excitement of the Paris Opera. The artwork ‘Phantom’ conveys my thoughts and feelings about the Phantom, loveless and disfigured, unable ever to achieve his heart’s desire.  The sheet music background is a poignant reminder of the link which binds the main characters. This interpretation of the story incorporated steampunk genre elements to contemporize its setting. 

Portal 

By Liz Watkin

Portal is a mixed media work, incorporating layers of altered photography and painting in acrylic and inks. The idea of portals is intriguing, a doorway to another place, another time or dimension. There are two doors what might they mean?  Past and Future are one set of possibilities. You are in the present, where would you go, back to the past or forward to the future? Would you go back to change decisions you have made, right wrongs and see people who you have lost?  Would you really like to know what your future may hold? 

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Matt Carson

Along with Kolyn and Liz, I founded the Manchester Gothic Arts Group around 15 years ago. Both individually and with the group, I have exhibited across Manchester and Salford in places such as the Lowry Lyric Theatre, Manchester Cathedral, Stockport Art Gallery, the Corn Exchange, Sacred Trinity, the Holden Art Gallery, No 70, Sandbar, The Peer Hat and Nexus Art Cafe. 

Exhibiting since 2002, my work is inspired by nature and the human form, expressed through layering, digital manipulation and occasionally the written word. While focussed on photography and digital art, I have also experimented with kinetic sculpture, painting, drawing, installation and collage.  

My Christian belief structure blends with a penchant for the gothic to produce works that sometimes reveal mysterious or spiritual elements. I enjoy exploring the line between these two apparently opposing cultures, finding more commonality than is first apparent. 

Sabden Graveyard 

By Matt Carson

Digital Art, 2007 

One of my very earliest works, produced for the very first MGAG exhibition in 2007, Unmasked, at Sacred Trinity in Salford. A wonderful, colourful graveyard scene from the Lancashire birthplace of my maternal grandmother, Sabden, blended with other images to bring mystery - what do you see in the image...? 

 
Forbidding 

By Matt Carson

Photograph, 2016 

An option considered, but not used, for the Manchester Gothic Festival 2016 exhibition, Gothic North, at No 70. The work I displayed in this exhibition was inspired by my local landscape of the Pennines. This particular piece gives the feel of a moon-full nighttime, fairy tales of forests full of wonder and danger, the claustrophobia of a dense forest. 

  

Graveyard Psychedelic 

By Matt Carson

Digital Art, 2018 

An option considered, but not used, for the Manchester Gothic Festival 2018 exhibition, Gothic Hybridities, at Sandbar. A simple combination of classic gothic tropes, skulls and graveyards. Through the psychedelic colours, open your mind to what's beyond the gates of this centuries old overgrown graveyard. 

  

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Neil Watkin  

I am a photographer, digital artist and writer. Photographs are merely a snapshot of time, so whether it is portrait or landscape I like to explore the scope to alter the perception of the 'real' image. 

My inspirations come from the gothic, vampire and steampunk sub-cultures as well as religious symbolism, literature and film. Nature and the natural landscape also feature heavily in my work. 

I am always looking to explore and work in new mediums. I conceptualised and directed a music video for the gothic rock band ‘Vampyre Heart’ and am also the creator and writer of the 'Charity Bizzare' series of ribald Victorian Steampunk adventure stories. 

Memorial 

By Neil Watkin

The Ian Curtis memorial artwork was exhibited as part of the Gothic North exhibition in 2017 and explored the subject of the cult of celebrity and humanities long established traditions of creating shrines and monuments to the memory of past kinfolk.  

Hellblazer triptych 

By Neil Watkin

The Hellblazer tryptch was exhibited as part of the Gothic Times exhibition in 2019 and took inspiration from the Hellblazer graphic novels and their Faustian, chain smoking anti-hero John Constantine. 

Demonic possession, occult machinations and devilish con jobs all woven into a modern gothic melodrama of guilt, regret, redemption and damnation. The Hellblazer digital art triptych pays homage to the graphic novels, movie and TV series. 

“I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I'll drive your demons away. I'll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they're down and then I'll be gone back into darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack. I walk my path alone... who would walk with me?” 

John Constantine, Master (petty dabbler) of the dark arts. 

A beautiful start to the end of the world 

By Neil Watkin

It started out as one of my first ever photos of a beautiful rose in full bloom and steadily over the years it has acquired the digital layers of decay of the ages with the original beauty of the image ever more obscured from view. I find it strange that I am drawn back to this image time and again to add ever more digital detritus to it as if it has become some Dorian Gray portrait metaphor.   

     

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Carl Pugh

The story of Carl Pugh (aka Dark Grail) began in the lush valleys of the 80's Manchester ad agency circuit. Moulded by the dystopian punk and early electronica scene he presented a respectable dis-guise to all. The seed was planted when working in a video store through the 'video nasty' period. Deep inside the call of the 'Old Ones' proved irresistible and he started to collect the underground comix of the 70’s. 

From then the progression to appreciate dark art proved irresistible and he started to work in the art dept at Ocean Software, one of the best video game publishers of the day. He stayed there through various incarnations of the company for eleven or so years until with 3 friends he left to create a new agency and provide creative assets for video game marketing. Working on titles like Resident Evil, Dead Rising and Devil May Cry nurtured the darkness until the transformation into the Dark Grail was complete. His mission is to spread the darker side of things through illustration. 

Cosmic 2

By Carl Pugh 

Digital artwork, 2020 

The blessing and curse of imagination. 


 
Moors 

By Carl Pugh

Digital artwork, 2020 

A story of how loneliness and isolation can lead to arcane interests. 

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Julie Dawson 

As an active member of the Steampunk and Gothic communities, Julie takes her inspiration from the music, history, film, architecture, art and literature of these subcultures along with an emotional element influenced by her mental health and spirituality.  

She is a mixed media artist and teacher and enjoys working with a wide variety of materials, substrates and textures, often using papers and fabrics, found objects, household items, photographs and personal memorabilia. Her creations include collage, assemblage pieces, altered books and acrylic paintings. Her assemblage pieces include seemingly disparate elements which she brings together to form coherent works. She is also a keen Art Journaler and uses words and quotes as a starting point in much of her work. Julie is currently exploring digital elements.  

Lonliness Will Sit Over Our Roofs With Brooding Wings - Bram Stoker, Dracula 

By Julie Dawson

Mixed Media Canvas, 51cm x 41cm, 2016 

Decadence and Decay at Satis House 

By Julie Dawson

Three Canvas Triptych, 2017 

Duplicity - When Good People Do Bad Things... 

By Julie Dawson

Three Canvas Triptych, 20cm x 50cm, 2018 

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