Last Thursday evening, I went on one of Jennifer Dean’s bimonthly Manchester Art Walks. This is the first one I’ve been on one. I think they’re normally Thursdays when I’m at College with Rachel. Jennifer arranges them to coincide with a series of exhibitions and arranges for the art galleries and museums to be open ‘after hours’. (Knock three times and tell them Damien sent you).
This time we met up at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) Special Collections Gallery which has an exhibition, Mr Dedman’s Victory Suit: Intimate stories of make do and mend. This lovely exhibition brings together work made by two sisters, anthropologist Amanda Ravetz and textile artist Antonia Riviere, during a two-month research fellowship at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, Australia in 2012, alongside items from MMU’s Special Collections Library.
Antonia found the material pieces for this dress in an op-shop, as Australians call charity shops. It had been cut out but had never been made up. She looked in charity shops as she wanted to try and restrict herself in the same way as women during World War 2. It is sewn inside out, again trying to reflect wartime practice.
Again the wool for this jumper was found in an op-shop. The pattern on the front refers to the streamers the men on the ships and their loved ones on the quayside would hold as long as possible as the ships sailed away to war. The back has ‘I love you’ in morse code knitted into it.
This sketchbook has an interesting note:
“Local described farm sales with clothes hanging on rolled newspapers and bailer twine loop & Hook/nail.”
Part of MMU’s own collection
With reference to my recent post about photography in museums and art galleries, there was one case which had original wartime ‘make do and mend’ clothing on display. This was the only one with ‘no photography’ signs. I asked about this and was told it was a condition laid down by the museum which had lent them the items.
We then sauntered up Oxford Road to the Manchester Museum for our next exhibition, All Other Things Being Equal. This exhibition, based on three years of personal research by Johan Oldekop in the Ecuadorian Amazon, mixes photographs and sounds with graphical representations of socio-economic data and specimens from the Museum’s natural history collection. Johan introduced the exhibition and explained that he was a scientist and not a photographer. Well, IMHO, he beats the pants of many exhibiting photographers.
The information display as we entered explained that:
“The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse and endangered regions of our planet. People romanticize the idea of saving one of the great bastions of biodiversity but the reality on the ground is a complex dilemma. Local economic necessity means that trees are valued for their timber rather than their crucial role in the ecosystem. … [There is a] complex interaction between social and conservation issues in Ecuador.”
Sandra, who I know from Bolton, was particularly struck by this butterfly’s iridescent wings.
Our third and final stop was at the Whitworth Art Gallery. Here we saw three exhibitions. The first, on the ground floor, was sort of an extra, unplanned one, and featured Callum Innes who is one of Britain’s best-known abstract painters. His constantly evolving practice is as much about un-painting as it is about painting. Using turpentine in conjunction with oil paints Innes thins and removes layers, revealing underlying colours and leaving the evidence of his process on the canvas.
Two of Callum Innes’s paintings
On the first floor were two exhibitions exploring the Land Art movement. British born Richard Long most emphatically changed the artist’s view from that of observing the landscape to journeying through it in his 1967 work A Line Made by Walking. That line was the trace of his footsteps over twenty minutes of walking in a field. A temporary mark, it faded after a short while, but had been caught on camera by Long. In contrast, White Onyx Line (1990), is all there with its bold materiality. The quarried mineral leads us up and down its length leaving our own invisible lines as we walk.
American born Nancy Holt is a key member of the Land Art movement, which began in the late 1960s with artists in New York taking their work out of the gallery and into the landscape.
Holt is most well known for her large scale sculptural works in the environment, such as Sun Tunnels (1973-76). Four concrete tunnels, 18 feet long and 9 feet in diameter, are aligned in pairs along an axis of the rising and setting sun on a summer or winter solstice. Like many of her works, the pipes act as viewing devices for the sky, the surrounding landscape and each other, locating the viewer in the landscape and also in relation to the movement of the planets and the sun.
Sunlight in Sun Tunnels
30 photographs of sunlight and shadow in one tunnel photographed every half an hour from 6.30 am to 9.00 pm 14th July 1976.
Unfortunately, our visit to the two Land Artists was quite short as we obviously spent too much unscheduled time downstairs at the Callum Innes exhibition. (The whole walk with three venues and five exhibitions was only two hours long.) It was only on the way out that I noticed that there was a fourth exhibition by Michael Landy, who has just opened an exhibition of kinetic sculptured saints called Saints Alive at the National Gallery. I’d like to see this exhibition properly but will have to hurry as all four Whitworth shows close on 16th June.
I hope to be able to get to the next Manchester Art Walk in two months’ time as Jennifer Dean does an excellent job of the arrangements. Thank you, Jennifer.