Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cotton: Global Threads at The Whitworth, Manchester

Cotton. You’re probably wearing it now. You probably sleep on it every night. The sheer abundance of this material all around us means it usually remains ignored and underappreciated. The cotton industry at one point had its largest export centres in places far and wide; for example India, but also surprisingly enough, Lancashire. The new exhibition at Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery is a celebration of all things cotton, including both traditional and contemporary uses, mixed media pieces and installations, but most of all a well deserved celebration of the stuff. ‘Cotton: Global threads’ is an exhibition designed to amalgamate the cultural diversities of these fine threads and fabrics in a showcase of international talent and multiplicity.
Cotton: Global Threads is on at Manchester's Whitworth Gallery until 13th May.

Image: Anne Wilson, Local Industry Cloth

Friday, 3 February 2012

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure...

Well I've finally managed to branch out from online reviewing, and my name is in print (on actual paper). I only started this writing stuff 3 months ago, so I'm quite proud of myself! You can read The Shrieking Violet, a Manchester fanzine, at - and here's my review which is inside!

Lost is Found, Cornerhouse, Manchester - 14/1/12 - 19/2/12

There are many that say that the home is like a nest. It is a place which accumulates all traces of life, past and present, and the thoughts, memories and experiences which create a person’s identity. It may be that the nest is a perfect physical metaphor for a home; just as the twigs and leaves of the nest are weaved together, so too are houses weaved by their inhabitants, to become a place to exist. I felt that that this idea may be at the heart of the new exhibition ‘Lost is Found’ at Manchester’s Cornerhouse, which involves a collection of pieces all exploring the complexity of identity and memory, as well as glorifying the lost and discarded.
When it comes to personal interpretation, it is often the case that an object will have a thousand meanings, one being its literal use, and the others being secret connotations which an item holds for different people. Of course interpretations, and certainly conflicting interpretations, have been integral to Art from the word go, and it is this intriguing connection which this exhibition has used for inspiration.
Despite only consisting of nine artists, this show demonstrates an impressive variety of media. Being a fan of Rauschenberg and his combines, I was particularly drawn to
the pieces using ‘found objects,’ perhaps the most accessible medium to work with, but often overlooked. Andrea Brooker, a Manchester based artist, creates her work using redundant lettering from regenerated or discarded buildings in surrounding areas. Spilt Milk does what it says on the carton, literally spelling out the words of its title on the wall of the room; however this piece is a comment on the displacement of identity which can often be felt when a place from your memory is demolished. In rescuing this lettering from the wreckage, Brooker shows viewers that objects can, and often do, adopt new purpose and meaning.
Richard Proffitt, another emerging patron of the found object, is the creator of a quirky looking ‘bike’ entitled Louisiana Blues, Anywhere (pictured), which certainly can’t be missed when walking into the exhibition. This piece uses everything from sheep skulls to blu-tack to faux fur to a light bulb. While Proffitt states that his scrap amalgamation is a ‘relic inspired by biker subculture,’ it ties in perfectly with the ethos of the rest of the pieces in Lost is Found. Strung with fur and all kinds of threads, twigs and bits of everything, all is recycled here to create a living moped, emblazoned with secret metaphors of personal culture and identity.

As I mentioned previously, the home can be very much like a nest. This is the place in which we build a life, and even build ourselves, until we are ready to fly. It is this comfort of safety contrasted with the experiences of the outside world which creates a complex network of existence. Jon Barraclough’s pieces Everything and Nothing #5 and #8 are a manifestation of such networks. His graphite drawings even have a nest-like quality, and connote all the secret little traces of memories and constant fleeting thoughts within our minds. Like many of the other artworks in this exhibition, this piece hopes to note the traces we all leave behind throughout life, as well as the ease of misplacing a memory in the chaos of the human brain.
Emily Speed is more concerned with implying the fragility of the home. Egg, nest, home, country, universe involves little plaster eggs with tiny houses built on their outer shells, a clever comment on the delicate nature of a home, whether it be the relationships within it or the physical foundations, easily defeated by nature.
An idea that can be felt throughout Lost is Found is the precarious nature of life, of objects, buildings, and of identity. A network is easily broken just as a memory is easily forgotten and an item is easily thrown away. Experiences in life vary greatly, just as I’m sure the interpretation of all these pieces will, but that’s the beauty of Art and of life. What makes our existence so interesting and often surprising is the differing history and meaning that a binds a place or object to someone’s identity, and certainly the fragility of this connection. However what this exhibition celebrates is that there are many places we can look for a misplaced identity, and that whatever we’ve lost, physical or metaphorical, can very often be found in the right place.
by Liz Buckley