Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Rainy Day in Manchester

So it's Friday the 13th and I am looking at the rain outside of my window and I think to myself 'If I have to stay in I am going to have to go out'. I grab my umbrella and head off towards Manchester for some artfaggery.

Under the cover of said umbrella I set off in the direction of my first destination BLANKSPACE to see an exhibition entitled Chroma by Liz West, which reports to explore themes of colour theory, collecting and the real and illusory.

After arriving at BLANKSPACE I find myself within a room facing a pile of furniture. It's like being in some forgotten some backroom or attic only there are monitors poking out from within some of the cupboards. Each seems to be panning over a sea of bric a brac each dedicated to a band of the spectrum. I am not sure what to think as I stand in the dank. I can see one of the draws is open I take a peek and its empty. Though the smell of all this old furniture is touching some buttons.

I move on to the next piece, where as I go upstairs I am greeted by a red glow a intriguing piece of atmosphere perhaps? Once at the top of the stairs I see the source of this glow a room painted red which is accompanied by three other rooms each filled with colour (green, blue, yellow). There is something about approaching and being these rooms that does make me think about the condition of being 'red' or 'blue'. Of course my nerd brains flicks to the colour coded labs of The Andromeda Strain. In each of the rooms there is a vitrine filled with white plastic junk, this is meant to make us think about how things are affected by colour, but for me I found it distracting from the fact that I myself was being coloured. There is a lot I like about the works for example the orange glow which emanates from the slit that is Orange Chamber which in turns defines the small corridor space is interesting. All this is slightly diffused when you look through the slit into a reflected world of detritus. Maybe I should think about it in another way maybe Liz West has created the condition where I expected to see a golden dawn only to face disappointment.

On the whole it's a positive start Liz West's work has been interesting and engaging. Now it's off down Oxford Rd to the Whitworth to see We Face Forward part of a city wide celebration of contemporary African art. Which you can add to the growing list of 'things I know very little about'. Looking around I wonder what I am going to learn about Africa the work has a familiarity to it, documentary photographs, conceptual ideas float around, themes of identity and information overload abound. Pieces which stick for me are Pascale Morthike Tayou's The World Falls Apart a manmade forest filled with the frames of ghost diamonds and strange distorted figures. The wall blurb describes it as a 'bridge between thinking and dreaming' and it has that element of a dream where objects are familiar and yet unknowable. I also liked Lucy Azubike's paintings called Wear and Tear the paintings themselves are careful recreations of the scraps left behind by layers of posters. They suggest to me a series of designs for a new style of urban camouflage one best suited for the war of the everyday.

I am left with the feeling there's more perhaps a second visit would be in order.

Then it's back up Oxford Rd through the crowds of begowned graduating students and head towards the Cornerhouse for Stanya Khan's exhibition It's Good, I'm Cool. Which I'm informed by the pamphlet handed to me by the invigilator is her first solo show in Europe and is comprised of her videos and drawings. What it doesn't mention is comfy sofas and Laz-E-Boys!

Said furniture is welcomed as I sit in front of the image of a battered, bruised and bandaged figure talking about the macho-ness of certain hamburgers to someone off screen. This conversation is soundtracked by small blasts of METAL! It suggests a kind of empty masculinity. As the video progresses we see this damaged figure undertake a strange odyssey where she, still dressed in hospital robes, is seen in the desert discovering a briefcase, going skateboarding. We also she her going through her day to day life despite of her injuries there's a strange mixture of the ordinary and the strange in this video that conflict between extreme personal trauma and the fact that the rest of the world carries on. Which runs through all the videos and the first floor, what also strikes me is the honesty of the videos. In two videos Kathy and Sandra where Khan interview her best friend and her mother's casting a sympathetic eye over their lives, guts are spilled questions about how we live are lives are asked. There is no real narrative to these pieces I get the sensation that I could simply dip in and out these are slices of life always changing always the same.

What also strikes me about Khan's work is a refreshing lack of irony, even when dressed like a penis in Looking Good Feeling Good there's no sense of knowingness which leads to a sense of vulnerability and kind of warmth I guess. I think I mean her work has Pathos which for me can be summed up it by one of her drawings (her drawings feature animals and imamate objects caught in tableaus of everyday angst) which features two octopus one is missing a tentacle the other simply says 'It'll grow back'. It's funny, sad and charming, think Rob Ryan without the sappiness, and would look great on my wall.

That's kind of where my day ends, I did make it to the Manchester Art Gallery with 5 minutes to closing so only briefly saw what they had on display so I can save that for another day.

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