21st Anniversary Rogue Open Studios

Rogue Studios opened its doors for its annual open studio event showcasing its members’ work and offering visitors the opportunity to meet and talk with this exciting mix of artists. This year it celebrated its 21st anniversary, but what made the event so poignant was that it was Rogue’s last open studio event within Crusader Mill as it faces relocation next year.

The open studios not only offered visitors a chance to see a wide variety of artists’ work under one roof, but also granted the opportunity to see the artists’ studio spaces, allowing a more intimate view of the artists, offering a greater insight into their practice. Here finished pieces sit alongside preliminary work and raw materials, with the peripheral objects just as interesting as the finished works themselves as they reveal the process and thinking of the artist. A good example of this was when visiting Abe Emajaro’s studio on the first floor; he creates multimedia work that explores the subconscious using found materials. He stores objects that are ready for creation within a shelved box that is reminiscent of a cabinet of curiosity, and also mirrors his finished box construction pieces that sit alongside it. The Owl Project also occupy another interesting studio space, the collaborative group comprising of three artists: Simon Blackmore, Tony Hall and Steve Symons, who work with wood and electronics to create musical and sculptural objects that question human interaction with computer interfaces. The particular work on show here fused the traditional craft of woodwork with new technology to create innovative music making machines that question our attitude to disposable technology and modern design principles. It is through the model of the open studios that visitors with potentially no background in art are able to get close to inventive work such as that by The Owl Project, and gives them a chance to meet with the artists themselves and discuss their creations.

Rogue Studios also has a project space that is used for temporary exhibitions and events, and for the open studio displays the exhibition Excuse Me While I Am Changing featured four guest artists: Matthew Bamber, Linda Hemersbach, Hannah Leighton-Boyce and Michelle Shields curated by Lucy Harvey. The artists were invited to respond to the landscape surrounding Rogue Studios; considering the development and expansion of Manchester and the passage between the residential and industrial spaces as the identity of the city shifts. The exhibition also nods to the regeneration of the old industrial areas, documenting these raw undeveloped spaces before they are transformed, also acting as a reminder of Rogue Studios at Crusader Mill as a centre of creative development. Bamber captures this in his piece Conversation, compiling multiple photographs that look out of Rogue artists’ studio windows in an act of contemplation. Leighton-Boyce meanwhile remembers the mills industrial past in her smoke drawings that are formed by capturing soot residue on a pane of glass, reminding us of how these industrial space are constantly regenerating, as the old gives way to the new.

Both the studios and exhibition made visitors think of how artists occupy spaces and are essential to developing these forgotten industrial spaces. It not only offered visitors a chance to engage with the artists within their natural environment, but gave people a chance to remember Rogue Studios as a creative centre that has offered so much to the art ecology of Manchester and hopefully will continue to do so, within a new location in the future.

Claire Walker is a writer based in Wigan.

Image courtesy of Rogue Artists’ Studios.

21st Anniversary Rogue Open Studios, Rogue Artists’ Studios, Manchester.

14 – 15 October 2016.