On the very edge of Manchester city centre, five minutes by bus from Piccadilly Station and tucked away amongst the arches of some disused train sheds is Depot Art Studios. This reasonably sized industrial unit is home to four artists; Rowan Eastwood, Jack Ginno, Sam Potter and Alistair Woods, all of whom graduated from Leeds Beckett University in 2012/13.
In conversation with Woods, he tells me that he does not consider Depot Art Studios a collective, rather it is a group of friends sharing studio space whilst working towards their own individual goals and achievements as artists. With this in mind, Open Depot, their second open studio event in the last twelve months, is definitely a significant achievement. The four artists in question present a bold, coherent body of work that, whilst acknowledging the need to present their work as a single statement in the open studio scenario, still speaks volumes about their more singular concerns. In 2016 Ginno presented his work as part of the ‘Grit’ exhibition at Arthouse 1 in London whilst Woods was shortlisted for the Greater Manchester Art Prize 2016 and staged the Common Denominator solo exhibition at Victoria Station, Manchester. Eastwood came second in the Spectrum Art Prize at PS Mirabel whilst Potter, the most recent addition to Depot Art Studios, presented work at Soup Kitchen, a Manchester café and arts venue.
Having become familiar with the work of all four artists over the last few years, I detect both subtle and not so subtle shifts in style. Gone is the maximalist approach of Woods from two years ago, replaced instead with a very considered reductive style. Whilst the execution of his current work is considerably different, the concerns and message are not. The work of Ginno feels like it has much in common with Woods’, but in fact he approaches the admittedly similar subject matter from the opposite end of the spectrum. Whilst Woods sets out to obliterate visual references to the original material that he is now rendering in paint, Ginno is faithfully recreating original objects as closely as possible; aesthetically, the end products of both are startlingly aligned. ‘Protection’ (2017) by Eastwood takes a huge timber frame, actually the underside of an old seamstress’ table abandoned by a previous owner, and encloses it in shrink wrap, reducing this colossal wall mounted object to a mere shadow of its former self. Elsewhere, Eastwood also references the fabric of the building as they inherited it, with another piece ‘Insulation Installation’ (2017) in which a large swathe of silver insulation material rather decoratively slices the exhibition space in two.
Potter steps away from the reductive and geometric abstraction of his studio companions, instead delving into a darkly conceptual arena. The once vibrant colours of his previous work giving way to a colour palette that is more reflective of his current surroundings. The distorted figuration of the works are further obfuscated by their enigmatic titles such as ‘Untitled (Sample)’ and ‘Untitled (Creator)’, both 2017. Potter’s work sits well amongst the large slabs of virtually monochromatic works by Eastwood, Ginno and Woods. Depot Art Studios is an engaging space that oozes with the warmth and charm of its inhabitants as well as the minimalist wit of the work that they produce; it will be interesting to see the direction in which they all move in the future.
Open Depot, Depot Art Studios, 27 – 29 January 2017.
Bruce Davies is a curator based in Leeds.
Installation image courtesy Jack Ginno.