The Manchester Contemporary 2012

Words by Andrew Hardman

The Manchester Contemporary returns (thankfully indoors, unlike its cousin the Buy Art Fair) to brighten the end of a dull and depressing Mancunian September. Growing year on year in scale, scope and reputation, the 2012 event offers thirteen curated exhibitors and showcases a further nine project spaces. Three Mancunian galleries are featured in the curated section this year (Bureau, International 3 and Untitled Gallery) with a strong roster of mostly local artists. The remainder of the galleries represented are drawn from elsewhere including, from what I recall of previous events, Manchester Contemporary’s first international showing with the inclusion of Rotterdam’s Anne-Marie Ros Projects.

As for the work on display: drawing remains a prominent feature of the Contemporary this year, as it was last year. Mary Griffiths graphite-grounded abstract inscriptions provide a striking feature of Bureau’s offering and a contrast to Rachel Goodyear’s [International 3] reliably intriguing figurative drawings – some transposed to ceramics. Also worth seeking out are coloured pencil drawings by Yu-chen Wang [Chinese Arts Centre] whose fantastical (and weirdly erotic) machineries were drawn during a residency there last year. Of local interest too is the “tornado drawing” of Alistair McClymont [Man&Eve] – an artist currently showing at Salford’s Islington Mill. Equally diverse were the paintings on show with geometric shapes being a notable trend here. Apart from those, of particular note are Magnus Quaife’s watercolour musicians [WORKS/PROJECT], Evi Grigoropoulou’s striped oils [Untitled Gallery], and Ian Andrews fecund, oily swirls [Man&Eve]. Three dimensional work by Juneau Projects [Ceri Hand Gallery] stood out for their laser-cut and etched perspex wall-hung dioramas. There was something formally pleasing too in Jeroen Bodewits’s [Anne-Marie Ros Projects] witty combines in which porcelain figurines find themselves wedded to glazed or gilded stoneware fungal growths. In the printroom, Bodewits’s screenprint of a grain silo stood out for me as well. Elsewhere, great prints were to be found in screenprinted and marbled (suminagashi) papers by Abigail Reynolds [Seventeen]; printed slogans by both Pavel Büchler’s [Bureau] and Ruth Ewan’s [Rob Tufnell]; and Max Stokes’s [Workplace Gallery] rehearsal room photoprint.

There was a happy buzz around the evening preview. Nice to see representation from city including new and promising art spaces – Salford’s Paper Gallery being a welcome new face to Manchester’s art community. With three of the curated exhibitors hailing from the city and five of the nine project spaces it was heartening to see so much quality art created or curated here. And, despite challenging times, more of it too.

The Manchester Contemporary runs between 27th – 30th Spetember, and is located in Spinningfields, Manchester.

Andrew Hardman is a researcher at the University of Manchester.