What do you want to go to Depot Art Studios for when you can stay here and go to Depot Laugh Your Tits Off? said the man at the entrance booth on Bennett Street — before the warehouse which contains the gallery. It was a welcome that shared a tone with that derisive humour found with cross-Pennine jibes: generally open, loyal, and well-meaning, with a touch of knowing coarseness. What do you want to go there for when you can stay here? But it is just this red rose/white rose ethos which is questioned in the Brothers/Sisters-in-Arts collaboration of Depot Art Studios in Manchester, and BasementArtsProject in Leeds; a collaboration in which each gallery receives artists’ work from the other affiliated city for an exhibition in April or May.
Naturally there is an improvised feel to the studio in which the gallery sits. Down a gravel path by the railway arches, the vacant spaces each plugged with rusted buses, up the blue fire escape (knock twice to enter I was told), and into a small room on the first floor. There I met Alistair Woods — one of the four artists who practice in the studio — and we talked about the useful reclamation of these spaces in the city for artists not just to toil, but to display, share and promote. In recent years Artwork Atelier and Rogue Artists’ Studios have been cast as collateral in the relentless development of Manchester’s city centre, and have been forced to vacate their studios to nest elsewhere. Displacement, it appears, is the echo of the boom.
So it is adaptation that pervaded not just the location of the excellent studio of Depot, but the work itself: Adam Glatherine’s ‘Plato’s Inverted Sukkah’ (2018) is a hollow icosahedron (apologies, Adam, if that is not the correct Platonic Solid) suspended beneath a skylight — too large to be removed from the studio without careful deconstruction. A Sukkah is a temporary shelter, one built in the Jewish festival of Sukkot to commemorate the benefaction of God when the Jews fled Egypt into the wilderness. Glatherine’s installation is imposing but sparse, as if drawn freehand into three-dimensional space, and held tentatively by the weave of the air. The low ceiling of the studio prohibited the use of a stepladder to suspend the piece, so the stepladder appears as homage elsewhere, to support the projector for ‘Breaking the Sound Barrier 8’ (2012), by Alan Dunn, Martyn Rainford, Jack Wolff and Laure Ferraris. The piece is an audio work that began life as the sonic-foetus of Rainford. It has since been remixed several times in a programme of exchange and contamination and the result is a pastry of harmony, atonality, and spoken word, as if the top-to-tail conversation between all of these artists has been folded in concertina, rounded, grooved, sleeved, pretensions sanded away, and presented as a simple reaction to the occasion which preceded it.
Bespeckled with white paint the concrete floor leads to the doorway, the right side of which had collapsed through the weight of the damp beneath the plaster. Two windows adjacent beckoned in the silver sunlight. In the studio-cum-gallery there is a sense not just of art, finished and hermetic, but artwork, and its relationship to the walls which hang it and shelter it; to the sketches and the drafts and the chalk-offs; to the borrowed spaces where the work resides: in basements in Leeds and bus depots in Manchester.
A City of Two Tales (Leeds to Manchester), Depot Art Studios, Manchester.
12 – 22 April 2018.
Jordan Harrison-Twist is a writer and designer based in Manchester.
Information about the second part of the project, A Tale of Two Cities (Manchester to Leeds) can be found here.