Text by Lauren Velvick
This feature is accompanied with images by Francesco Cuttitta, who is currently undertaking a photography placement exploring contemporary art and performance in Manchester.
In A Flux is the first group exhibition by The Manchester Salon, and was part of Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival that ran from 3 October to 1 November 2014, whilst the exhibition continues until 10 January 2015. The Manchester Salon is a group of five artists working in the North West of England who have formed a collective aiming to develop critical discourses around contemporary arts practice in the region. Here, a collection of works by the group are presented within a distinct section of a larger gallery displaying a variety of artworks and objects from Warrington Museum and Art Gallery’s collection. The works on show have been selected as responses to their site within the Museum, but most are also part of separate, ongoing or past projects within each artist’s practice.
The majority of the exhibition is set apart within a larger gallery by temporary walls, but a clear sightline to the WWI poster exhibition above and as well as to displays from the Museum’s collection encourages a consideration of context. Lindsey Bull‘s spotlit paintings show faceless, featureless, or semi-obscured human figures, interacting with the site and bringing to mind costumed mannequins or other, politely ignored, visitors. The titles of these paintings, ‘Blitzed’ and ‘The Wall’ seem to refer in turn to the exhibition above, and the large pile of charcoal grey bricks stencilled with neon numbers and letters, part of Jen Wu’s ongoing community-involved project ‘The Wall’.
Daniel Fogarty‘s notice board-like installation sees a large piece of slightly faded and crumpled cyan-turquoise fabric hung up on the wall, and pinned with printed documents. These are A4 sized photocopies and computer print-outs, made compelling by their banality amongst decorative objects, and drawing the eye that is accustomed to finding information in this format. With obscure, tangent-prone research Fogarty investigates ‘OX’ – the individual letters, the word, and the animal – raising questions around processing, as the words ‘Oxen’ and ‘X-Ray-Spex’ are compacted into an OXO cube. Some of the text is in third person, transmitting information, but some is compellingly in second person, referencing familiar but recently obsolete sites and scenes.
Maurice Carlin‘s ‘Study for a Phantom Demographic – A0 to A10’ looks like an obscured or empty aerial plan, connecting again to the WWI poster exhibition on show in the mezzanine gallery above – look up, look down – . Carlin’s use of the word ‘Phantom’ in the title of this piece begs the question, who or what is gone, and what traces are these? On further investigation it becomes clear that these works are made using Carlin’s method of taking a print from the floor of a site using paper, ink and squeegee. This piece is displayed, like Fogarty’s, in a notice board, studio-wall-like arrangement that could be incidental. Also, from the temporary walls of this sectioned-off exhibition space hang rolls of backing paper, appearing decorative in their proximity to the glistening filigree in the main gallery, with their off-white, off-centre gigantic scrolling.
This small selection of works from The Manchester Salon seem urgent, or even desperate, in comparison to the objects and pictures in the rest of the gallery, which include gentle and cheery Venetian scenes by Henry Woods (1846 – 1921), paintings where the subjects are dropping off to sleep, and complex, florid objects. The work here is also supposed to respond to the the theme of Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, About Time, and it is Laura Mansfield’s contribution that most clearly articulates this, not least in that it has already happened, and the remnants are now absorbed into the main gallery. Some of the objects she has chosen to display are functional, some purely decorative or symbolic, and their relevance can only be properly understood in combination with the publication, The FÀS: Ritual for a Future Unknown, that Mansfield distributed at a talk in the gallery.
An accompanying hand-out gives a fairly in-depth description of each artist’s work, and it seems that their intentions have been pretty well realised, however the varying themes and processes of the work on show, as well as the overarching theme of the festival, are too much to consider upon first viewing, and they detract from the direct and visceral experience of the work in its environment. On viewing this exhibition outside of its context as part of the wider festival the changing nature is not altogether evident, but it isn’t unsuccessful on its own, with movement and the passing of time referenced subtly in the repeated use of every-day materials and symbols such as bricks, and A-sized paper placed within traditional displays of natural and local history.
Francesco Cuttitta is a photography student in Graphic Design from the Accademia di Belle Arti, Palermo, Sicily.