Text by Susanna Hill
Plan For A Ruin is the exhibition currently occupying the wonderful spaces that are the fifth and attic floors of the Islington Mill. And it seems that I am not the only one who adores spending time in this cobwebbed corner of Salford; for curator Simon Morrissey the space itself acted as atmospheric inspiration for the vision of the exhibition.
As you enter on the fifth floor you are met by two small paintings by James Parkinson, which offer a dialogue of opposites – quite literally through their colour, but also in the graduation of the markings and form. The works are simple, but the titles – which seem unrelated – are worth musing on further.
This floor is also characterised by the metallic wailing that accompanies David Wojtowycz‘s The Lake, an eerie digital image projection of a lonely pier, water repetitively dancing on one side but still on the other.
Further into the room is the intriguing Campfire and Bench by Heather and Ivan Morison, which comprises a low arched bench and the ‘ruins’ of a bonfire, or so it first appears. The ‘sticks’ of the bonfire are sculptures of bones; perhaps the ruins of a meal? A journey? A kill? But the cast is taken from a carving in wood (the grain of which is just about visible) thereby further challenging our conclusions.
The Morison’s have another piece on this level. The Mint Cemetery depicts the ‘ruined’ corpse of a domestic cat on a photographic print that itself has been violated by triangular tape in pop-art forms, one of which cuts a chunk out from the canvas.
The attic floor contains Melanie Counsell‘s sculpture, a kind of anti-architects model with a flight of stairs leading nowhere, and constructed from hardboard which – unusually – does not pretend to be any other material.
On this floor you also meet – for the first time – another human. Marie Toseland‘s The Demise (Part I) is a detached human voice relating imagery (the narrative of which is hard to decipher) of a physically depressive nature. As you take in this piece you meet the final human in the exhibition through Toseland’s other contribution. Mass XII portrays an ephemeral shape or remnant that appears to gently alter as you look at it, but it is mounted on glass with the consequence that our own reflections come into play.
I was lucky enough to experience the ruins here curated entirely alone with the result that when I came face-to-face with myself I was rather offended by the totality that I represented. I don’t know how intentional this punctuation mark was for the Toseland – or even Morrissey – but it brought home to me the romance of the ruin; the dereliction that speaks of a history, the enigma and temptation of the pieces in the exhibition. In such a setting I was out of place.
Susanna Hill is a writer and PhD candidate at the University of Manchester, considering the collecting of Outsider Art in the UK. She is also working part time at Manchester Art Gallery.