Amongst the many rows of stalls at The Manchester Contemporary 2017, you’ll have found Venture Arts presents, a neatly curated insight into the work of learning disabled artists from their supported studios. Eight artists featured from Venture Arts (Manchester) and similar organisations, Project Ability (Glasgow) and Action Space (London), in order to help show the breadth and diversity of talent across the UK.
Returning for a second year in partnership with Castlefield Gallery, the space has been co-curated between James Desser and Tom Emery. Choosing between a wealth of submissions, the curators went with their intuition on which were ‘truly striking’. On display and, of course, for sale, include playful photography from David James, ceramic fruit pies in a very Northern statement by Robert Dixon and a digitally manipulated photo-edit by Luca Agathogli, representing how technology can have a surreal impact on the world around us.
Also on display was ‘Untitled’ (2017) by Ahmed Mohammed, a young emerging artist who instinctively creates and destroys his own art, rebuilding it each time with the remnants of its last form. From reconfiguring his destroyed works into newly created paper which he then draws on again, Mohammed gives his work an impermanent durability, making the viewer’s relationship more immediate in a fleeting environment – such as an art fair is. His style is definitely more instinct than process that creates a raw and emotional impact.
Sitting next to Mohammed’s three-piece series is ‘Collection of Straws’ (2016) by Jennie Franklin. An ambiguous piece of abstract art created by her banal compulsion to collect black plastic drinking straws. Franklin transforms them by cutting and ironing out the material into a large blemished sheet. No longer recognisable as their original form, they appear almost bark-like; an intriguing texture for something so stark in comparison.
All the artists on show carry a poignancy throughout their work. Each piece has been tendered using unique traits of the artist. Their skills and their quirks have all been poured into the work, creating something rich in personality. A quality that’s there to see in ‘DEARR CHHRRISSTINNE’ (2017) by Barry Anthony Finan. A series of porcelain prints taking his passion of writing into a way of mark making, and ‘Man Climbing Ladder’ (2015) by Andrew Omoding, a large scale sculptural piece featuring ‘buried treasure’ salvaged by Omoding himself, all from ordinary places.
Finally, alongside his ceramic moulds, sits stand-out piece, ‘The Three Stooges’ (2017) by Cameron Morgan. A screen print based on ‘The Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness’ (2016) by Zak Ové. Morgan was inspired after visiting the sculptures at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Ové’s army of life-size graphite sculptures are identical, however Morgan cleverly adds a dash of wit to his reinterpretation by giving each figure its own unique identity alongside striking colours. This plays as a metaphor for overcomplicating art and instead interprets it exactly how Morgan sees it – rather than reflecting the themes of African identity Ové intended.
The artists on display are expressing themselves through their creations and in a highly personal fashion. Amanda Sutton (Director, Venture Arts) said “It is extremely important that diverse artists are represented at high profile contemporary arts events like The Manchester Contemporary.” – and make no mistake, they are there on merit. So venture into their world, it makes for fascinating viewing.
Venture Arts presents, The Manchester Contemporary 2017, Manchester.
27 – 29 October 2017.
Chris Connolly is a writer based in Manchester.