With my week off I decided to ‘diversify’ a bit and visit Manchester’s Art Gallery.  It has a few contemporary exhibitions at the moment, including one on “Art and Photography” (so maybe I wasn’t diversifying interests all that much, if I’m honest).  I hopped on the train from Castleton to Manchester on a cold but sunny Thursday, grabbed a prawn sandwich to eat in St Annes Square and then headed to the gallery.

The Smithsons – Cyprien Gaillard

Created by the Paris-born artist, this video lasts 3 minutes and 30 seconds; “exploring visions of utopian architecture and the aftermath of its social and physical destruction.”  It presents several scenes of buildings viewed from a distance, among woodland on a hillside against the soundtrack of The Smiths’ “Asleep”.

It’s a haunting presentation – the high-rise flats appearing lonely and almost derelict in their settings.  There are also more subtle scenes where little that is man made interrupts the natural landscape.

Kelley Walker

An installation of columns featuring bricks (and being the height of the artist, stood on a brick) along with a 3D render on a magazine advert featuring Andy Warhol.  It’s the artists personal take on 40 years pop culture in the US and North of England, taking some inspiration in part from Manchester.  I’d be lying if I said I had any appreciation for it.

Kelley Walker - some brick thing

Kelley Walker – some brick thing

Focal Points: Art and Photography

This exhibition explores some of the different ways contemporary artists have employed the camera in their work.  Most of the images were using photography as the sole medium, with the obvious exception of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s image from her Roberta Brietmore works.

There were some interesting ideas – for example a photographer who build 3D paper/card models of buildings and photographed these – producing a 2D image before destroying the 3D version he had created.  The buildings therefore only ever exist as the images for anybody other than the artist.

In a similar vain to the “flawed Utopia” idea in The Smithsons, an image of a high-rise is presented behind frosted glass, taking on a ghostly appearance and reflecting the difference between what’s imagined and how the buildings actually appear.

Frosted glass is used agin by a photographer who shoots art installations.  The glass makes it impossible to pick out any detail – creating an abstract appearance on the whole.  WIthout the ability to study the work photographed – I think that highlights the image as a piece in it’s own right, rather than simply a recording of another artist’s work.

There were a couple of images I found emotive.

The first was of stairs in a prison – harsh shadows created a lonely and foreboding tone.

The other was of a small model of a house, held together by pins, int he hand of the artist.  It was one of the last works by the artist – Donald Rodney – who suffered from sickle cell anaemia.  The house was constructed from his own dead skin.  It played with the notion of the home being where people are most comfortable, yet the artist was not safe in his own skin.  It’s a literal and metaphorical example of an artist putting something of themselves in to their work.  The Guardian has a piece on Rodney here.