Tuesday, 23 December 2008

By The Time You Are Real @ RGG

This seems to have slipped in between the floorboard of the City Life office, so here's the preview/review piece I wrote just before the opening of the, frankly lovely, Nicoletta Ceccoli exhibition at Richard Goodall Contemporary. 

It's dark, chilly and icy; The media is near hysterical with crisis and turmoil, it's all too tempting to utterly withdraw from the world. Put the heating on ( forget the cost, we're all going bankrupt anyway!), pull the duvet over your head and lose yourself in a fantasy world.

In these grim and grisly times, By The Time You Are Real - the new exhibition at Richard Goodall Contemporary - is a welcome break from reality.

Featuring seventeen paintings by the highly acclaimed Italian artist Nicoletta Ceccoli, the exhibition has already, still days before it's official opening, almost completely sold out.

This is Nicoletta's largest exhibition to date. As an artist she has established a loyal following through her book illustrations, and demand for her work is at an all time high. Preoccupied with illustration work, the artist had to snatch time between commissions to complete the paintings for this exhibition.

Richard Goodall explains, " We started talking about the show about a year ago. She's very busy with book illustrations - she does lots and lots of book illustrations - and she had to fit painting in between her book illustration assignments. "

"I eventually got the final one last week, which represents about six months work."

The images are rich and luscious, each one over flowing with careful detail. Doe-eyed, porcelain-skinned girls inhabit a supernatural world, shared symbiotically with equally captivating and perfectly rendered creatures. Traditional logic is thrown to the wind, as these images work to their own enchanted rules.

Although many people assume that these images are digitally produced, they are in-fact meticulously hand painted.

Why do these paintings draw such praise and attention from all quarters? Like the paintings themselves, the answer is more complex than it initially seems.

"I dunno," muses Richard Goodall, "it's a nostalgic thing maybe, people see bits of their youth in these. Then there's that edginess about each one. The is a little bit of an edge, some are a little bit dark, and some are very light-hearted. There is a lot of humour in them.”

These paintings may be in a childish idiom, they have a very thoughtful and adult sensibility.

The palette that she uses is so very delicate.” Richard continues, “Literally everyone who has seen them thinks they are wonderful.”

By The Time You Are Real, the paintings of Nicoletta Ceccoli runs at Richard Goodall Gallery from the 13th of December 2008 till the 31st of January 2009.

Richard Goodall Gallery - Contemporary Art, 103 High Street, Northern Quarter. Open Wednesday - Friday 11am - 5pm, Saturday 12 - 4pm

Image Hide and Seek by Nicoletta Ceccoli curtsey of RGG 

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Interspecies @ Cornerhouse

Time is passing at a terrifying rate! Just got the heads up about the next exhibition at Cornerhouse. Hopefully it'll be an improvement on the current one, The Intertwining Line.

Titled Interspecies, it previews at the Cornerhousem on the 23rd of January 2009 between 6 and 9pm. This touring exhibition of new commissions and existing works by artists collaborating with animals is organised by The Arts Catalyst

Artists taking part include: Beatriz da Costa, Antony Hall, Ruth Maclennan, Rachel Mayeri, Kira O'Reilly, Nicolas Primat

This exhibition, marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and brings together a group of artists who actively question the sovereignty of the human species over all other animal species.

Sounds rather interesting, and all the better for the possibility of monkey involvement. 

Exhibition runs:
Sat 24 January - Sun 22 March 2009
FREE Entry

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

It's off to work I go. 

With nothing else to comment on I'll leave you with some links. 

Jonathan Jones on the end of his ( art critics ) love affair with Damien Hirst. Spookily, the original article I read about this a week or so ago on the BBC website has disappeared. 

Does the powerful tentacles of Hirst have the power to silence the BBC? 

A survey once again reveals what we all already know, we lie about what books we read to impress people. Duh... 

As usual, when the papers writes anything about comics they are several years too late - see the Independents article on Manga

Speaking of comics, the lovely Paul Gravett sent me an email yesterday thanking me for my review of The Leather Nun & Other Incredibly Strange Comics, and telling me about a wonderful Comica event. Comica is a yearly comics festival in London, but one off events take place throughout the year under that name. 

Coming up next year is Adrian Tomine's first UK appearance. Despite being on so far away in London, it's still rather tempting. Details on Paul Gravett's website here

Anyway, I'm off to Oldham

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Pre-preview of 'By The Time You Are Real' @ RGG

With my City Life hat on I've just been for a nose round the Nicoletta Ceccoli exhibition at Richard Goodall Gallery. It may have still all been mostly on the floor, but was still pretty enchanting. Can't wait till Saturday to go and have a look at it once it's properly hung. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Internet Art @ The Tuttle Club

Manchester's Social Media Cafe, in it's second outing at the Northern last night, was a bit of a mixed experience. Although an absolute blast from the networking, drinking pear cider and comparing moo cards end, the organised part of the evening was a little indecisive. 

The key speaker was Heather Corcoran from FACT, the Foundation of Art and Creative Technologies, in Liverpool. Her talk about media arts and social media was a little mumbled and meandering, but she did highlight some potentially interesting projects and artists working on the internet. 

Disappointingly, I just wasn't quite sure what the destination was, and unsurprisingly it didn't shake up much discussion afterwards. It was like being at a not-very good university lecture, where the person speaking is obviously passionate and well informed about the subject, but doesn't seem to know where they are going with the talk.  

All this said, there are some interesting links to nose around on Heather's delicious page. 

Self confessedly I'm not a massive fan of most video or digital art. I did quite like things such as Umbrella Zombie Datamosh* or You're Not My Father, but other things seemed a little lost on me. Wikipedia may be telling me Olia Liane is seminal, but I have the feeling that in the warren like interior of the internet perhaps I am only stumbling upon the most dated of her work. 

So... Comme ci, comme ca.

* even if that damn Umbrella song in the bane of my existence. 

Monday, 8 December 2008


I have had a weekend typically free of any artistic thought. I rolled around Manchester, just missing out from doing anything interesting by a few minutes. It is only remarkable for the sheer amount I have slept, mucked about with bicycle punctures and politely refused to buy knock off DVDs. 

Not really connected to much, but tonight is the Manchester Social Media Cafe, which I shall be attending. Not absolutely certain what it's all about, but I'm sure if I turn up and observe though my large gollum like eyes everything will be revealed to me. 

Also, my mate Brian Gorman's recent small press comic, Borderliners, is Pick of the Month over at SmallZone.co.uk 

In Art? 

The Nicoletta Ceccoli exhibition opens at Richard Goodall Contemporary on the 13th of December. Watch this space for the inevitable Citylife.co.uk preview piece. 

P.S. Does anyone has a 54cm bicycle with horizontal dropouts going spare?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More Jonathan Jones

My fan-girl intellectual crush on Jonathan Jones continues. This interview with Mark Leckey, conducted shortly after getting the Turner Prize, cements my admiration for the chap. 

I know I'm being rather lazy and just reposting stuff by a better ( and proper ) journalist, but frankly don't want to leave my bed until someone brings me a fur coat... and a new bike... with chains on the wheels.

Almost slipped off mine twice yesterday in the ice. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Turner Prize... not really...

I gave up caring about the Turner Prize a long time ago. In fact, before I even gave that much of a crap about art. Back when I just liked pretty pictures, wanted to bathe myself in aura that went with artistic practise and hated - at the time, other - art students with a passion. 

I was too young to be swept along in the YBA explosion of the nineties, and my art consciousness emerged in the vacuum left afterwards. I just pootled  around, reading the set texts, wandered round art galleries and never aligned myself with any school of thought, apart from liking the power reception theory gave me.

Basically, the aim in completing various Art History qualifications was really to gather to tools to crush those pompous twats with fashionably teased hair, vacant eyes and perky little noses. 

Incidentally, learned I passed my MA, with a decent margin, last week... and before you ask have no intention of doing a PhD. )

I wanted to, and still want to a certain extent, crush them. I refuse to believe making crap gives artists any kind of magical, unobtainable, insight. 

Anyway, this whole line of thought was spurred on by reading Jonathan Jone's assessment of this years Turner Prize in his Guardian Blog

Out of the many professional art critics around, i think he is the one I can really get behind - Combining a certain popular, practical, audacious thinking about art with the theoretics to back it up, without getting bogged down in them. His writing is pleasantly unfashionable and free of bullshit. 

I wonder if he would be my friend? 

Follow me on Twitter

There is a spectre haunting Manchester...

.... It is the spectre of paid employment. 

This has spurred me on to master the latest, wildly popular, social networking tool. Probably indicates how marvellously uncool I am to talk about it in these terms. 

Like a toddler, I learn best through play. 

Want to know what I'm  upto day-to-day? Want to accidently turn up at the same events as me, so you can buy me large glasses of chilled white wine?

No - it's not facebook, follow me on Twitter. Linky to the righty. 

Monday, 1 December 2008

Reality Hack @ Urbis

Are you Christmas-ed out yet? The farcical queues in Paperchase and the Post Office making you want to tear your eyes out? 

I'm on the downward swing into Scrooge-osity, and however much I adore fairy lights, need a seasonal antidote.

Luckily, the new photography exhibition at Urbis looks like it could be just the boy for the job.

Opening tomorrow and called Reality Hack, the exhibition consists of a series of newly commissioned works from experimental photographer Andrew Paul Brooks, documenting his journeys behind the scenes of Manchester.

First glance seems to indicate that it'll be riffing of that contemporary surreal atmosphere which made me fall in love with the Jamie Baldridge exhibition at Richard Goodall. ( Incidentally, you still have a few more days to go see that, since it is finishing on the 7th.)

More images can be found on Andrew Brooks website, and a there is a more in depth feature over on BBC Manchester.

Friday, 28 November 2008

If I Had A Monkey I Wouldn't Need A TV @ Castlefield Gallery

They might have misspelled my surname, but - once again - it's pleasing to have something up on the City Life website.

My review/preview of the Laura White exhibition, If I Had A Monkey I Wouldn't Need A TV, is up on the website here.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

New Exhibitions: Laura White's If I Had a Monkey I Wouldn’t Need a TV @ Castlefield & Philips Art Gallery Christmas Exhibition

Today is the opening of If I Had a Monkey I Wouldn’t Need a TV, an exhibition by the sculptor Laura White at the Castlefield Gallery, as well as the opening of the christmas exhibition at the Philips Art Gallery

I don't know what the Philips Art Gallery exhibition is like, though I look forward to their usual pleasantly un-hip choices. 

However, I went down to the Castlefield Gallery earlier this week to write a preview for Citylife.co.uk 

Combining sculptural forms with images in a chaotic riot of colour and form, this is a absolutely lovely exhibition. Seldom does something so cerebral, with such a suffocating mass of theory behind it, turn out to be so beautiful, whimsical and ever so slightly sinister. 

There is an intensity and detail to the sculptures which I haven't seen since Kim Adams' Bruegel-Bosch Bus in The Art Gallery of Hamilton.  

You can really lose yourself in this collection of sculptures. Preview opening tonight, If I Had a Monkey I Wouldn’t Need a TV runs until the 25th of January 2009. 

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A ( not so ) Quick Guide to Arts About Manchester

Manchester is an incredibly vibrant, exciting and eclectic city, and its art scene reflects that. However, in a city as large and diverse as this, with several distinct areas just within the city centre, it can get a little overwhelming. 

To counteract this and to help you get the most out of this city has to offer, here's a brief guide to some of the major and not so major galleries around Manchester. 

From the big internationally acclaimed civic institutions through to small artist led galleries and emerging artists cropping up in unlikely places, from the wilds of the Northern Quarter to the cosy enclaves of university campuses, artistically, Manchester has something  for everyone. 

Civic Galleries 

In terms of big civic galleries, there is a plentiful supply. Manchester Art Gallery has a great collection of art, with over 25,000 objects. The gallery has a particularly fine and extensive collection of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite painting and objects on permanent display, including the seminal painting by Ford Madox Brown, Work. But the gallery is not restricted to the nineteenth century, with a collection spanning six centuries, it also has a significant examples of eighteenth century and contemporary works. Whether you want to gaze upon William Blake or Lucian Freud, there is something for you. 

Located on Moseley Street, just opposite the central library and St. Peters Square - as well as on the very edge of China Town - Manchester Art Gallery is housed in two fine Victorian buildings. These building are joined together with a stunning glass atrium and stair well area, designed by the award winning architect Sir Michael Hopkins, and opened in 2002 to critical acclaim.

The atrium itself has been used as a space to display art work, as demonstrated this summer by these amazing sculptures by Korean artist Choe U Ram.

Current temporary exhibitions include the block busting Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelite Vision, which is accompanied by a display of Pre-Raphaelite Works on Paper from the Collection.

Totally different but equally exalted is Urbis, which stands out in the middle of Manchester's shopping melee pit like neatly crash landed spaceship. Striking up into the ( often) gloomy Manchester sky it looks like a cousin of the Pompidou Centre with it's guts tucked in. 

Incredibly trendy, Urbis styles itself as a " exhibition centre about city life." The current exhibition displays the political works Emory Douglas, the first and only Black Panther Minister for Culture. 

Housing a popular cafe, a top floor restaurant which offers unequalled views of the city, as well the painfully cool, seasonal bar The North Pole located in an adjacent marquee, Urbis is a social, as well as cultural, hub. 

The Cornerhouse, nestling next to the Oxford Road Station, has, along with its cinema, book shop and bar facilities, three floors of dedicated exhibition space. 

Unfortunately the quality of the exhibits can be quite variable, positive reaction Masaki Fujihata exhibition was undermined by the current exhibition, The Interwining Line

The downstairs cafe-bar area, which affords an unrivalled people-watching panorama across the hurly burly of Oxford Road, currently features stills from the Academy Award nominated animated film, Persepolis

Not to be forgotten is the Chinese Arts Centre in the Northern Quarter. The Chinese Arts Centre is the international agency for the development and promotion of contemporary Chinese artists. 

Commercial Galleries

Sometimes it's fun to see how the other half live, and even more fun to pretend to be them. Not everyone has the dosh to take a trip to a commercial art gallery as a customer, but that shouldn't stop you having a good nose around. The city centre has several interesting commercial art galleries, most notably the two Richard Goodall Galleries in the Northern Quarter and the Philips Art Gallery on Tib Street. 

Richard Goodall Gallery's first location is on Thomas Street, which claims to be the UK's leading fine art photography, limited edition silk screen rock poster art and low brow art emporium. To you and me that's very expensive posters and toys. Still it's nice to see what the über trendy lot spend their money on. 

The more recognisable arty face of RGG is the Contemporary Gallery, located in a specially built, state of the art building on High Street in the Northern Quarter. In real terms it's just by that weird set of flats with the old market facade and just opposite Sweet Mandarin.

Currently on show are the stunning photographs of Jamie Baldridge , recently reviewed for Citylife.co.uk, this exhibitions finishes on the 7th of December. This crowd pleasing show is to be followed by an exhibition which promises to be even more popular, in the wildly sought-after illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli's largest exhibition to date. The galleries' flickr photostream gives a good sense of what the gallery space is like and what kind of exhibits they put on. 

Although not nearly on the scale of the Richard Goodall Galleries, the Philips Art Gallery is worth a visit. Hidden away on Tib Street, this tiny, charming space is always full of a broad and interesting selection of art. The displayed work are refreshingly unfashionable, ranging from contemporary representative and impressionist works, through to fifties and vorticist paintings. Their Christmas Exhibition opens on the 27th of November and runs until the 20th of December. 

Artist Run Galleries

There are two great artist run galleries, the Castlefield Gallery and International 3. Opening this week at the Castlefield Gallery is a solo sculpture exhibition by Laura White called If I had a Monkey I wouldn't need a TV.

University Run Galleries 

Moving away from the city centre and up Oxford Road, the universities unsurprisingly provide a couple of great art venues. Manchester Metropolitan University has a sequence of gallery spaces on it's All Saints Campus, such as The Holden Gallery, which recently housed the Third Manchester Artists' Book Fair. Continuing the bookish theme, this gallery currently contains an exhibition called Reflective Stories, displaying examples of sketchbooks and journals from all levels of art practitioners. Reflective Stories continues to the 12th of December.

Just up the stairs and around the corner from the Holden Gallery is the criminally under used Link Gallery. The gallery currently contains works by current and former students of the Interactive Arts course, in a practically named, Interactive Arts Alumni Exhibition, recently preview on Citylife.co.uk.

Any discussion about the arts around Manchester with out mentioning the Whitworth Art Gallery would be deplorable. This stunning red brick Victorian building is located on Oxford Road by Whitworth Park and is part of the University of Manchester. 

It is home to some of the UK's finest collections of art and design including modern and historic fine art, prints, textiles and a rare collection of wallpapers. It's current and eclectic season of temporary display includes the stunning Putting on the Glitz, a celebration of burnished wallcoverings - an exhibition opened by Laurence Llwelyn-Bown earlier this month - and cloth & culture NOW, an unrivalled textile art exhibition featuring works from artists hailing from through-out Europe and Asia. Cloth & culture NOW is closing December 12th. 

Arty Pubs

These are just a few examples of the more traditional places you can find art around Manchester. If your looking for more edgy, atypical art there is a whole plethora of less typical places to try. For example the recent Illuminations exhibit which was held in a disused building on Whitworth Street West. 

However, its the city's pubs, bars and assorted drinking holes which often turn up trumps. Common in the Northern Quarter has a frequently changing decor supplied by emerging artists and illustrators. Strange Manchester staples of Odd and Odder have always had arty feel, and now Odder holds monthly exhibitions, providing an opportunity for local artists and designers to exhibit their work for free. 

The famous Matt & Phred's Jazz Club in the Northern Quarter currently has on display a selection of images entered in the Shot Up North photography awards. 

If you like your art with a little more narrative, you should head over to The Lass O'Gowrie. This classic Victorian pub, just off Oxford Road by the BBC,  has a changing display of comic book art in the snug, currently featuring Adrian Salmon's Cybermen comics for Doctor Who Magazine. 

Art Resources 

This is only representative of a tiny selection of venues to see art around Manchester and as the end of the year approaches, old exhibitions taken down and new put in their place, this information will date very quickly. 

However, do not despair, since Manchester is served by some great arts resources. 

The first is the Arts List, covering every genre of visual and performative art, this is the definitive listings for the Manchester area. 

Another useful resource to keep an eye on is Citylife.co.uk. Though the arts section is still, somewhat, in development, it promises to improve quickly. The online version of the Manchester Evening News supplement, it provides previews, news and reviews about entertainment and arts around the city, as well as competitions. 

The Art Guide is seemingly a resource with yet untapped potential. Formerly the Castlefield Gallerys e-flyer, it provides details of many grassroots arts activities, as well as links to various arts organisations and collectives in the North-West. 

There are probably many other great venues that I've failed to include, and if you feel I have left something significant out, be reassured it was not out of spite and please let me know via comments. 


... for now. 

All images in this posting are used under Creative Commons, and sourced from Flickr

Manchester Art Gallery by Zaw Towers.
Urbis by Max Blinkhorn
Cornerhouse by Zaw Towers
Whitworth Art Gallery by Chupacabra Viranesque.  

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Self Congratulation

I have my first ever byline in the print copy of City Life tomorrow. It's an rather edited down version of this preview piece about the Interactive Arts Alumni exhibition at The Link Gallery at MMU.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"Seasons Greetings" @ Philips Art Gallery

Nothing like coming home to an invitation to free champagne after a rather annoying day.

Just received an invite to the opening of "Seasons Greetings", a Christmas Exhibition next week at the Philips Art Gallery on Tib Street. Vastly cheered by the tongue in cheek painting referencing the stuckists.

Monday, 17 November 2008

A Taste of Honey @ Royal Exchange

Just been to see the ( almost ) sell out A Taste of Honey at the Royal Exchange Theatre. 

This is probably the most hyped play I've every seen. Everyone and their mama wants to go see it... along with Les Denis and half the cast of Coronation Street. 

It's 50 years since it was first performed, so this should be significant for this Salford based play. 

Unfortunately it's been allowed to date quite badly, and is just a bit mish-mashy. The musical direction is mostly great, but there are a few really odd and incongruous choices. 

It has brilliant moments, when the actors seem to hit this brilliant cadence and unity and it strikes into the heart, but then the next moment it's back to gibbering, bickering nonsense. 

I know that is probably the core of 'kitchen sink', but what was once biting social commentary is now frothy and twee. There far too much of that of elbowy, smug idea of non-existent Mancunian past and identity which colours nearly all discussion of the cities history. 

Anyway, it still has its moments, the high point certainly being the last sequence before the interval AND definitely not the bitter, decrepit last scene. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Jamie Baldridge, Pilgrims & Peregrines @ Richard Goodall Gallery

After the slightly iffy Intertwining Line at the Cornerhouse, it was nice to go and see something I unreservedly liked. 

The Richard Goodall Gallery knows how to please a crowd, which I guess it pretty important if you're going to be a commercial gallery in these financially disastrous times. I might have disliked some of the Niagara and Yumiko exhibition, but if I had that fabled fist full of fifties I would have thrown it at one of Niagara Opium series. 

Millionaire admirers take note. 

A nicer version of these thoughts should go up on Citylife soon, but I thought I'd mention how much I enjoyed Pilgrims & Peregrines at the Richard Goodall Gallery today. 

Jamie Baldridge's photographic prints are on many levels a little dodgy and rather tacky, but they are also entrancing and beautiful. They remind me of those Tool videos, and of the more phantasmagorical of  Jean-Pierre Jeunet's films. 

A Dainty Phylectic

One major problem is that online images do absolutely no justice to what the original, full sized prints look like! When I saw the preview images I thought it looked rather twee, faux-surreal and generally derivative nonsense. But in real life, with the beautiful lustre and textures which the prints contain it is a completely different story.

The exhibition continues until the 6th of December. They are then followed by an exhibition of the wildly popular Nicoletta Ceccoli. You'll know exactly who I mean when you see the images. 

Anyway, I'm tired and need to prepare for a day of helping out at the NOISE festival tomorrow, and  Thought Bubble this weekend. 

Night Night. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Putting on The Glitz @ Whitworth Art Gallery

Writing things for Citylife.co.uk really drives home to differences between writing for different audiences. 

I'm really rather pleased with the write up I gave the opening of Putting on The Glitz at the Whitworth. It is certainly nice to have professionals to clean and buff my writing up into something rather smart and shiny. 

The opening was the fanciest thing I've been to since the opening of a commercial print fair at the Royal Academy last year. 

The exhibition itself? It is rather beautiful, but remarkably small as well. It is a bijou  box of magpie delights. 

Friday, 7 November 2008

Opening Bonanza: Charmeuse, The Intertwining Line & International 3

Attempted to go to the opening of three at exhibitions yesterday and failed! 

Did manage to make the opening of Charmeuse, the Ladyfest art exhibition, though I did sadly miss the performance by Fabiola Paz.
This is a wonderful, really professional and high quality exhibition. Understandably, Laura Robertson seemed really pleased and proud of the exhibition. Anyhoo, my first attempt at writing content for Citylife.co.uk is now up and has some nice quotes from Laura and some of the organisers and artists.

Then I swung by the opening of The Intertwining Line at the Cornerhouse. Didn't really get much out of it, mostly because the gallery was insufferably hot and crowded. I can't handle crowds and couldn't locate the free booze. Shock and horror! Though I shall return midweek to have a proper gander and think about it.

I kicked my heels for far too long waiting for my buddy and then tried to head over International 3 for the opening of the Magnus Quaife exhibition. We rocked up just when it was closing. Sadly, I cannot wholly blame my mate's tardiness, since we both didn't really know where we were going and managed to get lost. However, the people outside did seem in a pretty good mood, so perhaps it's a good one and worth returning to.

Tonight is magpie's delight, Putting on the Glitz at Whitworth Art Gallery, opened by the one and only Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Tomorrow, The Third Manchester Artists Book Fair

Monday, 3 November 2008

Third Manchester Artists' Books Fair @ MMU 8th November

After my Thursday of being triple booked ( and that's if you don't count internship in the day ) , I'm glad this is on Saturday. 

Third Manchester Artists' Book Fair at the Manchester Metropolitan University, All Saints Campus, is a one day event which is open to the public 11am to 5.30pm. Artists' Book can be pretty varied, so hopefully will be an interestingly eclectic affair. 

Frankly seems a bit like an industry junket, and there is very little information about exhibitors available online. However, I do know my friends over at The Manchester Comixs Collective will be in attendance.  

The Interwining Line Preview @ Cornerhouse, 6 November

Bloody hell, everything and their mum is happening this Thursday!

Not only is it the launch of the Ladyfest visual art exhibition, Charmeuse, it is also the preview of the new exhibition at the Cornerhouse. Called The Interwining Line: Drawing as a Subversive Art, the exhibition presents artists' drawings alongside early and
contemporary animation, highlighting their expression of political and social criticism

Taking over all three galleries of the Cornerhouse, the preview will start at 7.30pm and feature a special performance by artist Naomi Kashiwagi, who has previously been involved in that Manchester institution Apartment. She will perform her own unique vintage DJ style performance art, of which there is a rather old profile on the BBC Manchester website. 

Naomi Kashiwagi doing her arty, DJ stuff

Incidentally, it is also the BIG LAUNCH of this years Oxjam Manchester, at Trof 3, or the Deaf Institute, or whatever you wanna call it, 7pm - 2am & £5 entry. Details may be on the ubiquitous facebook , but still looks like a bloody good party. 

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Manchester Ladyfest, CHARMEUSE @ Zion Arts Centre

Hooray for Ladyfest!

What, you don't know what Ladyfest is? Ladyfest is a community-based, not-for-profit global music and arts festival for female artists that features bands, musical groups, performance artists, authors, spoken word and visual artists. This years Manchester Ladyfest is based at the Zion Arts Centre in Hulme. Running between 7th & 9th of November there is a full line up of talks, workshops and music events. Unfortunately, they've stuck the most comprehensive and comprehendible list of events on their facebook page. I may be addicted to facebook like everyone else, but wish it wasn't becoming so bloody ubiquitous. 

Anyway, getting my knickers in a twist about the accompanying visual arts exhibition, CHARMEUSE. A full list of exhibitors can be found on the ubiquitous facebook

It's free on the preview night, Thursday 6th November 6-9pm, and will be open during the Ladyfest festival weekend. Tickets are priced from £5, open 7-9th November 10am - 11pm,  available from www.wegottickets.com

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Endurance @ The Studio, Royal Exchange

The Endurance is utterly mental but complete bloody brilliance. 

The best arts experience, whether it be film, theatre or any of the visual arts, should endow the next few hours with a strange sense of unreality. I blame Ben Faulks mesmerising performance for me wrapping my knock-off pashmina round and round my neck and scurrying over to M&S to buy some thermal underwear. 

I should admit right now that this could not possibly be an unbiased review. From the moment the final raucous, lead poisoned chords of the "tin song" died away I realised I was a little bit in love. I grew up with the myth of polar explorers and all the masculine bullshit that goes with them. In recent years read enough to become aware how nutty, cruel, self absorbed and just plain stupid these fellas were, and Ben Faulks, through his prancing, performative characters, manifests this aspect in strange glory. 

At just under over an hour, this madcap, mesmeric one man play is a glorious bite sized treat. If you're looking for high drama this probably isn't for you, but if you're looking for something intricate, enjoyable and a little off the wall this is for you. In equal measures it's hilarious and fascinating, and the gently revelatory end brings together the disparate parts of the protagonist's madness into a touching and manageable parcel. 

Sadly, The Endurance is only at the Studio, Royal Exchange, for two more days. Quick, go see, be mesmerised and battered by this brilliant, insane, enchanting play. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Antigone @ The Royal Exchange

I live with a lady who has the most expressive eyebrows you have ever seen. She expresses scepticism in the move of one glorious, nuisanced eyebrow with an ease and eloquence most of us could only dream of.

The Royal Exchanges' production of Antigone was great on so many levels, but there were several aspects of it which made me wish I had my house mate's skill with the eyebrow.

The Good: The acting, with was mostly incredibly good, captivating, stepping the fine line between delivering interminable speeches, which I guess cannot be avoided with Greek theatre, and expressiveness.

The set, simple, with a funeral bier complete with charred bones and a uneven floor with a massive crack in it reminiscent of Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth 2007.

The contemporary clothes made it feel a little like we were watching an episode of Lost, but also gave a kind of timeless, post-apocalyptic feel to the whole affair that I quite liked.

Despite initially balking at the prospect of watching a play for a hour and forty minutes without a break, I didn't actually feel as painfully long as I expected. All of a sudden everyone is dead and you know there can be only a few more speeches before you're allowed to escape to the pub.

The slightly silly: The modern dance. I'm first to confess I'll always prefer prose over poetry. I like a bit of narrative with my fish supper. I can understand its purpose, breaking up the production, giving us a breather from the endless speeches and the actors a chance to change, but I really just didn't get it. It seemed rather silly and tacked on.

The army chaps in full black block desert storm regalia. It took contemporaneity a little far, and made every reference to "crimes against the state" a little heavy. The shenanigans with the riot shield just seemed completely nonsensical.

Antigone's arms. Although Matti Houghton was mostly great, there was some weird going on with her arms. They seemed determined to do with odd, mannequin like, automaton flapping. Although this gives us a sense of the highly controlled nature of the character, I frankly found it distracting, jerky and utterly inexpressive.

Anyway, don't let this put you off. I reckon I have a pretty normal attention span and didn't find it wandering once, something which is pretty remarkable for ancient classical theatre. I really did enjoy it, despite wishing I had better skills with the sceptical eyebrow.

Antigone is at the Royal Exchange until the 8th of November.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Another week: Badger Set, Are You Dead?, Antigone, Neil Gaiman & The Endurance

Once again I'd heartily recommend visiting Illuminations before it shuts down on the 30th.

This week takes on a different feel than the last few. The end of the Manchester Literature Festival means my week is not base so much on literature, and is taking a rather theatric turn. Sadly I haven't been able to find any art events to hunt down, other than the 1st Badger Set party at the Nexus Art Cafe. This is a chance for everyone to rendezvous at Nexus for their new monthly party. They promise live music, comedians, games and even a raffle. Sounds rather pleasant and quaint. The fun kicks off at 7pm on Saturday 1st November and entry is only £2.

Although I count myself as a big supporter of the Nexus, and was mostly impressed by Are You Dead? I was a little disappointed by one aspect of it. Frankly having a bit of familiarity with taxidermy, I didn't think the quality of the work was that high. The poor quality of the taxidermy on the staircase installation was a little distracting. Despite being a vegetarian I don't really have any problem with the use of dead animals, just wish the work had been done a little better. You can go see for yourself if you hurry, Are You Dead? ends this Saturday.

Tomorrow I'm going to see Antigone at the Royal Exchange. From City Life's rather inconclusive review I really don't know what to expect. Antigone runs until the 8th of November.

On Wednesday the mighty Neil Gaiman is promoting his new book, The Graveyard , at Manchester University. A chance to see if Tony Lee was really telling the truth or not about him working on Doctor Who comics for IDW in the US.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to fit in a trip to see The Endurance at the Studio in the Studio at the Royal Exchange. I grew up with the myth of Shackleton, a fact which drove me to read and eventually write my undergraduate dissertation about polar explorers. This, and the fact the City Life pulls together a rather more conclusive and encouraging review is getting me quite excited. Endurance runs until the 1st of November.

I have family visiting this weekend, so I'm not sure what direction this weekend will take, however there is a strong possibility you will see me riding my bicycle down Deansgate dressed as a cat on Friday night, en family and a pack of anarcho-eco-punk bodies.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Illuminations by Trace @ ServicePoint Building, Whitworth Street

One of my favourite exhibition experiences of my whole life happened in one room of the Pompideu centre in spring of 2006. Rodney Graham’s film Rheinmetal/Victoria 8 ( 2003 ) was a projection of white powder slowly falling onto and settling on a typewriter. It was eerie and beautiful, a significant personal experience with a work of art, that I have never really spoken about but have carried with my since that time. Some of the aspects which so touched me about Graham's piece seem to be repeated in Illuminations at the ServicePoint Buildings.

I haven’t enjoyed, and been impressed by, an art exhibition as much as Illuminations in an awfully long time. Consisting of work from over 30 recent graduates from the Slade School of Fine Art, they exhibit under the collective name Trace. Although not all of the exhibits are of the same high quality or originality, nearly all are evocative and interesting. The decision to place the show within a blacked out and disused building is rather clever. Individually illuminated pieces seem eerie and beautiful, and the darkness covers a multitude of sins. Weird corporate fixtures and fittings sink into the background, loom strangely and unimportantly in the corner of your eye and while also adding to the whole experience. Another significance of the blackout/illumination choice is that it makes the exhibition difficult to photograph, eliminating one of my major bugbears with peoples behaviour in gallery spaces.

To wander around the building in near dark is a wonderful experience. The projected art is ghostly and beautiful, and seems to bring down a comfortable silence and air of contemplation. I also like that it is not a circular exhibition, that when you get to the end of the exhibition you do not spill out at some predetermined destination complete with shop. You have to retrace your steps, revisiting exhibits which you passed perhaps only minutes earlier. With video art this is a real gift, since with luck you find yourself presented with parts which you may not have seen again. With the most beautiful ones, such as Sam Belinfante's Tube Lines or Permille Leggat Ramfelt and Richard Bevan's Point this is a real gift.

So go find this exhibition and have a relaxed wander, free of excessive curatorial direction and do the interpretation for yourself. It's great, and I hope this style of exhibition can take over from the prissy, didactic and tired trends that seem to rule the roost at the moment. Illumnations is at 4 Whitworth Street West, the Deansgate Station end, and runs till the 30th of November. It is open Mon-Fri 12-7pm, Sat/Sun 1-5pm.

Manchester Blog Awards - In Pictures

Wednesday night I went to the Manchester Blog awards with my trusty photographer side kick Sam, he was the chap with the phallic slr that kept leaping around and snapping away down by the stage. It was loads of fun and a chance to see the blogerati off the internet and in Matt & Phreds. The readings were great, especially liked Mr. Chicken and Pies, pictured below. However, the creative writing did seem to all focus on internal dialogues of dysfunctional morons, but I suppose blog writing lends itself to that. Anyway, thanks to the legendary Manchizzle for organising it, you can read about the winners of the evening here. Anyway, I know that other people have done a much more through job of blogging the event, but wanted to post a link to Sam's set on Flickr.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Another busy week: Blacksad, Mervyn Peake @ MAG, Manchester Blog Awards, Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Illuminations and Dystopian Novels

Wow, what a weekend! Spent today recovering, writing event reviews for the Manchester Literature Festival Blog. Friday's event, Destroy Powerpoint is online and my attempt to render the glourisously beery monstrosity that was Vvoorp Vvoorp! at the Lass O' Gowrie into comprehendible words should follow shortly. I have not even began trying to put into words how utterly divine it was to meet the lovely Hannah Berry and Paul Gravatt on Sunday.

I'm sure Hannah will forgive me, because the second Blacksad book came through my door today and demanded a few hours of my time. Unfortunately, as observed with the previous book by my multilingual goddess of a house mate, the translation is not that great, even clear to an uncultivated hack like me because the spelling of one of the characters name keeps shifting inexplicably.

This week is not quite as geeky, but still has a claim to nerdy fame. It starts a tomorrow with an event I am blogging for the Manchester Literature Festival. with the son of the author of Gormenghast, Sebastian Peake, reading his father's writings by Mervyn's painting of glassblowers in Manchester Art Gallery.

Wednesday is the Manchester Blog Awards, run in conjunction with the Literature Festival and City Life. I wasn't nominated of an award, but still want to attend out of Mancunian blogging solidarity. Prepare to nominate me next year, people, for I shall be queen!

Thursday is the preview of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, which I am really looking forward to. Craft lies pretty close to my heart, as a daughter of a weaver and craft maker. Yes, that website is pretty ancient, but it's my mama's so be respectful! After the beautiful disappointment which was Cloth & Culture Now, and fully aware of the proverbial meat market which crafts fairs can be, I'm looking forward to see what my reaction will be. Like fine art, there are some rather strange, and to an outsider rather inexplicable, hierarchies within the craft field. The use of contemporary in the title flirts with me shameless, tempting and disconcerting, like a burlesque dancer with an adams apple.

On Friday night is the start of Illuminations, which I have previously blogged about.

If all that wasn't enough, I'm also covering a Dystopian Novel Debate on Saturday.

Good job I'm unemployed, otherwise I would be shaking myself to sublimely cultural pieces!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Science Fiction Ruins My Life @ Studio Salford

Why is it every time I go to the theatre I laugh so much less than everyone else?

As previously noted, even in the hallowed UFO that is the Royal Exchange Theatre, even during the epic that was the recent performance of Chekhov, people laughed their heads off at events and lines which I reckoned were more conducive of a wry smile or a private giggle.

Science Fiction Ruins My Life is a funny play, just not THAT funny... Perhaps it was because it was a comedy, people were just more ready to laugh than me? Perhaps I actually, really and tragically am a terrible old gin fuelled crone? Take this line for instance, delivered with no comic weight at all: “I’ve got stuff on me mind.” Guy in the front row almost fell off his seat.

Anyway, I enjoyed the play. It was sweet, flirts with being twee and the attempt at a life affirming ending is pretty clunky and unsuccessful. However, there is a real affection for the freakishness of the geeks and obsessives who actually inhabit the worlds of comic book shops and mutual-masturbatory sci-fi, fantasy and roll playing clubs. Thank fuck, we are not treated to another bullshit rendition of the “cool geek”.

The madcap happenings are actually both hilarious and familiar, at least to someone who’s current life plays like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It is the socially awkward twattishness of the characters is what makes this play both touching and fun. The geek culture references and post-modern touches are inserted without the self satisfied gurning which are their normal accompaniment.

Science Fiction Ruins My Life is at Studio Salford ( in the Kings Arms near Salford Station) until Saturday 18th October.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Hannah Berry Interview

Last week I had the pleasure of having a quick emailed based chat with the author of Britten & Brülightly, the lovely Hannah Berry. The results of this are finally up on the Manchester Literature Festival Blog as a wee warm up for Between the Panels on Sunday.

Illuminations @ ServicePoint Building, Whitworth Street

My good friend Sam pointed this out to me. Interval , a artist led organisation which focuses on digital media practice, are presenting a odd but intriguing sounding show at The ServicePoint Building on Whitworth Street West next Thursday, 23rd of October till the 30th.

Illumination offers:

"Works by more than 30 exiting and innovative young artists, incorporating photography, film, performance, video, drawing and installation are conceived or repositioned for this exhibition.

Individually illuminated, each work interrupts both the darkness and the functionality of this non-gallery space revealing alternative and intriguing approaches to contemporary and traditional media.

I'm not the biggest fan of media and performance art, often seeming gimmicky and quickly dating, but this group show sounds really quite promising. It sound really quite curatorially interesting and a bit of an experience.

From the 24th it's open Mon-Fri 12-7pm, Sat/Sun 1-5pm and is FREE.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

William Holman Hunt & The Pre-Raphaelite Vision @ Manchester Art Gallery

If you need proof that the nation is ageing just go to a civic art gallery or museum at 11.20 on a weekday. Just three days in on Manchester Art Gallery's blockbuster-esque 'William Homan Hunt & the Pre-Raphaelite Vision' and the gallery is awash with grey heads and bent backs. They crawl around the edges of the exhibition, following the curatorially dictated path, devotedly reading the plaques and texts on the wall. They make me think of decrepit Theseus', who have been told they will escape the Minotaur's maze if they follow the edges and keep turning right.

There seems to be a trend in art viewing at the moment to stand as close as possible to the painting, after of course reading the plaque which tells you the meaning and import of every detail, and waver your head back and forth, as if trying to suck up every detail of the surface. Maybe it an unknowing attempt to bathe your brain in the health giving aura of the work of ART. Anyway, it's pretty annoying for everyone else who stands a respectful three foot back.

The exhibition is actually surprisingly small, but in a compact way, packing a lot of stuff in. Thankfully they have taken a few steps away from white cube-osity, painting the walls rich colours that complement the jewel like tones of which Holman Hunt was fond. Organised along chronological lines, favourite paintings are complemented by objects associated with them, books, engravings and photographs. It's a panoply of Holman Hunt merchandise. It really feels like a showroom, which is probably more appropriate than most would think. Holman Hunt's paintings sit within an unspoken, but undeniable, Victorian context of religious commodities, think Hardman & Co., stained glass windows, Pugin & The Great Exhibition of 1851.

The narrative qualities of all his paintings are alluded to by texts on the walls. However, although it's fun to play name the biblical/Shakespearian provenance, it's pretty clear we still don't really have appropriate tools to talk about these works.

Some old geezer confused matters further, gesticulating to the earliest version of 'The Light of the World' and declaring to his poor wife that this was the "original", a term I believe to be near useless when discussing Victorian art, and especially as an iconic and endlessly reproduced image as Light of the World. It was interesting to see some reproductions and appropriations of the The Light of the World, but I don't think they accurately communicated the sheer mass of reproductions which were made. I'm certain they could have papered half the walls with the knock off versions which have been made over the last 150 years.

Anyway, don't get me wrong, it is an unquestionably beautiful exhibition of works, but beautiful an illustrative and saccharine manner. The paintings are all amazing examples of painterly craftsmanship and iconographical narrative communication, but there has always been, to me at least, a lack of depth to these works. I have never liked the calculated geometry of the woman's faces, massive doe eyes, ruler straight brows and long, almost phallic, noses. A perfect example of why I just don't get the PRB is 'The Triumph of the Innocents'.

The cherubs frankly freak me out. They are not angelic, they are more like the goblin baby in Outside Over There ,they are bugged eyed changeling babies. There is something both magical and stingy about the atmosphere Holman Hunt's boggled eyed, sinewy creatures inhabit. I can fully understand how others might fall in love with these overly perfect renditions, but I find them both oppressive and depressing. The perfection makes them unreconcilable, they lack the forgiving softness of Raphael or Rubens.

Then again, if you like Holman Hunt, and believe that focusing on a painters biography is a good thing, this is just the exhibition for you.

William Holman Hunt & The Pre-Raphaelite Vision is at the Manchester Art Gallery until the 11th January 2009.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Busy Week... Manchester Literature Festival, Science Fiction Ruins My Life @ Studio Salford & William Holman Hunt @ Manchester Art Gallery

It's a busy week in Manchester for me.

Firstly, I realised this morning that I had completely forgot that Manchester Art Gallery's Holman Hunt show started two whole days ago! The Guardian manages to sound both priggish and polite about it. I always felt that PRB ( Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, gah!) eclipse and confuse our understanding of the Victorians, as well as sound like a all round bunch of twats, naval gazing and shenaniganising each others little ladies. However, despite my, albeit, wavering contempt of the PRB, there sounds like there may be some interesting curatorial decisions made about displaying all three artists reproductions of the endlessly reproduced and disseminated Light of the World.

Wednesday evening holds Science Fiction Ruins My Life at Studio Salford. I have, in fact, just clicked that Studio Salford is above the Kings Arms. Shame on me!

Next weekend is jam packed with events from Manchester Literature Festival, for who I am guest blogging. It started last week with Lucky Voice , and continue with Vvorp! Vvorp! on Saturday, which has an ever expanding guest list of fearful proportion and import. Science Fiction, combined with my foot/mouth habit, could quite possibly ruin my life. Wait and see. Guest include my favourites Ian Edginton and D'Isreali ( I have been re-reading Scarlet Traces, Stickleback and The Great Game in preparation ) , but supposedly I should be more excited about Gary Russell and Dez Skin.

On Sunday, Between the Panels, combines painterly noir-author Hannah Berry ( interview over at the Manchester Literature Festival blog should be up soon ), Eagle Award hog and 2000ad regular Bryan Talbot and the man behind Jack Staff and Burglar Bill , Paul Grist.

Both these events involve more or less powerpoint, so in preparation I want to attend Destroy Powerpoint on Friday at Manchester Art Gallery, "Flash fiction author and novelist, David Gaffney subverts PowerPoint software to bring us witty and moving tales of corporate life, revealing how the human spirit manages to thrive between the templates."

Friday, 10 October 2008

Buy Art Fair @ Urbis

The Buy Art Fair is a chance to see how the other half live. Those with a fistful of fifty pound notes to throw around.

It must be a bit of a coup to get it at Urbis, that stunning building in the centre of Manchester, just across from the hell hole which is the Printworks and Next, the screaming baby and harried mother magnet. Urbis: It's shiney, it's cool, it's the Pompidou Centre with it's guts tucked it.

Even if you don't have a sweaty fistful of cash to sink into some 'art', the Buy Art Fair is an interesting experience. there is just so much art, compartmentalised into odd sized booths. A lot of it is quite cheesy, there are rather a lot of naked women and flowers in acidic colours on milky smooth surfaces. Dull and frankly rather 80's... In a bad way.

Richard Scott - 'pick an orange' from Beyond The Sea

But other stuff is rather lovely and cute, there are some glorious painterly pop-y images, birch trees and now and then stunning miasmic combinations of colour and form. It is interesting to see lots of images in a gallery space removed from that pernicious didacticism. Among the cacophony of images it is surprising what pictures take your fancy.

My scrubby art date was transfixed by photorealistic renderings of rivers and forests. If he had a pocket full of fifties he would have brought something. Perhaps, since he was headhunted by a model agency to photographed as Jesus, after his modelling debut.

Buy Art Fair is at Urbis until the 12th. There are various talks and 'debates', but these seem so aimed at those with purchasing power, they look pretty pointless for the rest of us.


Look... not a single mention of the credit crunch.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Thought Bubble Convention in Leeds

To tell the awful truth I have never been to a proper comic book convention. I once went to a Dreddcon a few years ago when I lived in Oxford. I hid in a corner drinking gin and tonics, peeking round the corner at the people who seemed to know how to behave. I counted manifestations of beards and leather jackets and said hello to Colin MacNeil. Wild achievements to be sure.

I entertained vague hopes of going to the Birmingham International Comics Show , but lack of forward planning meant that financial and other issues prevent attendance. Frankly, I mainly wanted to go for a bit of a party and see Dave Gibbons presentation about Watchmen.

However, I just found the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds. Part of the 22nd Leeds International Film Festival, it looks much smaller and less established than the yearly leviathans of Bristol and Birmingham. It is this, combine with their utterly adorable website, which makes this convention look very appealing.I know that the comics scene is not as hegemonically masculine as it once might have been or is thought to be, but I think a little bit of untypical feminine shyness has been holding me back.

As a part-time tom boy, I got into comics through 2000ad and Judge Dredd. The more "female friendly" stuff followed only years later, discoveries of Daniel Clowes and Love and Rockets were important, but my roots are in the Megacity.

Outside of my personal experience, it seems more women are reading graphic novels/comics, either in the "novel" form or more targeted forms. Manga, supposidly child and female friendly, now has it's place in the western mainstream, as demonstrated in the recent Manga Show at Urbis. The graphic novel is now established too, which is great, and there are more women creators, such as Leah Moore , with her indisputable pedigree, and Hannah Berry. ( Who, incidentally, will be at Between the Panels , part of the Manchester Literature Festival, which I'll be blogging. )

Anyway, Thought Bubble is being positioned as a " four day annual event which celebrates sequential art in all its forms." Sounds just my cup of tea. Though Leeds is still a bit of a treck, hopefully there will be enough time for me to get my ducks in a row. Perhaps even, though this could be just be a complete fantasy, get a train ticket for which I won't have to sell a kidney for.

The convention is on the 15th of November, but there are other events running between the 13th and 16th. It is a little discouraging that they haven't announced any of them yet, but, as instructed, I shall 'watch this space.'

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

'Are You Dead?' @ Nexus Arts Cafe

There's a new show coming up at the Nexus Arts Cafe. Sounds rather interesting, especially since my favourite museum is Biologiska Museet in Stockholm.

The blurb states:

''Are You Dead?' is the latest exhibition in Nexus Art Café. Three contemporary taxidermists explore the relationship that we have with the animal kingdom. Disturbing, shocking and often highly amusing this exhibition challenges our perceptions of the animal kingdom by placing them in an unexpected context.'

Its opening is this Thursday 7 - 10pm and then runs until the 1st of November 2008.

There is also apparently a collection of stuffed animals in The Manchester Museum , which I should go and check out. Shamefully, despite previously studying at U of M, I haven't checked out the Museum yet.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Brilliant tv not for me...

My god, I love the internet, and adore the BBC iplayer.

Not only does the iplayer provide me with eastenders whenever I fancy it, but other excellent BBC goodness. Unfortunately, looks like a current spree of classic arts programmes isn't going to make it onto the iplayer. Presumably there is some copyright problems with putting the programmes on the internet, but it is still rather disappointing.

Programmes I'm missing out on include the seminal The Shock of the New yesterday and Ways of Seeing tonight and until Wednesday.

Just so we know what we are missing there is a series called The Art of Art TV, which is going to be available to all us tv-less internet nerds.

Guess I'll just have to go back to trolling internet forums and bitching about Merlin.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Niagara & Yumiko: The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful @ Richard Goodall Gallery

This exhibition is undoubtedly surfing on a current visual zeitgeist which has been building for years. Interest in Japanese visual culture and tattoo culture is certainly at a high point, coinciding with fashion's waxing and waning fascination with punk rock and the completion of rockabilly and burlesque's absorption into the mainstream. I would have to, however, disagree with any suggestion that either of these artists are particularly important.

I found the representation of women at times a little disturbing, particularly in Yumiko's fetishised, overtly sexual, gangly teenaged figures. There expressionless faces, with disconcertingly uniform mouths, gaze out with empty, pseudo-seductive eyes. The unreal, decorative mixture of pattern, simplified female form and carefully rendered flora and fauna, are located in an environment so utterly flat that mercury would not know where to roll. Though whimsical and blatantly sexual, the contourless flesh and expressionless faces are extremely un-erotic.

Niagara's women are a little more familiar, and are much more powerful than Yumiko's sex doll figures. Though comic book like, they have a textural depth and scintillating lustre. Most of her works, coming from a location somewhere between a 40s 50s Noir Film and pulp comics, are highly attractive, but lack depth and articulation. This problem is resolved in her more recent Opium series, which I found extraordinarily beautiful and sensual. In these, female faces with the flagrant yet dreamy eyed expression of Tamara de Lempicka women gaze out from patterned, textural, glimmering jewel like surfaces.

Niagara's work made this exhibition for me, her figures, although as fetishised and fantastical as Yumiko's, have a certain dialogue and power within them, which I feel the other artist's lacked. To me they come from a similar place as Jaime Hernandez's Locas, sexually self-aware, punky, plucky women who exist in an reality, similar, but quite divorced from out own. A show of Niagara and Hernandez would certainly be interesting, the dialogue between different approaches to women and narrative could certainly be illuminating.

Niagara & Yumiko: The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful is at the Richard Goodall Gallery until the 19 October 2008

Sunday, 21 September 2008

cloth & culture NOW @ Whitworth Art Gallery

This exhibitions ticks all the boxes it sets out to tick. It's beautiful, international and thought provoking. The selected works function well together, complimenting each other in the placement around the galleries. Altogether, this is probably one of the nicest ways to spend an afternoon in Manchester, set as it is within the comfortingly restored-Victorian setting of the Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford Road.

However, I do take issue with two curatorial practises which are key to this exhibition. Firstly, I would like to question the emphasis it places on the artists nationality. Although textiles obviously has it's place within every nations identity, the promotion of this paradigm reinforces the folksy, craftsy status that textile art has. The works from northern European countries are graceful and simple, the types of thing to be seen in a high class version of Ikea ( though certainly not the unlamented Ilva), the Japanese works are either cutesy or oriental. The choice of works seems to beg the perennial question, rephrased as 'what came first, the cultural stereotypes or the textile objects?'

This kind of display of textile art has been a long time coming, but mostly in its choice of objects does not seem to question the long standing and contentious art vs. crafts paradigm. Some of the works, however, are wonderful, even a challenge to the doyen of crafty-fine-art Greyson Perry.

The other aspect I take issue with, which is nothing new and seems to have become a integral part of current curatorial practises, is the didactic manner of display. The visitor is closely directed and told what to think. Yes, it could have been a lot worse, more in the vein of the previous hang of the Tate Modern, but it is a bug bear of mine which I refuse to resign. I guess I want some terribly unfashionable mix of Victorian, post-modern and a curatorially naked display practises.

This being said, the exhibition is quite beautiful in an easy-on-the-eyes way, though unfortunately disjointedly strung out over different parts of the Whitworth. Although this should not be viewed as problematic, since the Whitworth is a singularly wonderful gallery to wander around, full of interesting and quite oddly placed thematic patches of art. The works in the upstairs room are much more interesting, perhaps because they are mostly sculptural. Perhaps, also, this is because they are less stereotypically craftsy or scandinavian-lite, and are displayed in a gallery with more space and light.

The exhibition is beautiful, and will certainly pleasantly fill an hour or so, but the choice of works, and the reliance on overly didactic and unoriginal ideas of cultural identity leave an ever so bitter taste in my mouth. I know that some people may look at me and say 'but that's the point', to which I would have to reply 'that's what I don't like about it...'

I'm trying to start a movement where the visitor tries to side step the instructive controls that are so prevalent in galleries today. When in a fine art gallery lets ignore the oh-so helpful and informative panels placed next to the objects. Will you join me?

cloth & culture NOW @ Whitworth Art Gallery until 14th December 2008

The Whitworth Art Gallery, on Oxford Road, is open Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm and Sunday 12 - 4pm

Friday, 19 September 2008

Nexus Art Cafe: Eating & Eaten

One of my favourite not-so-secret secret places in Manchester's Northern Quarter is the Nexus Art Cafe on Dale Street.

It's a great place to pause, unlike most commercial coffee spots, whatever you've been doing. For example, in my desperate search for a copy of Halo Jones, it is perfectly located between Travelling Man and Forbidden Planet. Perhaps I just love it here because of the associations with those I love most in Manchester. It is unfortunate that it is no longer a night cafe, since in that capacity it was an unique and wonderful stop pit on an evening life, and I'm certain saved a few lives. However, it's opening hours now: 10 am - 7pm Monday to Friday and 11 am - 7 pm Saturday are a little more usual and probably guarantees a better income.

The current exhibition is Eating & Eaten, a show of works exploring food. Although the art works are of variable quality, they fill the cafe and they comprehensively utilise different types of display areas around the site. The relaxed cafe atmosphere and the eclecticism of the work and methods of display means that when substance is lacking it is not so apparent. If I saw most of these items in a more austere white-cube setting I would find them pretty unimpressive, but here they work far more successfully in their environment. I particularly like Marie Stephen's The Three Graces with Pasta, 2008, but then perhaps I just rather like squidgy bums and spaghetti a little too much.

John Yeadon's Vanitas are graphically attractive, playing with text, the significance of words in relation to food and consumption and images of food. Unfortunately there seems to be a lack of depth to the works, and the use textural and visual qualities in the images feels rather familiar. Although this familiarity is not overly problematic, they sit comfortably in the space and are quite beautiful to look at, I am left wanting more.

Eating & Eaten runs until the 27th of September. Nexus Cafe is always worth a visit and is probably my favourite place to hangout and snaffle wifi in the city centre, safe in the knowledge that there will always be something half interesting to look at.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Manchester Literature Festival

Been looking through the line up for this years Manchester Literature Festival, which runs 16 - 26 October, and getting rather excited.

Luckily, for someone who does not particularly like poetry, there are plenty of non-poetic events to keep me occupied.

Of singular interest is the all day pub-Comic con at the Lass O' Gowrie on the 17th called Vvorp Vvorp! Not just because my mate is doing the marketing press jiggery for the event, but I also get to finally meet Ian Edginton, one of the finest writers. If you haven't read Scarlet Traces or Leviathan, take my recommendation and go read them now! Seems to have a rather high Doctor Who content, which I feel like I am either too young or too old and embittered to get a real kick out of, but still looking forward to it.

Not content with that for a geeky bonanza, there is Between The Panels the next day. An illustrated discussion with graphic novelists sounds like a visual treat to my big ol' ears.

There's also some Mervyn Peake based shananigans, and though I haven't read any of his work for many years, his Gormenghast books were a major presence in my teenaged psyche. Ask nicely, and I may even show you my tattoo inspired by a passage in Titus Alone.

Anyway, there is a who tonne of other, less geekly georgeous, stuff going on over the period of the festival, some of which, with any luck, i'll be bringing you in blogafied form.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov @ Royal Exchange Theatre

I know very little about Chekhov, apart from a few abysmal student productions seen many years ago. However, recent experience has taught me that with a little patience and an open mind a 19th Century novel can be utterly mad and stealthily sexy. With this in mind I approached Chekhov's Three Sisters, not knowing what to expect and was more than pleasantly surprised.

At first I was a little flummoxed, the profusion of characters being a little overwhelming, but relationships and feelings quickly became apparent. Who was who and wanted what and who became clear, but not clear enough to belie and belittle the following plot.

The story builds slowly, and though it become evident that this is not going to be a cheering play with a hearty ending, there is a bitter sweet comedy through out. This shy humour was a little spoilt by members of the audience who guffawed at things where perhaps a wry smile would be more appropriate, but was still sweet and touching. The characters discomfort with themselves, their feelings, situation and each other is gently acted, and means that you would have to be a complete egomaniacal twat not sympathise with them.

The ending is where the audiences patience is repaid. Although at no time the play becomes boring and loses the audience, it is a rather slow and steady build up to the finale. The denouement is heartbreaking and intense. Although the play is not uplifting, leaving me feeling rather lonely and sad, the ending brings the kind of macabre hope which colours the end of Heller's Catch 22.

I could not single out a single performance as weaker than the others, and when the flaws in the central trio of sisters gets a little annoying, it is clear that the problems are with the difficult characters, not the actresses performances. The set, lighting and design is beautifully understated, with the final garden setting being almost magically simple, with stunning magnificent birch trunks.

So, although this play is imbued with false hopes, frustrated relationships, failed romance, thwarted ambitions and seems to set up every loving relationship for an inevitable ending in miserable debacle, there is something rather soothing about its practised and poised pessimism. You come out half strangely comforted and half wanting to phone your ex. This is a tale of loneliness, but it is a lovely one.

Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov is at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, till 11 October 2008