Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Facing East @ Manchester Art Gallery

Bharti Kher’s The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own (2006)

Wow. You wait forever for a good exhibition in Manchester and three come along at once. After everything I saw this weekend, it would be so easy to forget Facing East at Manchester Art Gallery.

However after far too long snarling and snarking about the display of contemporary art in my old home town I feel it is important to recognise when I think is a job very well done indeed.

Facing East: Recent Works from China, India and Japan is a perfect study in how a brilliantly selected and presented contemporary art exhibition should feel. Despite having a distinct theme and purpose, the exhibition manages to illuminate the tropes that link the art works without being overbearing or didactically simplistic. The images and objects spark off each other without interfering in the viewers enjoyment.

This is what makes Facing East so splendid: it is so purely enjoyable without being patronising. Each of the works are in different ways delightfully fun, while maintaining the intellectual art hot sauce that I think viewers deserve. Where they are post-modern and ironic it is without smugness or complacency.

Ravinder Reddy’s Gilded Head manages to hit all the buttons: it is beautiful, other worldly and forces you to pause to take it in. It might pale a little in comparison to Ron Mueck’s Mask iii in the next room, but it is still a stunning piece of art. Similarly resonating with a powerful combination of pathos and joy, Bharti Kher's sculpture of a sprawling elephant, skin crawling with spermatozoa-esk bindi, makes you hesitate for an awkward moment in a similar manner.

Isn’t this what brilliant art should do? Gently and thoughtfully force you into a temporary kind of contemplative arrhythmia? Arresting, thought-provoking, thoughtful and fun, I feel once more reassured that these elements are not too much to expect from a display of contemporary art!

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