Category: Art


As I ended up working most of last weekend I was able to get this Friday off. We caught the tram and went out for lunch. The new tramline runs through Exchange Square so we got off there and went to Wahaca in the Corn Exchange which is one of my favourite Mexican restaurants in the city. I especially like the Hibiscus Peppered Gin and Tonics which I recommend highly. And you won’t be disappointed by the food either. We did some shopping in Harvey Nicks and Selfridges, across the square, and had some tea and cake in Propertea, next door to the cathedral.

It was a wet afternoon and our tram tickets, which I bought on my phone, allowed us the run about in the city centre. This new route is just too convenient on a wet day. Distances I would have walked a couple of weeks ago, I now use the tram for. At one point we did the short hop from Exchange Sqaure to St Peter’s Square to go to the art gallery, then back to Victoria to visit the cathedral.

They were having an exhibition of models of a new statue for Manchester. It will be a focal point of the new St. Peter’s Square, just outside the gallery. Apart from Queen Victoria, Manchester’s statues are, mostly, of dead Victorian male grandees. So, in an effort to redress the balance the new statue will be female. And it’s not just an attempt to be politically correct, it will honour a woman from Manchester who did, arguably, more to further the emancipation of women in the UK than any feminist activist since. It will be of Emmeline Pankhurst, the woman who campaigned for and won the right for women to vote on equal terms with men. She is dead but she is a woman so at least she fits one of the criteria. They had a vote a while back as to which woman should be honoured. Emmeline Pankhurst won by a country mile. I voted for her.

We now get to have a say on which statue will be put up. Six models have been made and they are on show in the art gallery. You can vote online or at the exhibit. Here are five of them.

And this is the one we voted for. It shows Emmeline Parkhurst and two other women, possibly her daughters who worked with her, striding out, powerfully linked, with their ‘Votes For Women’ sashes across their chests. It’s a strong confident pose and I think it would look good in the square. Some of the others looked a little precious to be outdoors. This one fits in with the tradition of statues in the city. We voted for it and so did some visitors from America we got talking to. The pose reminds me of the pose in the statue of Boudicca, the ancient British Queen who burned Roman Colchester, London and St Albans after being treated badly by them, and her daughters by Westminster Bridge in London. I was able to do a history lesson.

Boudicca and her daughters statue for comparison. OK, there are no horses or chariots with blades sticking out of the wheels but there are the three women and there is a similar strength in the pose.

We also took in an exhibition of paintings by Manchester artist, Wynford Dewhurst. Born in Manchester he painted in France and, later on, back in England. I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of him. He painted in the Imprssionist style and they are calling him Manchester’s Monet. He did paint some of the same subjects as Monet in the Seine Valley where Monet painted. We liked them. This one, of the English countryside, was my favourite. You can practically smell the dampness of the autumn leaves on the ground and I loved how he got depth into the picture by the use of colour on the trees.

We also went into the cathedral. They are still ‘voicing’ the new organ and we were lucky enough to hear it yesterday. Not that you can hear it in these pictures of course. It sounded fine to me but someone with a trained ear might disagree. The original organ was destroyed in WWII during the Manchester blitz. Its restoration marks one of the final parts in the rebuilding of Manchester after that conflict, 70 years after it finished. We like to think about things in Manchester and get them right. It’s been paid for by an anonymous local doner. A very generous gift, these instruments are not cheap.

Another part of the bomb damage has also just been put right. We also found the new stained glass window, the Hope Window, that has been put in east end of the cathedral. The bombing that destroyed the organ, along with much of the cathedral, also destroyed all the Victorian stained glass. It has taken 70 years to put it all back, the last piece being the Hope Window. All the glass put back in is uncompromisingly modern and, I think, works well. There is 20th century glass in the medieval wing of the church and it looks great. I’ve never seen what the Victorian glass was like; probably like the glass you see in churches and cathedrals across the UK. All very worthy, beautiful but not exceptional. What you see in Manchester Cathedral is very special indeed.

 

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Local artist, Dave Draws (I’m suspecting that’s not his real name, apologies if it is) has been doing a massive mural on a wall by the Exchange Square entrance of the Arndale Centre. He has a very distinctive style and does maps showing off local landmarks and businesses in, mostly, black and white. He started with Manchester city centre and then moved on to suburbs like Chorlton and Didsbury and areas like the N4. He’s done a Manchester City map (with added sky blue) and a Manchester United one (with red). You can buy the maps or have them on coasters, mugs, cushions and the like. It’s proved popular and, as his fame has grown, he’s done the same for Leeds, Liverpool, Chester and so on. I’ve seen one of New York as well.

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His work has become popular and bars, cafés, hotels and offices across the city have commissioned him to do something on their premises.

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The Arndale Centre Mall has got him to do a map of Manchester featuring all the Olympians and Paralympians, who live or are based in the city, who have won medals in Rio over the summer. There are a satisfying large number. Across the map, among the landmarks, you can find little figures involved in a sport with their names next to them. Some of the athletes have already been in and have added their signatures to the artwork.

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The ones that haven’t signed yet may be able to do so on Monday. On that day there will be a big parade through the city to officially welcome back all the medal winning athletes. I’m not sure of all the details but some of it will be along Deansgate. They had one of these parades in London back in 2012 but this year the honour has fallen to Manchester. Having Manchester City and United in town we are good at, and used to, these things. It’s going to be in the afternoon, the schools are closing early so people can attend. I have the day off so I’ll go in and see if I can snap an Olympian or two. Greg Rutherford, with his red hair, might be easy to spot unless he’s busy getting his dance right for Strictly Come Dancing. Likewise Claudia Fragapane, the cute little gymnast. It’s going to get colder over the weekend, so anyone thinking they might be seeing Tom Daley in his speedos is probably going to be disappointed. We did win a lot of medals coming second in the rankings for both parts of the Olympics so it will be an impressive show. 

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I went on the search for some more of the works from the Cities of Hope street art festival from back in May. I’d heard that there were two pieces behind Cord Bar on Dorsey Street, just off Tib Street, in the Northern Quarter. And so it proved.

One was a homage to a local writer, Anthony Burgess. He was famous for writing ‘A Clockwork Orange’ which was turned into a movie so violent that it was banned for years. In spite of being a classic you still don’t see it turning up on TV even now. A quote for the book in included in the art work…

‘You can destroy what we have written but you cannot unwrite it’

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Next to it is a huge art work called ‘War Child’. A blindfolded boy holds a rifle. The rifle pulls his blindfold tighter so he can’t see at all. His shadow fills the rest of the wall. It’s a very powerful piece.

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I spotted this image of Alan Turing. The guy who decoded the Enigma Machine that shortened World WarII, then moved to Manchester to develop the world’s first working computer, Baby, here in the city laying the foundations of our modern world. He committed suicide when he lost access to his work through being discovered to be gay. Manchester and the U.K. have moved on since those days but, as we have seen in Orlando in the last 24 hours, a lot of the world has yet to make that leap.

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And I liked this satellite on the wall.

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On Tariff Street I found this one. It’s across the street from the huge ‘iceberg’ artwork on the side of Hilton House. I must have spent so much time looking at the one on Hilton House that I failed to notice this behind me. There’s another one by the same artist of an elderly couple kissing but I couldn’t find it on this wander.

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Back in 2013 there was a disasterous fire in the old Dobbins department store on Oldham Street. It destroyed a rundown, but attractive, Art Deco building. In its day back, in the 1930s, it was a must visit shopping experience when Oldham Street was one of the city’s premier shopping streets. World War II did it no good at all and new shopping developments, notably the Arndale Centre, caused Oldham Street to go into terminal decline. It’s now one the the main thoroughfares of the ubercool Northern Quarter and is lined with independent businesses. No doubt the Dobbins building would have an a renaissance but they think someone homeless got in and lit a fire that got out of control and the building went up and was beyond saving. Well that’s the story. At the moment it’s a surface car park but plans have just gone in for more apartments on the site. They look decent as well.

I’m not worried about losing a surface car park but I hope the plans take into account the  stunning new piece of street art that has been done on a wall overlooking it. It’s been executed by a local artist from Blackburn, a former cotton town north of the city. It’s of one of the natives of New Guinea in their full finery. I know Blackburn and the people don’t look like this. It’s another of the Cities of Hope Festival.

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Meanwhile, away on Hilton House, the huge piece of artwork has been finally completed. It’s about migration which is a thorny problem in Europe, and much of the world, at the moment.

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There’s an undistinguished, early twentieth century office building on the edge of the Northern Quarter where Oldham Street dog legs across Great Ancoats Street and becomes Oldham Road. It’s not a thing of beauty having none of the presence and attention to detail that the office buildings in the city centre had at that time. It has the words ‘Zen Offices’ stencilled on it in bright green. I can’t think that was its original name, they wouldn’t have been into names like that in those days. I’ve never really noticed it before. If I’m looking at buildings round there your eyes are naturally drawn to the magnificent curved glass walls of the Art Deco Daily Express Building and I’ve noticed some other little tiled Art Deco buildings in the area that need a bit of tlc.

But this building has got my attention because it has become home to two of the Cities of Hope artworks. Looming over Oldham Road is probably, in my opinion, the best of the ones that have been done. It’s a pictures of a man who looks like he’s in despair. The model for the painting actually lives in Manchester. I’m not sure what his story is but I saw a photograph of him looking at it with the artist. He was described as a ‘service user’ which implies he needs some form of help to get by in life. I’m hoping that this painting will give him a massive boost and help him overcome whatever problems bedevil him. I love the hands. Hands are notoriously difficult to draw or paint. The artist has managed to get them just right, get the colour and the texture of the skin right and do it on this massive scale while on a cherry picker suspended above the city. It’s a epic piece of work.

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On the other end of this building is this city in a bottle. A painter guy was getting out of his van dressed in paint spattered overalls. I asked if it was his. He laughed. Turned out he was here with his mate to paint one of the offices inside the building. We all have our talents I suppose.

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In spite of Manchetser being called Cottonopolis, most of the mills that produced the thread and the cloth were in the Lancashire towns to the north of the city. The raw cotton and the finished cloth flowed through the magnificent warehouse and office buildings in Manchester and created the wealth that built the Victorian city. There were a few mills in places like Ancoats but hardly any in what is now the city centre. One such, on Binns Place just off Great Ancoats Street, is the Brownsfield Mill. It’s an historic one that has been restored. Nothing seems to be going on inside at the moment. No offices, no apartments. It was originally a cotton mill but at the beginning of the last century it became a factory building aeroplanes, one of the first places in the world that did so. That industry died in the city many decades ago and decamped to Bristol (civil aviation) and the Ribble Valley, north of the city, where they build military aircraft. 

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It does look fine now it’s been restored awaiting a new use. The side of the building facing Great Ancoats Street used to be joined to another, now demolished, building, revealing a slab of concrete instead of the warm, red brick. It has been used to provide a site for this piece of street art, part of the Cities of Hope Festival.

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Hilton House is a rundown 1960s office block on Hilton Street in the Northern Quarter, the new bit that is developing around Tariff Street. It must have looked incredibly modern and smart when it was put up but the years haven’t been kind and now it looks more decrepit than the older buildings around it. I’ coming round to 1960s architecture and I think this one could look quite smart if they did some work in it. Being where it is, it could happen. It’s already got a cool bar on the ground floor.

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This week it’s become one of the buildings that has become involved in the Cities of Hope festival. Street artists have come to the city from around the world to produce some street artworks across the Northern Quarter. The art will address social issues that affect us. One of the artists involved is from Syria. I’m interested to see what they produce, something sobering I imagine. 

Hilton House has two artworks. On the Port Street side of the building a crew called @Nomad_clan have produced this piece. I caught it when it had just started. You need a head for heights for this kind of art, it usually involves a lot of safety gear and a cherry picker. 

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And here’s the finished art.

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On the Tariff Street side of Hilton House @nevercrew have been working on this huge artwork. It’s like an enormous crystal iceberg. This was it earlier in the week.

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A couple of days later it looked like this. I’ll have to go back and see what the finished artwork looks like.

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I went looking for some street art. Apparently, Manchester is going to be having a festival of it this month. Nine of the best street artists from around the world are coming to the city to put up work at various sites in the Northern Quarter. I like street art. If it was on the side of Central Library or the Town Hall I wouldn’t like it but, in the N4, it positively adds to the vibe of the area.

Stupid me thought they’d already done the work and spent an afternoon touring various blank walls. It’s actually starting on 21st May and will last nine days. Something to look forward to if I can find them all.

So I had to be content with this piece I found on Paton Street just off Piccadilly.

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And these pieces were in Hare Street on the side of Common Bar on Edge Street in the N4.

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After the meeting with the people from Dig The City I had a wander about thinking about plans. It had been a grey morning but by lunch the sun was back out again and there was some warmth in it.

I had a walk down to the John Ryland’s Library on Deansgate. It’s one of Manchester’s treasure houses filled with beautiful illuminated ancient books and manuscripts. It’s all housed in a glorious, Victorian Gothic building that visitors mistake for a church. The reading room is like the nave of a Victorian high church and the ‘saints’ in the stained glass windows are the great and the good of English Literature. The building contrasts wonderfully with the extraordinary modern Armani store across the plaza. Among its treasures there is a scrap of the oldest edition of St John’s Gospel known to man.

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They had an exhibition on ‘Magic, Witches and Devils.’ There were ancient books on display opened at interesting pages on these subjects including some on black magic opened at pages where you could read a spell. In Latin though, so I won’t be raising the Devil any time soon. Though, of course, the Devil has been raised in Manchester in the past, most notably in the library of Chetham’s School, just along Deansgate from the John Ryland’s, where he seared his cloven footprint into one of the desks with infernal heat.

But I hadn’t come to look at these books, fascinating though they were. I’d come to look at another part of the ‘Be Still’ Festival that is on in different sites across the city. The work on show in John Ryland’s was by artist, Ghislaine Howard. She was in London on the 7th July 2005. The day before London had been celebrating winning the opportunity to put on the Olympic Games in 2012. 24 hours later we were stunned by a series of terrorist attacks on the London Underground and the iconic double decker buses. 56 people died and hundreds were injured and traumatised. London went into a state of shock with people, at first, wandering about not knowing what to do. Getting home was difficult as the transport system ground to a halt and people had long walks to distant suburbs. 

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Ghislaine Howard was caught up in the general chaos. She noticed the pictures of people in shock, looking after each other, helping each other out, on TV and in the papers. She did these paintings, based on the photographs, as her response to the day. They were behind glass so it was hard to get pictures in the dimly lit room. 

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I went back to Manchester Cathedral again to take a look at the artworks that have been put there as part of the ‘Be Still’ Festival that is on in multi sites across the city for Lent and Easter. In the cathedral there are these beautiful giant pots. I thought they’d look good in a garden, if you owned Chatsworth House of course. The artist is Julian Stair. The pots are so vast that they can only be fired in industrial kilns, the kinds that are used to fire bricks. They are actually sarcophagi, designed as places where people could spend eternity. They are beautiful but I’m not sure about standing in one of the tall ones for eternity but the shorter ones, where you could curl up, look very comfortable.

Here are some pictures of the pots. I like the ones that include the modern stained glass windows in the ancient windows.

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Here’s a little video about how he creates the pots….