Review: Open Art Exhibition at HOME Showcases New Crop of Talent From Manchester and Beyond

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The Manchester Open Exhibition at HOME opened its doors to the public at the weekend.

The exhibition displays 543 works from across Greater Manchester, including paintings, photography, print, audio-visual, and spoken word.

aAh! Magazine sent three of its best art and culture reviewers to take the pulse at the show.

As well as getting a sneak preview of the artwork, students Ellie Tyson, Ellie Richards Coldicutt and Ella Williams also managed to speak to some of the artists whose work is staged at the show.

Here are their thoughts on the exhibition:

Ellie Tyson

Whether it’s the traditional watercolour of Mancunian Way by Sue Mann or the contemporary collage of I Was A Stranger by Mancsy, by Manchester’s very own Banksy, walking around the exhibition gives a warming sense of home and familiarity. 

With the only requirement for entry from artists being that they are from Greater Manchester, it’s no surprise that there are so many different representations of the city region through a range of different artistic mediums.

There is something strangely touching about seeing so many different people’s idea of Manchester all in one place. Whether it is the iconic images of the Northern Quarter or a less recognisable shot of A Hulme Afternoon, it was generally the pieces with Mancunian heart and spirit at their core which enticed the most.

Elena Richards Coldicutt

Chorlton artist Kat Preston specialises in the female form and aims to fore the view to take a different perspective on how women’s bodies are traditionally represented.

 She said: “My work is based on exaggerated female form. I make sculptures cast in plaster. My work explores female sexuality, and empowerment.

“The two pieces I got in were Touch Me, where there’s a dual play on wanting to feel attractive and display how good I feel and dressing up, but at the same time, because of that, having to repel unwanted attention.

“The other is An Ode to the Venus of Willendorf. The Venus of Willendorf is one of the oldest sculptures ever found, 250,000 years old and has these big hips, a big belly – that was the ideal beauty then.

“And so I was looking at today’s ideal beauty which we’re completely bombarded with in today’s media and I wanted to reclaim a different ideal beauty where, curves and humps are beautiful and strong and powerful.”

Is your work inspired by an ‘outdated’ beauty standard you want to bring back?

“Yeah, and how I create the work is all very intuitive as well – the concept has come afterwards. I get a piece of clay and I feel my way through, and these exaggerated female forms depict my emotions and how I feel inside. So I try and embrace my insecurities.”

How long do they take to make?

“The process is quite long, so I make them originally in clay, which can take a day-day and half. Then I let it dry, then make mould out of silicone, and then let that dry, then cast in plaster, then finish it by painting and sanding.”

As it’s a long process do you find yourself noticing things you didn’t at first?

“Once I’ve made it and when I’m going through this long process, yeah, I get to think about how I was feeling when I first created it. I notice different shapes.”

Was there a specific reason you chose this material?

“I’ve only been doing sculpture for a year, so I just learnt it all off YouTube and books, and plaster was the more readily available material. You can sand it and remove bits you don’t like and make a smoother surface, which is a process I quite like, to get the finish you want. Touch Me was about 15 hours of sanding, trying to get it to this beautiful tactile surface.”

Is this your main style? Or is this just a current theme?

“I always do female form, that is my genre, but usually my work is 2D. They’ve got more character so more limbs, faces, but they are of a similar style to my sculptures.”

How long did it take you to develop your style?

“I drew a lot as a kid. How I draw is a very automatic process, so I’ll just scribble and discover from that scribble. That’s how the women started, so about seven years ago.”

Do you find that men react differently to your work?
“Interestingly, I find that men like the more classical shapes whereas the curvier ones, they’re less prone to like. But saying that, I’ve sold one of these to a bloke.”

Have you ever had someone critical of you? If so, how did it affect you?

“I did a year at art school, but felt the art school experience was very conceptual, but my work is very intuitive and emotive. So, I got criticised a lot for my work. I quit, I’m an art school dropout, it didn’t work out for me, that was quite damaging. But I’m doing me now, and people are responding to it and I’m so glad that I ended up sticking with my style.”

Ella Williams

Artist Lowri Evans’s visual performance, Wanted: Manicure For The Right Hand, is being showcased at the exhibition. The video shows a woman in São Paulo who sets up a stand on a bridge and advertises that she needs someone to cut the nails of her right hand.

Lowri says the inspiration for the piece came from “a particular time of my life from living a long way from my real home and feeling the need for human connection. A broken heart helps to inspire me as the pain makes me remember that I am alive.”

Former Man Met student Lowri is originally from the Midlands but says Manchester is now home. She said: “It’s nice being so close to the art school as it’s where I found my style. I love that someone has stencilled on the window of the Grosvenor building ‘Make art again’.

“That quote’s been there for years. Every time I walk past, I think ‘that’s a great mantra for people’ because it’s a reminder to keep on going. It’s beautiful because I first encountered art in Manchester, and a lot of the people who I connect with are people that I met in MMU.

Her advice to budding artists is simple: “Go to galleries, go to openings, go to theatre, expose yourself to widely differentiated art. If you’re looking for a part-time job, then try and get them in those places.

“Even in the bars of artsy areas because you’ll become a part of a community of creative people. Go talk to people, ask people out for coffee if you want to know something about what they do.

“There’s no hierarchy, people like connecting with different people. I always think ‘what are the new and young artists doing? What are people that don’t come from an institution making?’

“That’s often where the most exciting things are happening, even if they don’t have funding or experience, there’s always a flame and a spark with everyone.”

The Open Art Exhibition is on until 29 March at HOME on First Street, with free admission.

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