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An Anthology of Joy exhibition @ Contact review – highlighting the importance of community and expressing gratitude for the simplicities of the everyday

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Communal spirit is the answer to finding joy in the ‘An Anthology of Joy’ exhibition at Contact.


The everyday simplicities of love, nature, and silence act as recurring motifs to form ‘An Anthology of Joy’ collective exhibition at Contact, Manchester. Focusing on strategic resistance and perseverance, 30 artists experiment and collaborate to highlight a variety of experiences during the pandemic, emphasising the positives in a negative situation.

Organised by the Museum of Half Truths, an interdisciplinary research-led project, the collaboration featured artists with a connection to the city of Manchester who wanted to create work during the pandemic that solely expressed joy, comfort, and support for the artists themselves and the wider community.

Located in room Space 0, ‘collaborative large-scale, collaged, abstract compositions and ink text are exhibited by artists Aliyah Hussain and Dionne Pajarillage who executed workshops ‘Layers of Reflections’, which focused on the reflections of personal and reflective joy, and ‘In celebration of a Lost script’ focusing on the language of Baybayin to translate words and phrases associated with joy and peace. 

Launched on 8th October and exhibited for a duration of 15 days, walls were filled with photographic evidence to reveal an array of alternate mediums, which all portrayed the theme of the hobby. Elena Boldina’s ‘Half Stitched Peony’ photo features an embroidery hoop that is half-finished. The unfinished piece not only relates to all creatives alike due to the lack of inspiration to produce work, but the disruptions to our free time due to the opening and closing of lockdowns and the inability to do what we want. The Peony flower is significant in Boldina’s work as it inspired her to take up the hobby of gardening and planting peonies, which she features in one of her photographs. 

Sunset mountain photos of the Peaks express the work of Ela Shorska and her found hobby of hiking, representing her newfound love for the beauty of nature and the impact being outdoors has upon your mental well-being. This concept relates to the work of Sylvia Waltering, whose work shows photos of cats taken from her iPhone and posted to her Instagram when walking around her home in New Mills, resulting in the formation of an online trend #isolationcats which inspired others to go out and join in. These works portray the healing importance the outdoors has upon one’s mental wellbeing. 

A photo of a painting of a tiger being held portrays just one of the many examples of the amazing charitable work done by Lesly Brereton. Working with One Manchester housing, Brereton used her free time over lockdown to develop a group to call and check in on tenants as a means to be a voice of guidance by advising and inspiring tenants on activities they can participate in while remaining in the confines of their homes. The photograph exhibited was sent to Brereton by a daughter of Peter, who is shown in the photo holding up his completed painting after following the advice of One Manchester. 

‘The Anthology of Joy’ formulates a cyclic structure of gratitude, creating a body of positivity not to just those involved within the making process of the show but to viewers. The show highlights the importance of community and expresses how having gratitude for the simplicities of the everyday you can always find joy no matter what the situation.

About the author / 

Olivia Boileau

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