The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Review: The Manchester Contemporary 2017

Klaudia Jedyka visits The Manchester Contemporary and brings us her stand out pieces


The Manchester Contemporary, a display of the UK’s most exciting galleries and artists, returns for its 10th edition. From kitsch waiting room pieces to the pop and the abstract, there is more than enough for everyone. These are the highlights from the opening weekend:

Salford’s Paradise Works gallery presented their minimalist space as a taster of what was on offer at their Politics of Paradise exhibition. One might accidentally trip over Hilary Jack’s Turquoise Bag (2016), as an unassuming bronze cast of a plastic bag placed on the floor. It is ironic that something so naturally light and free to blow in the wind is suddenly heavy and unmovable.

It creates an environmental critique on the damaging effect of plastic bags, which remain in the environment for thousands of years once disposed of. Yet it may also be interpreted as a comment on art itself, on art losing its cultural significance — on its way to become discarded and forgotten as art institutions lose their funding.

Kieran Leach’s Mid-Air, Don’t Care (2017) puts a twist on a Michelangelo’s David-like, classical-inspired sculpture. The sculpture sports pink shades and rests upon a camouflaged podium. The ensemble strips the figure of its antique solemnity and humorously merges the classical and the modern.

Continuing the theme of tradition-vs-progress is Robin Megannity’s painting Bicep (2017), which portrays a classical bust in a pastel-tinted void. The juxtaposition of an antique artwork reworked in a smooth, digital characterisation is somehow reminiscent of the internet phenomena of ‘vaporwave’. The artist succeeds in producing an illusion of the digital in an oil painting done by hand. With such works, Paper gallery accomplishes contemporary authenticity.

Exhibited by Leon Martyn, Pryce Lee’s sculpture captures the moment a paper plane hits and shatters a mirror in Untitled (2016). The piece expresses the unlikely and unexpected power of something weak and frail having the power to destroy — a reference to the fragility of life.

John-Powell Jones, displayed by The International 3, presented sculptures aiming to challenge the disconnect between meat industry and consumer. If the Booth Fits (2017) is a ceramic boot, which appears to be fabricated out of meat, with the addition of entrails and blood. The grotesque gore remains a permanent mark, an imprint of trauma experienced by both, animal and man, within the walls of a slaughterhouse.

A female energy pervaded through Goldtapped gallery’s stand. Paola Ciarska’s gouache pieces are expressions of personal freedom within one’s sanctuary. The vulnerable, the embarrassing, and the childish become exposed as the viewer oversteps the boundary and is invited to view women in a state of liberation from the pressures of beyond their bedroom, indulged in intimate acts of independence.

Furbies watch over a naked woman smoking from a bong in Untitled (2017) while another woman takes nudes in a mirror, next to her princess bed in Untitled (2016). Juliet Fleming contributes to the feminist aura with Large Digital Clitoris (2017). Its resemblance to a neck pillow presents the subject as inviting and comfortable, rather than taboo and vulgar.

Castlefield Gallery presents Omid Asadi’s Paradox (2017). The piece is a carpet, a hybrid of an intricate Persian design and contrasting loudly-coloured geometric shapes. Rather than one half of the carpet being removed, it is instead painted over as a sign of moving forward. It is an appreciation of the contributions of tradition which also fully embraces modernism and its anti-traditional tendency.

The event presented an array of artistic media, from Jamie Fitzpatrick’s twisted clown-like wax pieces, to Elliot Dodd’s 3D printed human-burger hybrid. Inspirations from previous art icons were plenty, one of them being Thirsty Bstrd’s works which explicitly appropriated Banksy, presenting his stencilled monkeys holding products from Burger King or Starbucks. Amongst original pieces by Banksy and Damien Hirst were also multiple kitsch artworks depicting Pop figures such as Batman, Deadpool, and even Jon Snow, topless underneath his cloak. Art talks, art classes, and a children’s corner were also hosted over the weekend.

The Manchester Contemporary was a quality display of the UK’s galleries’ acceptance of artistic and technological progression. New media, old ideas, politics and tackiness, the below average, and the above average were all experienced that weekend.