Private art galleries offer a very different experience to public ones. Less about giving the opportunity to contemplate, learn about and enjoy art they instead sell art and give the opportunity to contemplate the value of individual artworks. Public galleries are often overlooked as places to observe art. The commercial side of the art world often intimidates people, particularly students, or the commercial art displayed within them is dismissed as ‘kitsch’. I visited Spinningfield’s Artzu Gallery and the Manchester Craft and Design Centre in the Northern Quarter to see how valuable a visit to these private galleries could be.
‘Seeing Difference’, a group exhibition showing at the Artzu Gallery, displayed different artist’s vision of the world through his or her own particular perspective.
Identical locations are portrayed with differences, revealing the artist’s hidden world.
Matt Wilde portrays busy Manchester scenes in which people are doing normal everyday things like waiting for the bus or reading the newspaper. His paintings are bold and cartoonlike; the scenes are colourful while his figures are often painted with black and sketchy lines. When you look closer into his paintings you notice his use of newspapers, receipts or tickets underneath the surface of his paintings.
Michael John Ashcrot also paints scenes of Manchester. His paintings capture beautifully the contrasts between light and dark, shadows and reflections in the city.
Anna Gillespie sculpts the human form from natural materials such as acorns and bark. Her sculptures appear to be an expression of her growing concerns about the environment.
These were the artists I found most interesting in the gallery, finding the rest to be more obvious examples of commercially appealing art. The experience of visiting the gallery itself was not ideal. I would have liked to spend more time observing the art. However I felt slightly unwanted in there, despite the gallery’s website proclaiming the gallery ‘proudly stands like a beacon’ not just for private collectors and corporate art buyers but for ‘art lovers’ and ‘artists’ too. I was the only person to enter the gallery while I was there without being greeted at the door and I didn’t feel comfortable getting out a notebook and sitting to draw what I saw.
The Manchester Craft and Design Centre was a wholly different experience. Home to eighteen working studio boutiques where the resident artists both make and sell their work, as well as a café and an exhibition space this former fish market is the perfect destination for personal gifts and new craft ideas. Selling jewellery, bags, ceramics, interior accessories, furniture and paintings all the artists were friendly and welcoming whether or not you seemed likely to buy anything.
The exhibition showing there at the moment is Alinah Azadeh’s ‘Gifts of the Departed’. Alinah Azadeh is an interdisciplinary artist using processes of public ritual, dialogue, gift and narrative exchange. This is an exhibition dedicated to her mother who died in 2004 Asian Tsunami. Her Gifts of the Departed are objects taken from her mother’s kitchen, wrapped in cloth and wool and bound with texts taken from the artists blog at the time, which documented some of the almost unbelievable signs, dreams and events around her mothers death. The artist describes the process as beginning as a ‘creative making ritual of grief’. The collection then expanded into using found object and Sufi texts to create what feel like three-dimensional poems. I found the objects to be really beautiful and personal expressions of grief and belonging. The artist literally binds up the belongings of her mother with her own memories of her.
I would really recommend a visit to the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, a fun place to brows for gifts and craft ideas, to meet interesting people and to see a unique and intimate exhibition. Artzu gallery I would recommend to those either interested in the art market and its changing fashions or to those who practice their own art as a place to go for possible ideas. But don’t expect a smile!