Whitworth (2nd visit)

After my interview at MMU I took a look around The Whitworth Gallery. Much of it was closed due to exhibition change over (from the looks of it they were taking down the work I saw when I last visited – if only I had been a few days later!) However I enjoyed taking time to appreciate some of their new acquisitions, as well as the Tibor Reich collection upstairs.

There were three pieces that caught my eye in the central room that overlooked the gardens. These were:

“Do You Think of Me Often?” by Des Hughes (2011, bronze)

This sculpture appeared to be made up of household cloths, rags and balled up socks, arranged in the form of a dog. Despite the less than conventional make up the pose and ‘anatomy’ were incredibly accurate. The choice of medium reminded me ancient oriental sculptures, contrasting sharply with the textile items it mimicked. The title is a question, which instantly encourages the viewer to contemplate who it might be directed to. The form of a dog hints at a bond of friendship, or a relationship, and domesticity. Perhaps it is directed at an ex-partner? The homely materials of tea towels and socks serving to reinforce this reference.

 

“Fireplace” by Laure Prouvost (text on plaque)

A simple black plaque hung on a narrow stretch of wall read “Ideally here a beautiful large fireplace where we could all gather” in write letters. To me this is a brilliant example of conceptual art. The piece itself is unremarkable in making or design but the words conjure a narrative in the mind of the viewer, a unique visualisation. The use of the pronoun “we” and open-ended nature of the suggestion immediately include the audience and encourages them to imagine their own story related to this.
The words could also easily give the impression of a marker set out when moving house, a record of the writers intentions or at least desires and hopes for the future.
It is all the more effective for being placed on a narrow piece of wall similar to a chimney breast. Placed anywhere else the effect may be lessened. Though placed outdoors, in a public space, would certainly bring a surreal quality.
After researching the work of Laure Prouvost since I discovered that she has won the Turner Prize and has a diverse portfolio of work. I intend to research her further to gain ideas for my own work.

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“You’re Never Gonna Get Me Fucking Jerk” by Rita Ackerman (1994, acrylic on canvas)

This painting depicts a pre-pubescent girl (though her gender is ambiguous, reminiscent of cherubs in classical paintings) grasping a heart in one hand and a snake curled around her body. The composition, colours and use of symbols such as the heart and serpent (as well as the ambiguity of the figure’s gender) draws connections with historic religious artworks. The snake could be interpreted as a phallic symbol or, as it is in biblical terms, a metaphor of sin. While one hand nonchalantly grips a human heart the other appears in the pose of the common children’s trick “got-your-nose”, apparently mocking the creature as she peers calmly into it’s vicious mouth. Behind her an angel, it’s eyes scratched out, apparently vandalised, helps a woozy looking young woman to a seat. Below her is the outline of another snake, this one appearing to be digesting a rabbit in the foetal position. The title adds an interesting dimension to the interpretation. It seems like something said bitterly to an enemy or ex-lover. This second point of view would fit with the serpent and the girls apparent disinterest.
The painting appears to be referencing art history and symbols from pop-culture or tattoo art, with their slightly cartoon, toy-like appearance and the heart and snake.

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Lastly I took a look around the Tibor Reich exhibition. He was a surface designer working in the mid-20th century. The show gave great insight into the way that he worked, demonstrating how he progressed from photographs of natural forms – such as leaves – into patterns for textiles and home furnishings. It also documented his process of designing his family home, each element carefully considered in terms of design and aesthetic. It was fascinating to see into the process and experience the light-bulb moment of linking the patterns to their starting point. This has helped me to understand another way of progressing an idea.

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