Manchester City is thriving with art.
From the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art to The Whitworth to the Artzu gallery, from the commissioned art that lines the street, there are an abundance of art exhibitions and centres that are free to the public.
Manchester Art Gallery is nothing short of amazing. Work from the likes of George Stubbs, William Holman Hunt, Federick Goodall and Richard Ansdell are just a small handful of artists whose work you can see there.
Situated near the heart of Manchester, the artworks there are beautifully hung in heavy golden frames in bright open rooms. The rooms themselves are vivid with pops of colour and there are over fifteen galleries in the building to visit.
The publicly owned gallery can be found on Mosley street, is free to visit and is open all week long. Unlike some conventional art galleries, Manchester Art Gallery features both “historic collections with the best international contemporary art.”
Arriving at the gallery, what was surprising was how large some of the paintings on display were. For instance, a piece called ‘Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians’ by George Stubbs was absolutely huge and it was so surreal to see. The paintings that you are used to seeing in books or that you’ve have been shown in an art class are suddenly not just small pictures in a book anymore; they are massive and portray craftmenship at its finest.
Shockingly, or perhaps not at all shocking, the gallery wasn’t as busy as it definitely deserved to be; this was the first time that an art gallery had actually made me speechless due to how visually impressive it was, paintings aside.
As well as the historic paintings, contemporary videos and films were being shown in enormous, and very dimly lit, rooms that were scattered with sofas.
One series of videos created by Neha Choksi called Faith In Friction comes to mind. on seven different screens videos of the same subject played at once. It was an almost trippy and mind-boggling experience as all the sounds played in tangent. What was even more weird was how the noises, which should have sounded more like a cacophony of unblended sounds, seemed to seamlessly work well with one another.
The next exhibition featured work by Waqas Khan’s. His detail orientated artwork appeared to be simplistic, however, upon taking a closer look at his drawings you could see the immense line work and small marks that completed the huge circles. Khan’s drawings are commendable and an excellent representation that minimalist work can take a huge amount of time, effort and patience. One review from the Guardian described his work:
“Intricately crafted using millions of pen marks, the Lahore artist’s epic, shimmering drawings capture stars, galaxies, mountains and moons. He is worthy of comparisons with Rothko and Mondrian”
The Manchester Art Galleries website describes his work as a “painstaking, meticulous and precise process” and it is clear to see why.
Another exhibition currently being showcased is work by Risham Syed which shows the city of Lahore on tiny, postcard-sized, paintings. At first, the tiny paintings dotted around the room looked like photographs until I took a closer look. Unlike some art that strictly depicts parts of our world that contains beauty, she decided to convey how her city looks whilst being transformed and its unfinished buildings.
The last exhibition was by Mehreen Murtaza. Although the room was surrounded with leafy vegetation and calming music played throughout, I couldn’t shake the thought that it felt more like being in B&Q than an art gallery. I guess you could say that this exhibit wasn’t exactly my cup of tea despite its tranquillity…
Overall, Manchester Art Gallery was a great experience which anyone should visit at least once if given the chance. The mix of historic and contemporary artwork means that there will be something that will appeal to everyone which is a rare and great thing.