Manifest Arts Festival 2015

December 3, 2015

Manifest Poster

Manifest Poster

This July Roger Bygott, John Lynch, and I directed a city-wide (Manchester and Salford) visual arts festival:

Manifest is a visual arts festival, showcasing the talent of North West based artists in a series of exhibitions and events across Manchester and Salford.

It took place 10th-12th July 2015 and during the second weekend of the busy Manchester International Festival. The timing was deliberate so that the festival would give visitors a flavour of the creative activity going on across the two cities all year round.

The exhibitions and events in the Manifest programme were at some of Manchester’s most prestigious institutions, such as Manchester Craft and Design Centre, John Ryland’s Library, and the newly opened HOME. Artist studios across both cities were coordinated for the first time to have open studios during the festival weekend to give a closer look at the scope of art being created across the city.

This year was a pilot festival and run on the passion of its participants, and we’re so thankful for the enthusiasm and support in making it happen. We couldn’t have been more pleased by the reaction of visitors and participating artists.

Our reasons for setting up Manifest:

Roger Bygott: For me the inspiration and spirit of Manifest is about community association, trusting grassroots links and mutual encouragement. As artists practicing within this broad vibrant community we aim to help strengthen those connections and to share more widely and publicly the artistic fruits emerging from it.”

Elisa Artesero: “Many of the artists in Manifest exhibit nationally and internationally but remain based in the North West. We want to show the high standard of contemporary art being produced on our doorstop.”

John Lynch: “Artists want their work to be seen, we present the opportunity to see it.”

We even got a feature interview in a-n

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The festival was a huge success in more ways than we’d expected and we’re still receiving positive feedback about the impact it has had on participating artists’ careers. During the three days and nearly 30 different events/exhibitions artists: sold their work, had in-depth critiques with curators, they gained commissions and potential exhibitions, and were able to show their work to an audience that would not have had the opportunity to see their work otherwise.

Months down the line we got an email from Susan Gunn, one of the artists to present her work at ‘Manifest Calling’ a show and tell at HOME. She had been contacted by contemporary classical composer, Ailis Ni Riain, who was impressed by her work when she presented it at ‘Manifest Calling’, and asked if she would design the album cover for her album ‘Linger’.

The pilot festival gave us a chance to just give it a go, to test the idea of the festival and to see if it would be possible to run. The three of us had an incredibly busy weekend trying to document all the events and ensure they were running as planned. My pet project for the weekend was to try out live streaming the festival with the Periscope app to give online viewers a flavour of parts of the festival. I didn’t know how useful or popular this would be, but it turned out to be surprisingly popular, getting up to 70 live views at a time. Not bad for a fairly new piece of technology and first festival!

We ended with a closing party at media bar, Texture, which was a lovely celebration of the weekend. One of the joys for me (and I’m sure Roger and John, also) was to spend an entire weekend looking around the cities’ arts spaces, seeing fantastic contemporary artwork, having lively conversations about the artistic and cultural scene and the lives and exciting careers of those who are based here.

Although, admittedly, there was almost too much to be able to get around in one weekend, it was brilliant to have it all there to choose from, a snapshot of the kind of things that are going on (often behind closed doors of studios) all year round. To able to facilitate that in some way was an absolute pleasure, and I think we proved what we set out to do – which was to show that we live in a vibrant and thriving cultural space that needs to be showcased every so often.

As for the future of Manifest, well, watch this space.

Manifest Logo

Manifest Logo

 

All photos taken by John Lynch, and the logo and programme designed by the talented Stephanie Hamer. 

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'Quiet Beauty Keeps Me Here' Sun Bowl

‘Quiet Beauty Keeps Me Here’ Sun Bowl

I was invited to exhibit my ‘Sun Bowls’ at the ‘If Not Here Where‘ exhibition at the Didsbury Parsonage 7th-21st July 2013 to coincide with the Manchester International Festival. The exhibition was both inside the Parsonage and outside in the gardens and had a twofold approach in theme, one concentrating on if not here, then where else would you be? And the other, more contemplative theme focusing on our existence and contemporary life.

Each handmade bowl had part of a Zen poem etched onto the glass. The appearance of the words shifted in the changing sunlight, helping to give a different experience of the bowls for visitors throughout the day. I was pleased to find visitors returning to view the bowls at different points of the day to see them change appearance in the light.

Abstraction and Reflection

Abstraction and Reflection

During the exhibition, the artists were able to take up residence in the space and gardens to create more work or just be inspired by the surroundings. I was so pleased to be afforded the space and time to just experiment and focus on my practice in a very intuitive manner with no planned or expected outcome.

I found the gardens most inspiring and decided to make some temporary interventions using some of my existing work. I wanted to see how my work looked in a different context to the gallery spaces I often show in, and also to see whether the interventions inspired new work or gave new insights to the existing pieces.

Colour Blocking

Colour Blocking

I started with some coloured Perspex squares I’d been enamoured with the colour of but hadn’t previously found a purpose for. I placed them in the grass, in crevices in the trees and along the stone walls to create abstract pictures and contrasting textures. While I was working I had in mind Matisse’s ‘The Snail’ and his idea of drawing in the colour by using brightly coloured pieces of paper painted with gouache, mine, more rigid squares of plastic. I couldn’t help but make a little snail of my own as a kind of homage to the influence!

The Snail

The Snail

Looking over my square work now, I see that I was creating a little invasion of my squares which echoed fellow exhibitors’ work, Rusby and Long with their ‘Invasion’ of plain white pyramid blocks shifted by visitors around the site. My invasion was tracked only by photography which gives an impression of the site being filled with coloured squares but only really affected by six, whereas the real ‘Invasion’ consisted of a large number of pyramids.

Zen Pathway

Zen Pathway

I was intrigued by the large patch of wild flowers that sprung up in the middle of the gardens to create a beautiful picture of summer time bliss. For days I wondered if I could do anything with them and kept being stumped because they were so beautiful. The one day I brought in my poem lasercut out of wood “Everything must end/ Thus the day tries to begin/ Nothing here but dreams” and placed it gently on top of the flowers so as to be careful not to harm or break them. It immediately brought the poem to life and the summer wind animated the flowers and poem with a soft sway from side to side.

I also hung my previous ‘Happiness’ piece from a tree. It looked almost invisible from some angles until the wind blew and made it turn and reflect the sunlight. I initially put it on a tree in a pathway to take some pictures but moved it quite quickly because it was difficult to see until you were really up close. The other artists joked that there was something quite significant about people literally ‘walking into happiness’ but thought it best not to cause a hazard!

Walking into happiness

Walking into happiness

Reflecting on my residency, I found that even though I was often just casually playing in the space, working intuitively and to no definite end, I still kept to my intrinsic values reflected in most of my work. I like work with a temporal quality to it, there one moment, enjoyed for a time, and then gone again. It can exist in numerous states, physical at the time of making, then captured by photograph or film, or, as in the case of my ‘Sun Scroll‘ and ‘Sun Bowls‘, at specific times of the day depending on the weather.

I also enjoyed the experience of being around other artists in the peaceful atmosphere of the gardens, gaining valuable input from new people at different stages in their careers. It was a supportive and creative time for everyone, and much needed at the start of the summer after the whirlwind of my previous shows.

 

‘Happiness II’

I showed my work in the Haecceity Project at Nouvel Organon Gallery in Paris this July. It was a wonderful experience to show my work outside of the UK and to reach a new audience.

I designed ‘Happiness II’ to create a temporary projected document on the pages of the book using sunlight. I re-appropriated a line from a Stephen Dunn poem to visually highlight the transience of happiness. This meant that sometimes it would ‘work’ and other times it would not, depending on the lighting conditions. The first day it rained, but in the evening the light from the street lamps activated the work, which surprised everyone, including myself, as I had only really designed it with sunlight in mind.

The sun came out over the next few days, which made the piece work as intended. This certainly pleased me, but as an artwork that highlights the transience and intangibility of an emotion, it would have fulfilled its conceptual purpose whether the sun came out or not.

One thing I did not anticipate was that the graffiti acid-etched into the gallery window, which also projected onto the work at times. At first this frustrated me, but then I realised that I had created a piece which was ephemeral and relied totally on outside factors to work or not work, and this was something I had to accept. The graffiti was a part of the city, and that was literally becoming part of the experience of my work, for better or worse. Not unlike the experience of happiness.

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A ball hangs in the corner of a room in Magritte’s painting ‘The Secret Life’ (1928) recently shown at the Tate Liverpool exhibition. The spherical ‘thing’ appears to be in a state of being/existing in the space, whether we are there to view it or not. Although it was hung in a room full of people, I felt as if it was very much alone and I had intruded on its quiet existence, like coming across a ghost. This was the starting point and inspiration for this exhibition. The work on show is varied to say the least, but within each piece there are intriguing characters within dreamlike or surreal situations.

Starting with my own work ‘Phantom’, the sculpture is the conduit for the light phantom, giving the ephemeral being a place to exist and become whole as the light passes through the layers of fabric. Roger Bygott uses light trails in his film ‘The Photographer’; he came across the anonymous photographer while walking in North Wales and filmed the man absorbed in his own world, conjured up as if part of a dream. James Ackerley’s ‘A Brief Memento of an Intangible Dreamscape’ could almost have come from the place Roger filmed his photographer and is presented as a surreal souvenir.

The middle hexagon holds the eerie photos of Anna Heaton’s twins, blankly staring out of the picture. Matthew Barber’s photos, ‘Stranger Danger’ are based on the fear of walking home at night and how the mind plays tricks on you. The photos are similar and their repetition and placement is to make the viewer look twice at each to see the differences, to pick out where the man in the picture has moved to next. These photos frame Karol Kochanowski’s ‘Self Portrait with Elephant’, an absurd situation in a beautiful landscape to symbolize the burden of everyday life, and his ‘Breadcycle’ a piece exhibited two years ago as part of his Foundation course, which has changed with him over the years.

John Brindley’s ‘Echoes’ and Caroline Whitemore’s surreal paintings use doors and pathways as symbols in their work, which I have placed together as quite literally the doorways to the next section of the exhibition within the Foyer.

Amy Lawrence’s piece ‘Mushroom’ shows a woman pregnant with thought and imagination. Helen Wheeler’s etchings create an intangible dreamscape. Both artists invite the viewer to make their own interpretation of their work, however I feel that they are both reflective of the artists themselves, Amy’s imagination literally growing from the image, and Helen’s layered with depth of meaning.

The show reel of films from Liam Healy (‘Pray’), Fabian Beickhorasani (‘Signon’) and Exposure’s nominee Michael Scott (‘Alice in Space’ and ‘Tastes Better’) are set on two projectors to continue the ‘look again’ theme of doubles running through the exhibition and to wonder why the images are not quite the same.

Finally, there are two very different boxes which can be entered into, one is Roger Bygott’s ‘Shaman’, an ambiguous character who is difficult to decipher, keep an eye out for him as he may be in and available to give divinations, or his spirit could be left guarding his home. The other box is Robert Grundstrom’s ‘Cubicle No.2’ the dark part of the psyche which can be entered into at your own risk.

Many thanks to Roger Bygott and Paul Tutty for their help in setting up the exhibition, and to the participating artists whose work was a pleasure to curate.

Elisa Artesero

Curator