Friday, 15 June 2012

We Face Forward Manchester

Hello! So I saw a feature on the Manchester Art Gallery website about the We Face Forward exhibition on West African art taking place at several venues across Manchester, all showcasing different West African artists and art forms. I was instantly interested in this because Africa is a place I would love to visit because I feel like it's a Continent seeped in so much history and culture and I think it's a fascinating place! I feel like visiting places like art galleries is really cool because I love to do new things and discover new things, so I thought, what better way to spend one of my days off?

So I went along to the Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford Road in Manchester, taking Matt with me and we had some chicken sushi for lunch before we went in, so it was a day of mixed culture, but culture nonetheless! We sat outside in Victoria Park next to the Whitworth Art Gallery whilst we had some lunch and then we went in to have a look around! Here are some pictures from our day:

 The view from the bench we ate our lunch on.
 Matt being silly next to one of the pieces!

 This was a really cool part of the exhibition, where the artist had used the whole room as part of their piece, there were floor to ceiling beams holding various wooden and metal idols, typical of the sort of tribal sculpture we would associate with Africa. From the ceiling were hung metal, diamond shaped cages, possibly representative of the sort of restraints used during the slave trade, and the money earned off the back of it. There were also bundles of what looked like tins wrapped in material. I feel like the artists objective in this piece was the fusion of the traditional and the modern West Africa and possibly representation of what helped to make the transition between the two. At least that was my interpretation... I could be completely wrong! But with art I think the most important thing is what you take from the piece as an individual. Very pompous, I know, it's the art gallery effect!
 I really liked this piece and thought it was so interesting, some of it had been painted onto newspaper and I can definitely feel influence from Picasso, especially in terms of the formation of the faces, the way one eye is larger than the other and that both eyes are visible when the face is drawn in a profile position. I think the fact that the teeth on the figures are sort of gritted, almost bared, probably showing anguish over West Africa's position in the world is also very Picasso, particularly reminiscent of Guernica. 

 This was a really unique piece, it almost felt like living art because the room had been set up with two slide shows playing on opposite walls showing photographs captured of everyday life as the artist experienced it in West Africa, and this piece showed the modern struggles of West African people in the current economic climate in an almost comical but endearing fashion, and in a way that highlighted their modern struggle to make money perfectly. Part of the space had become almost like a 3D panoramic photograph (the picture above) the the walls showing a photographed scene of shop fronts and stalls, and in the middle of the space stood a constructed vendor's cart with all sorts of items attached to every surface imaginable. The cart was definitely Matt's favourite part of the exhibition.

 This was another display set up across a whole room, with a certain scrapbook collection feel to it. It was showing the Western, and particularly, French, influence upon West Africa and included football shirts, film posters, books and all sorts of other things!

 I was really loved how these pieces looked as they were hung, the stark contrast from the bare white wall and floor, to the sporadic rectangular merges of colour, that look like they could almost be some sort of camouflage. I thought the idea of the pieces trying to represent camouflage was great when they presented such a striking difference to the wall they were hung on. Again, that's just my own idea and thoughts on the piece, I don't know if that was the artist's intention!


 I liked this huge wall hanging, which was made completely of what looked to be woven material rags and ends, it has such an eclectic feel, and I just really liked the look of all the material woven together, it had a certain mesmerising quality! 

 Finally, the gallery had a beautiful collection of material that had been indigo dyed with various patterns, and this was by far the most impressive. It contained pictures of animals famously associated with Africa, rhinos, giraffees, ostriches, gorgeous. 

So I had a lovely time looking around all the artwork, I know this isn't a typical sort of post for this blog, but it's something nice that I did today and thought I'd share a bit of culture on my little piece of the internet. There is information about this exhibition and the other We Face Forward exhibitions on at various venues around Manchester on the Manchester Art Gallery website. Admission to the exhibitions is free, so if you live in Manchester and fancy doing something a bit different that won't cost you a single penny, get down to one of the galleries and have a look around!

I'll leave with a picture of what I was snacking on as I wandered around contemplating art, like a real grown up, or a cool hippie arty person, or something...

Eleanor x

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