Hey guys, gals and everyone in between.
This week's art conversation will be slightly different. I want to focus on a CITY and how art plays a big role in the socio-political culture of a community, instead of just focusing on different artists and their work. A city is a home to some, a playground to others and a blank canvas for those with a more creative eye. Within every city, prominent issues arise shaping the personality of an area. From gentrification and the disappearance of green spaces to homelessness and cuts to public funding, these all have lasting effects on a community. Creating art about these issues offers an alternative narrative to take charge and express yourself. On one hand, exhibitions may come and go and street art might be washed away, however, those inspired by the artwork can act as a catalyst for change.
I went to Manchester at the beginning of February and was blown away by the various styles of street art, graffiti, sculptures and murals that plastered the city. Let me be clear that art doesn't stop short at illustrations and stencils but also in the revival of listed buildings, transformed from dereliction to fantastic spaces for the community like Mackie Manor. Indeed, if I could only write down one word to describe what art is in Manchester then it would, of course, be Afflecks. Imagine: walking into a Roald Dahl book turn Tim Burton film with the sense of adventure of an Enid Blyton story, that's Afflecks. A city of art is a city full of passion. This is rather fitting given Manchester's eclectic history as a Northern powerhouse, the home of the suffragettes' movement and a metropolis for producing diverse talent.
This post will put a spotlight on three creative outlets in which art is celebrated specifically in Manchester. Let's begin, shall we?
N.B: Every day, I am thinking of different ways to develop this passion project. I want it to stand out! to have a clear brand for like-minded readers to identify with, to be a place to learn, be inspired and to enjoy over an americano or a prosecco. I hope you like this new CITY segment and that it draws you back here to read more. What's life without some trial and error!?
Art by SNIK
Festival Spotlight: THE CITIES OF HOPE
She is Serenity. Is that her name? Is that what she feels?
What we do know is that she is the creation of stencil art duo SNIK for the second Cities of Hope festival in 2018. She stands as tribute 'to all women who stand against injustice... A testimony to what they have endured and still endure, to make the world a better place, for all of us.' Located in the Northern Quarter by the old police station, she stands where many women fighting for equality have stood before. It really is a testament to the feminist movement to have Serenity there. To some extent, she reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood fearlessly marching off into the woods. No need for a lumberjack this time, she can save herself.
The Cities of Hope Festival is an inspiring concept. In a nutshell, several world-class street artists were cordially invited to Manchester to make art which voiced social justice issues. By offering these artists a space to create something which called upon observers to stop, think and digest the particular issue at hand, it acts as a mechanism to bring people together, driven by art and the urge to see change. Regardless of the festival's worldly element, home is where the heart is. And sometimes, home isn't always the kindest place. By showcasing these huge murals across the entirety of Manchester, those seeking out the festival art would find themselves in "less desirable" areas, shackled by social stigma. It's plain and simple to see that the Cities of Hope festival had a clear agenda across all levels. If anything, it proves two things. The first is that Manchester is open to everyone and anyone who wants to leave their mark there. The second is that, as a city, it is open-minded to the challenges and injustices that permeate through its own walls.
Unfortunately, the festival is no more due to what we can only guess was a misinformed bureautic decision by the man. Yet, much of the festival art still remains. In a sense, this has allowed other local/anonymous/wannabe street artists to reclaim the city for a second time and leave their own mark. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.
Art by The residents of Greater Manchester at HOME - More from this artist
Exhibition Spotlight: MANCHESTER OPEN 2020
There is just no place like home according to the timeless saying. For Mancunians, HOME is also a fantastic cultural hub for the arts. There is always something on, be it theatre, film, exhibitions or Q&As (plus great cake at their coffee shop).
One fantastic exhibition that started at the beginning of the year was the MANCHESTER OPEN 2020. It has exhibited over 500 pieces of artwork created by the residents of Greater Manchester. What's brilliant is the fact that not everyone who participated would class themselves as an artist... Hello, is that you Van Gogh? Many pieces were put together by normal people who have a creative side and wanted to share it with the community. HOME gave them a place to do this. The different levels and depth of art, from potting and collage to watercolour and printing, were unimaginable - it just didn't seem to end. There were some pieces which seemed to take direct influence from Manchester echoing the sex shops on Tibbs Street and of course, the worker bee. I had several favourites including a diary about mermaids. There were scrapbooking elements of mermaid fancy dress costumes mixed with mythical drawings and poems. It's the little things like that, that makes you realise everyone truly is on a different wavelength (all the more magical to bear witness to, I'd say). One of the more peculiar works was an empty Mullers corner yoghurt carton which had been recreated into a teeny beach, crabs and all! All the artwork was up for sale at the end of the exhibition which I thought was a nice touch as this gives back to the community and spreads a little bit of joy to the individual at the same time.
Usually, I'd plug HOME right now telling you that the exhibition is running until 29th March, however, due to the government's recent advice to practise social distancing and self-isolation, HOME's doors may already be closed. In that case, as a sign of support, why not donate to the museum for the time being? and check out future free exhibitions once we're all in a better position to enjoy publicly displayed art. I'd recommend that you read this short yet informative article from TIME magazine about how we can all continue to enrich our lives with art during these darker solitary times.
Art by Phlegm
Walking Tour Spotlight: STREET ART: THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE NORTHERN QUARTER
Described as informal but informative ‘anti-tours’, the Skyliner offers a snapshot of Manchester from a completely different perspective to those who seek it. I'm a sucker for a walking tour and would rate it 9/10. A must-do when in Manchester. There are several routes with various focuses to choose from so there is plenty of chances to learn even more about such a vibrant city.
From the get-go, founder Hayley Flynn made it clear that art will always be hidden in plain sight, especially in Manchester. Street art is designed to be subtle, to make you look UP! and to take in more than what meets the eye. For example, down John Street, you'll find small statues of exotic birds perched on a railing. Go onto Google Maps and take a look for yourself... would you have noticed those pesky black toucans if you were walking down the street? I certainly didn't until it was pointed out to me. It makes you wonder what else you miss when sightseeing in a brand new place or even along your daily commute... Again if we look at the image above, this extraordinary piece was produced by Sheffield based street artist Phlegm. Located on the edge of the Northern Quarter by a building site, many may never get the chance to come across such
an intricate design. Interestingly, it's said to be a comment about sustainability. If we could encapsulate our world in a bottle, do you think we'd live harmoniously?
The best thing about these sorts of walking tours is you can get in the know (on that insider information vibe). Apparently Manchester has its own Banksy, going by the truly inspired name of Manksy. Their style is different from Bristol's finest but easily recognisable. Hayley believes this artist may be female despite maintaining anonymity, due to the defiant feminist influence that pours through the streets of Manchester. However, this is something we will probably never find out nor need to know, just as long as they keep producing enigmatic street art. Imagine! being a tourist in your own country finding out information like that.Art source
Hi, I'm Poppy
Feminism, creativity, exploring the world & having a good time are really important to me. If you liked the above, why not subscribe to my newsletter? This is just the beginning.