An Exhibition for Modern Living

It’s not often when you search ‘what’s on’ on a gallery’s website that you find something you love. Occasionally you come across something that sounds like it could be interesting but never have I been so pleasantly surprised to see Matthew Darbyshire’s name on The Manchester Art Gallery’s website. He was an artist I discovered right at the end of my degree; he became a huge influence in the idea of the collection. The Fenwick Collection was born with his Exhibition of Modern Living in mind. I designed the layout of my plinths in the same style Darbyshire displayed his Exhibition of Modern Living– I allowed my viewer to walk around my grandma’s figurines just as Darbyshire encouraged his viewer to walk around his show room of desirable objects. So to finally walk around Darbyshire’s piece myself was something of a moment.

There was so much I could relate to in Matthew Darbyshire’s work. I could sense the notion of gentrification, the multitude of aspirational objects and the use of plinths to empower a humble object. I was slightly underwhelmed by the position of the installation Exhibition of Modern Living. It felt tucked away in a corner. It needed the whole room to itself. Regardless I walked around inspecting the carefully chosen and positioned objects. Darbyshire commenting himself that at this point you are “entering a curated space.” Louis commenting; at this point bored with the exhibition, “It’s just like being in John Lewis.” This, in a way, means Darbyshire has succeeded in showing his viewer the idealisms of Modern Living in a curated art space.

Gallery Hopping

Now I’m back home I’ve been visiting all those friends and relatives I’ve been missing so much- both in Manchester and Nottingham. Whilst I was there I managed to chuck some art in too. I was a little disappointed by Nottingham Contemporary’s offer; although there were many well-known names, there was nothing really that sparked anything. The most noticeable piece for me portrayed a map of the world drawn in flags by Alighiero Boetti. At the Manchester Art Gallery I was pleasantly surprised to find an exhibition on my favourite… home design. The piece here that caught my eye was Richard Hamilton’s Interior. Since doing by scrapbook collage has become more and more appealing to me. Even if it starts just as a way to generate ideas- I’m thinking this might be a starting point to begin making new work again for me.

The Vanity of Small Differences- Grayson Perry

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting the Manchester Art Gallery, each time I go it never seems to disappoint, and this time was no exception. I came out the gallery feeling like my practice could move forward into another depth, a depth of class and in particular social class taste. I walked into Grayson Perry’s exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences and was greeting by vast tapestries; vibrant in colour and rich in detail. The Adoration of the Cage Fighters was the first tapestry which demanded my attention and I immediately noticed the décor, the pattern style of wallpaper, the carpet style, the fireplace, the fake flowers and of course the ornaments! Grayson Perry captured the very essence of that room. With impeccable detail and accuracy he absolutely nailed the room he was portraying.  The panorama view displayed on the tapestry captured every detail of that room and included yet even more accurate text of the working class people he was portraying. Embedded within the images the text starts; “I could have gone to uni..” and ends with “A normal family, a divorce or two, mental illnesses, addiction, domestic violence… the usual thing.”

Directly opposite, was the tapestry: Expulsion from number 8 Eden Close. Yet another scene I could completely relate to. The tapestry featured the typical new housing estate with matching houses and matching cars, people trying to keep up with Jones’, yet on the other side was the cultural middle class with their fancy food of olives and wine, and the William Morris wallpaper. Grayson Perry depicts these situations in such a clever way, it’s his attention to detail that really swings the humour and the accuracy. The way he uses the Cath Kidson bag in the next tapestry; The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal, and The Guardian displayed on the table, it’s so simple yet makes the image what it is. Grayson Perry portrays the image of the present in these tapestries, like the renaissance painters he so admires; he creates the tapestry of life.

Within my own work I’ve been scared of what the implications of taste can do to a piece. In my latest piece- Untitled (Ornamental Figure) the piece was heavily referred to as a statement about class- which was something I hadn’t given a second thought! But now after seeing Perry’s exhibition, it seems like there is something there, something really big there. I don’t need to be scared of what a particular taste of wallpaper can say about a piece I need to embrace that.


Over the Easter Holidays I managed to make a trip to Manchester Art Gallery; taking my cousin Sophie along for the ride for a nice day out too. To see my review of the very strange but brilliant Raqib Shaw Exhibition please give this a read-

Although a great exhibition to review it was the lower floor exhibition Dreams Without Frontiers that really connected to my practice. In particular the video by Cyprien Gaillard- The Smithsons. When viewing the piece, the silhouette of the couple in front of me transformed the piece, they romanticised it. Created an outline of beauty on the video. The video itself teamed with the music was slow paced and relaxing to watch. It featured the changing spaces of modern times. Focusing in on blocks of flats that many would regard as an eyesore. The slideshow of images contrast the flats to the  greenery along side them- trees, grass etc. The exhibition cleverly doesn’t give you a hand out explaining all the works but instead there is booklet full of honestly the most brilliant essays! To quote just a few- this one compares nature to the bleakness of a tower block or in this case an abandoned building- “The walls breath with lichen and moss.” The two come together in their abandonment- nature and man made. From the same essay by Andrew Anderson- “A building is straight lines, dryness smooth surfaces. These things do not occur naturally. Walls are painted continuous colour, or covered with patterned paper. Nature has patterns but they are chaotic and have fuzzy edges. ” A brilliant quote I think!

The booklet is filled with essays talking of Manchester, the idea of utopia living and overall the idea of place and how much that effects us! Something I am very excited about.