A good day out in Manchester, and some new work.

I visited Manchester for the first time on Saturday with my friend Sue, chiefly to go to the Whitworth to see the Cornelia Parker exhibition. The exhibition didn’t disappoint, and the newly developed and added-to Whitworth, a gallery which is part of the  University of Manchester, is beautiful.

We were also impressed by Cai Guo-Qiang’s piece, Unmanned Nature, and his video showing how he made the drawing by basically drawing with gunpowder then blowing the whole thing up, which then forms the marks. There were also videos of his many firework displays, mostly featuring amazing configurations of black puffs of smoke. He designed the fireworks for the Beijing Olympics open and closing ceremonies. Here are a few images, starting with Unmanned Nature, which also featured a large shallow pool.





And now Cornelia Parker’s show, inventive, clever and thoughtful.








The view from the gallery of the park, where we had lunch.


I couldn’t leave out this piece, one of a series of six which involved embroidering two opposing dictionary definitions on either side of a piece of linen. The embroidery is amazing, done by prisoners in HM Prisons.

I was inspired to start some new work by one exhibit in her show, which I didn’t actually get round to photographing. Actually this doesn’t matter as my memory of the piece will serve me well enough, which I will probably use as a format for some new work, which is developing both on my table and in my head at the moment. The exhibit was just strips of waste canvas, small, narrow and ragged, from the edges of some of Turner’s paintings. I have no idea how she came to them, but both Sue and I couldn’t stop looking at them.

Here are some of the materials I have sorted for the new work. I have made some prints on calico using my printer of some exhibits I photographed in Manchester Museum’ natural history collection. We had a short time there before having to catch our train home, it’s a fascinating place.

I also printed some photoshopped images I took of our magnolia in bloom, and a fossil fern. I may use the ginkgo leaves in some way, either as themselves or as little leafy print blocks. It’s all monochrome at the moment, but I’m planning on adding some bursts of colour, either as collaged pieces or as stitching.

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I’ll post developments. I’m trying to keep the pieces as  soft fabric constructions, as I want to use hand stitch, rather than rampage all over the work with machine stitching, which I can tend to do all too readily.

7 thoughts on “A good day out in Manchester, and some new work.

  1. Steph, I sense a real surge of excitement in these words. Isn’t it wonderful to see someone’s work and have it speak to you like this? I worked in Manchester for five years in the late 1990’s and spent many a lunchtime in the museum, much to the amusement of my Mancunian colleagues who seemed to think it eccentric… but then again, I was from ‘down south’ and we were all branded a bit odd! I remember the Cornelia Parker programme on ‘What do artists do all Day’ – one very focussed and disciplined artist. She had an impressive attitude to work – just like yours. Only home five minutes and you’ve started those new ideas already! Can’t wait to see how they evolve.

    1. I enjoyed that programme too, she does have some amazing ideas. You obviously have some fond memories of the Whitworth Lesley, perhaps you could treat yourself to a visit to see what you think of the new developments there. Cornelia gave me a boost just when I needed one.

  2. Thank you Steph for sharing, I do so enjoy your posts. I love that you share your thought processes and the very beginnings of your ideas. Thank you, Peg (Australia)

    1. Thank you! I wish I’d photographed the canvas trimmings so that would give you a better idea of what I’m on about. I’ll see if there’s anything on t’internet.

  3. Wonderful pictures of the exhibitions and fascinating to see your work in progress as always Stephanie. Love the monochrome effects. You always make me want to rush off and start printing. Alas the garden is taking up a lot of my time at the moment together with other things. Perhaps when it rains ……………..

    1. You’re very kind; the printed fabrics and papers are always the ones I turn to, they can give so much depth to work. I know what you mean about other stuff taking up time, it’s difficult to stay in when the weather is good and the garden beckons. I need to take advantage of the good weather and do some outdoor printing, something else to go onto the to-do list!

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