CUE – Piccadilly Place

Text by Susanna Hill

CUE is an outstanding display featuring some of the most thrilling artists currently working in Manchester. The group – brought together by James Moss, whose monumental paintings feature in the show – have nothing consciously in common, but in the selection there is a gentle, and unacknowledged theme of the landscape.

Another recurring theme is that of distancing: capturing, presenting and recapturing. Samantha Brandolani‘s work shows manipulation of paper – through scrunching or folding, and recapturing the image in order to create optical illusions, which in one case evokes the dry, cracked earth. These are beautiful and enticing works, one of which in particular looks to the shading and staged quality of Escher’s work. Sarah Hill – of Video Jam fame – uses a similar technique in two videos that are the result of films projected, re-filmed and projected again. Hill’s images are projected directly onto the concrete of the gallery’s walls giving them a print-like aesthetic, and the glamour of the content, which is in line with 1950s cinema, is stripped away by the darkness of the images and the distance put between the viewer and the work by the re-filming. These are wonderfully dark films with intriguing and illusive characters, themes that are accented by the absence of sound in the piece.

A concrete sculpture of Braille arranged on squares on the ground by Sophie Brown adopts this sense of distancing and understanding within language, while the horizontal of the work and her brackets of red tape in a piece across the wall behind return us to the idea of the perceived and constructed landscape. This horizontal continues in the work of Elizabeth Jane Winstanley through an arrangement of geometrical shapes in neon light creating mesmerising and bizarrely calm pieces.

James Moss‘s paintings are extraordinary pieces of depth with a wonderful use of colour. These pieces feel most strongly routed in the canon of art history as their palettes recall the works of Odilon Redon and the Sublime of German Romanticism, but the absence of anything concrete within them is absolute ensuring they remain the most transcendental of the offerings in this exhibition.

Helen Wheeler‘s contribution is perhaps the most strong in its recalling of landscapes and their presentations. Along a wall are a series of small, silverpoint, abstract pieces which delineate ‘land and beyond’ or the boundaries of land and sea. But it is her sculpture’s that are most extraordinary. Created using setting plaster filled with iron particles and a very strong magnet to draw them out, freezing a moment in time, and then set beneath distorted part-spheres of blown glass, these sculptures recall to mind Tolkeinesque landscapes and ancient worlds. Arranged across plinths in the largest area of the gallery these appear like fantastical and wonderful snow globes.

This is an endlessly interesting exhibition – bringing together the ancient, the modern and the timeless – and whetting the appetite to see what these artists will go on to create.

Susanna Hill is a writer and PhD candidate at the University of Manchester, considering the collecting of Outsider Art in the UK. She is also working part time at Manchester Art Gallery.
Image by Helen Wheeler.

Published 18.12.2013 by Ali Gunn in Reviews

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