One interesting aspect of the art scene over the last few years has been the rise of the Urban sketcher movement.
One Drawing at a Time: Manchester and Salford.
A Temporary exhibition at Salford Art Gallery
Saturday 9 December 2017 to Sunday 10 June 2018
1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
6. We support each other and draw together.
7. We share our drawings online.
8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.
The 7th Urban Sketchers Symposium was hosted in Manchester, England in 2016 and I was fascinated to see so many artists sat around the city doing their drawings. I had become aware of this movement through Facebook and one of the art club members, but had not realised how big it was.
Considering it was only started by it's founder Gabriel (Gabi) Campanario, who is a Spanish journalist and illustrator living in Seattle, ten years ago; it is now a global phenomenon.
Although I am a member, I have not braved the elements to join the group yet on its visits to local sites. I do go out on occasions with the art club and find that it is not the buildings that interest me but the people sketching them or the people passing by. This movement has also inspired me to keep a diary sketchbook of my travels, fortunately often in warmer climates, and I have posted some of these in previous blogs and have started a page for these on my website. http://www.philipwestcott.co.uk/sketches.html
Other members of the Salford Art club have joined the group and post their sketches on line.
I believe this is a superb movement and a great way for artists to come together with a shared goal and an excellent example of a modern movement where a shared goal is more important than ability.
Having said that, the shear ability of some of these artists is now on show at Salford Art Gallery, where the local group are showing their sketches. I was impressed with how they manage to capture similar scenes in such a wide variety of styles.
An exhibition that is well worth a visit.
Sometimes it's good to do something different. On this occasion we decided to go to a Geek Christmas fair in Warrington. On a cold Saturday afternoon we arrived and following the Map found the event. The first impression of this was a little disappointing as there were only about five stalls on a small side street. Although, we did feel safe with the caped crusader watching over us!
In 1992, I had exhibited at Warrington Art gallery so we decided to have a look around it to see the present exhibitions. Whilst looking at the paintings on show, I was surprised to notice a poster telling us about an 1857 exhibition that took place at Old Trafford. This was held in a glass and iron palace; modeled on the Great Exhibition palace of 1851, at Crystal palace,
Apparently over the 22 week exhibition over 1.3 million people attended with great queues to see the works. On show were over 16.000 pieces of art including paintings by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Constable and Turner.
It seems hard to imagine what this must have been like and I wonder what ever happened to this stunning building.
Wandering further around the room we found an exhibition by Hot Press, a group of print makers established in 1994. On show were a range of interesting prints by the members, showing a wide range of techniques.
, We climbed the stairs to see the exhibition on the balcony On show was the artwork of the Warrington School of Art, a group I had not heard of before.
It started in the art gallery and opened in 1857. The most famous members were Luke Fildes, Henry Woods, Edward Brewtnall, George Sheffield, sculptor John “Warrington” Wood and engraver Hedley Fitton.
As the membership grew they erected a new-purpose built school of art across the road from the gallery.
By 1861, they had 147 full time students and won 30 local medals and five national medallions. By this time it was the largest provincial school of art in the country with over 1170 part time students.
As I travel around the country, I find it fascinating when I come across the old schools of art. After visiting Staines (Yorkshire) and viewing the work of the group there, it was interesting to find out about this group as well. Several of the members exhibited with the Royal Academy and there must have been a thriving community at the time. You wonder why groups like this finally passed into history and its only by exhibitions like this that people find out about them.
Later, after our visit to the art gallery, we did find a wider selection of 'Geek' stalls in the indoor market but by this time they were getting ready to close. It was a shame that we hadn't discovered this sooner. Oh well there's always next year!
So, not an afternoon we expected but we viewed some fascinating exhibitions and we learnt a lot about our local art history.
Recently my art club has been involved with Lightwaves at Salford Quays on two of their recent projects.
For the first one we were invited to respond to the sculptures on the Quay side. Although, it seemed to be a fairly traditional subject of large endangered animal sculptures, the use of projectors to add images to the shapes was a contemporary idea and could not have been done years ago. It certainly added to the experience of visitors to the site. In this instance our responses were fairly traditional paintings and other groups produced dances and photographic displays.
Recently, we were approached, together with members of the local community, to send pictures for the latest installation. I was lucky enough to have three accepted and am pleased to have contributed to this art form.
The picture of my parents and that of my wife's now shine brightly among the others and they have become a small piece of a modern art installation. Exhibitions like these may not win the Turner prize but by involving the community; it opens art to a wider audience.
Alongside the canal was an overhead installation, which lit up in different colours as music was played and was an interesting visual display. Again this would not have been possible if not for the advance of technology, which enabled the creation of an entertaining piece of digital art.
This is an excellent way that art can brighten up an environment, particularly on a cold winter's day. The only downside to this exhibition is that it is only on for about ten days and finishes shortly.
I recently visited the Lowry art gallery to view their latest exhibition "Humans being digital"
Quote from Lowry Art gallery website:
'Engaging with art can be an emotional experience - performance, sculpture, painting or music can all touch us beyond words – yet technology is often considered mechanical, cold or inhuman. So how can artists show new perspectives on life, emotion and relationships by using digital technologies to connect human beings and digital?'
Here at last is something that should reflect a new approach. If art reflects the times then the use of modern technology should give artists a means to produce a new type of art. I looked forward to viewing their new concepts.
The first picture shows an artwork, which was installed in the Lowry gallery, where the word lights up and a message is given. The second image is from the recent Lightworks exhibition at Salford Quays. (see next blog)
Both could be seen as 'modern art' using a digital form to convey the artist's interpretation of a subject.
I have seen lighting installations like this before as well as messages being highlighted by them and I feel that as an art form it is dated. However, for it to be considered modern art, I would suggest that in this type of art work, it is the message that moves the concept forward rather than the physical structure.
Three other artists use humorous aspects of modern communication in their works, which involve emails, Instagram and Tinder respectively. This reflects modern lifestyles but is this an art form? One exhibition uses CCTV footage to create a curious environment that asks questions about technology and privacy. In my opinion, certainly relevant, but possibly more about society's misgivings rather than art!
A sculpture of human hair caught in a machine can certainly shock. A tiny bottle of perfume called Apocalypse, meant to awaken the senses and a video 'Housewives Making Drugs' are supposed to engage the audience's emotions and make them contemplate their own bodies.
In the case of the video, I have become anesthetized to televised artwork and so was therefore not interested in engaging my emotions! As for the perfume bottle, just because it was designed by digital artists, does it make it digital art! I'm no so sure.
The most fascinating images, to me, were the screens showing human organs digitized; they didn't really make me think about the body, as was the intention, but did give an original vision and made me stop and look. The colours resonating with the natural function of each organ, in my opinion created, a worthwhile piece of modern art using digital light effects to create movement.
However, I have to admit that I did chicken out of having myself scanned to see if I was 'hipster' enough to be allowed into the bar area of one exhibition!
I have previously visited exhibitions based on digital art at this gallery and have been disappointed at times at this use of modern technology. Galleries seem to be looking for new exhibitions and in my opinion, they like me, are not sure what direction to go in.
The use of modern technology is staring to influence artwork and it will be interesting to see how it progresses.
One artist, I researched, creates sculptures from digitized images created on a computer and the first picture shows an example of his work. It shows how technology can produce interesting new work.
Over the past year, I too, have embraced the digital arena and now use a stylus to draw on a tablet instead of a traditional paper art pad. The second picture, shows my work of a traditional subject matter approached, I believe, in a new way. Having had these accepted in a couple of international exhibitions in America, I did not need to send a physical painting. instead I emailed the image and it was printed at the gallery. A use on modern technology to produce the artwork.
Digital art is becoming more and more popular and recognisable, however, I would suggest that proponents of this type of art to edge on caution and not become too gimmicky, as these are often short lived in the art world. Plus, do the general public wish to view it in art galleries as it is often of an experimental and conceptual origin. It makes you think!
Below is a link that you might find interesting.
A fascinating evening at the gallery sketching the performers. A great piece of entertainment and a chance to improve our sketching skills with several 5-15 minute poses.
As well as the acts there were lots of competitions and prizes to be won.
The first performer was dressed in a traditional Chinese costume and she had posed for us. We did quick sketches of her before being treated to a dance. She then changed her costume to that of a Turkish belly dancer; here she did another dance using a piece of fabric as an accessory. I won a prize for my idea of where she had performed. At the last minute I decided on the Moon, Tony Easom, from the art club, won the main prize with his depiction of the Pyramids.
,After a short break for refreshments the second act came on dressed in a Harry Potter robe and proceeded to hammer a nail into her nose! Quite a start to a performance! She then ate part of a light bulb. She finished her performance with a jump up and down on broken glass before taking off the cloak and sitting on the glass. Again we had chance for a couple of quick sketches; the competition this time was for us to include a spell in our drawing. Having to sketch and think of a spell made the task a lot harder!
The final act involved the stilt walker and his puppet. An impressive dance sequence followed before they posed for a couple of sketches. This time I won the main prize and collected a series of goodies including some Avengers rubbers!
Another great evening out. I found my sketches improved as the night progressed; not sure if this was because of the practice or the alcohol!
Several Salford Art Club members attended and were among the prizewinners and all seemed to be having fun. Although it was not as busy as last year, there was a nice group of fellow artists and an enjoyable evening was had by all. I look forward to the next session.