The Manchester Contemporary ensures Manchester is alive with critically engaged art

Jamie Fitzpatrick at Vitrine

The Manchester Contemporary takes top spot on the visual arts calendar as the contemporary art fair in the North. Firmly established on the arts scene of Manchester and beyond, it attracts the most exciting galleries and artists. Now in its 8th year, having visited the Manchester Contemporary over the past few years I have seen it grow and be reshaped into the dynamic, cutting edge - and accessible  venue, it is now.

There seems to be a real urgency by the galleries to showcase and define themselves as big contenders on the contemporary arts scene. Every year there seems to be more and more quality art, not just by established artists, but by really amazing emerging artists. The number of galleries too has increased significantly. Barriers to entry must have gone down or else we wouldn't see the diversity on show by new artist collectives such as LLE Gallery (Cardiff), Manifest Arts (Manchester) and Collar (Manchester). Representation amongst London galleries has increased too, newbies include Castor Projects, IMT Gallery and The RYDER, established project spaces Charlie Smith London and  Vitrine once again make their mark with an incredible line-up of artists including New Contemporaries artist Jamie Fitzpatrick at Vitrine. (If you've read my Bluecoat blog on the New Contemporaries exhibition you'll have noticed Jamie's amazing human wax figure sculpture).

Exceptionally busy on the preview evening, spirits were high with the visually strong works on show. Walking around with curator Emma Kelly, we were both enamoured with each booth's impressive curatorial prowess. Next to Vitrine, The International 3 mesmerised with its works by Pat Flynn, Louise Giovanelli, Stuart Edmundson and Joe Fletcher Orr. Edmundson's intense neon abstracted canvases didn't fail to catch my eye whilst Orr's photographic image of fruit, as arranged by his mother, added a unique conceptual eye to their package.

IMT Gallery

IMT Gallery's suspended transparent photographic panels by Dallas Seitz captured my interest, all part of his 'American Story' in which he would wander in the Californian desert for days at a time and photograph accidental sculptures, a prelude to the context of American culture. Whilst Division of Labour's blue and white minimalist art by Andrew Lacon contrasted against the furore of the opening night.

The RYDER Gallery had a really eclectic selection of work, installation and sculpture led, Tim Sandy's birch wood 'Flightplan' and 'Citizen' - a numbered collection of corroded containers from the underneath of defunct cars both make a huge statement. Islington Mill were raising funds for the restoration of a new room in their building with the dazzling prints by artist and co-director Maurice Carlin, a fantastic project whereby 100 complex CMYK relief prints have Ben taken from the surface of an abandoned floor at Islington Mill. Next door, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (Leeds) had two booths and I was taken aback by the delightful pastel-pink sculptures by Lily Ackroyd-Willoughby, whose tongue in cheek renditions of brickwork were inlaid with pristine white, used, chewing gum.


Object A, Rogue Studios, Caustic Coastal, Castlefield Gallery and Manifest Arts - all Manchester based had a presence at the fair which was fantastic to see. Alongside Middlesbrough based Gallery Platform A, Sheffield based S1 Artspace, Preston based The Birley Project Space and Syson all the way from Nottingham - a truly diverse number of Northern contemporary art galleries. Striking visual art installation provided much-needed eye candy by newcomers New Work, next to the graphically brilliant Castor Projects. Derek Maniella's ambitious work wowed with his bold and delicious cut-out canvases made to look more like art objects, a blend of the digital and physical.

My own Manchester Contemporary favourite, Paper Gallery, ran by David Hancock, was overrun with impressed viewers, all clamouring to see the fantastic colourful pieces by Linda Hemmersbach, Mali Morris and Lisa Denyer - a sure fire success. Opposite newbies LLE from Cardiff held their own with many pieces from a selection of artists including a little help from the compelling oil paintings by Lindsey Bull (another Manchester artist).

Linda Hemmersbach at PAPER Gallery

Lastly I couldn't help but be bedazzled by the great big pink plasters on the stand by COLLAR. Manchester based (again) they have invited artist Holly Hendry with her funny, oversized, silicon foam sculptural interventions... a new one for me and a joy to see!

Overall what a fantastic event, I have no doubt that audiences will have come away both bemused and hopefully, completely excited by the prospect of such a dynamic and diverse artistic scene. So impressed with the high quality of art that I haven't been able to sleep properly ever since, such is its effectiveness in providing commentary for my own work as an artist.

Stuart Edmundson at The International 3
Lisa Denyer at PAPER Gallery
Oliver Tirre at Syson Gallery
Precious Innes at Castlefield Gallery
'Flightplan' by Tim Sandys at The Ryder (left)
Jenny Eden (left) and Kieran Leach (right) Castlefield Gallery (hello Sandra!!)
Derek Maniella at Castor Projects
Tim Sandys at The Ryder

The Ryder
Louise Giovanelli at The International 3
Helen Wheeler at Manifest Arts

The Manchester Contemporary
Will return again in 2017 (usually September)

(Thanks to The Manc Contemporary FB page where I found a lot of images... unfortunately I've had to due to my laptop hard drive dying on me!!)

Please take note that your art may flourish from reading this blog :)


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