Something lovely for the weekend (6.6.15)

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What are you doing this weekend?

If you’re out and about in Manchester I can recommend, ‘Unmanned Nature’ by the Japanese artist Cai Gua-Qiang showing at the Whitworth.

Andy and I were in Manchester midweek and finding ourselves with time to spare we visited the new gallery space that  been created at the back of the old red brick buildings on Oxford Road. Familiar rooms transition smoothly into new gallery spaces where whole walls are given over to glass, beautifully framing the park outside.

By far my favourite experience in this very ‘grown-up’ gallery was the Cai Guo-Qiang exhibit, showing until 21st June. The work is an installation composed of a shallow pool of water and two curved walls showing huge ‘painting’ of mountains. The paintings, which are 4 meters high and 45 meters long are made on traditional Japanese hemp paper and their style suggests the meditative qualities of ancient Chinese watercolour landscapes. The broad pale walkway of the installation leads you on a simple path around the pool of still water and through the mountain landscape. The focal point of the work is a splattered mustard-yellow sun perched above a rocky outcrop of wild mountain. There are no figures in the work and no plants or trees.

We later found out that the work is not painted at all but created by an application of gunpowder. The gunpowder is covered in cardboard and bricks before it is detonated. It is the chemical fire that leave a mark on the paper to create the images.

The irony was not lost on us; to walk amongst serene views of mountains and still waters that were actually created by the violence of an explosion.

A gallery is a place where you can walk beyond the mundanes of everyday life. It is an opportunity to be a guest on the inside of someone else’s ideas of beauty. Galleries stir the better parts of our thinking faculties, they move and engage our emotions in an illuminating way. I have frequently found relief from ‘the blues’ in a gallery and taken away inspiration to live more fully.

This exhibit reminded me of everything I love most about seeing real art.

More information about the exhibit:

Read gallery information on the exhibit.

Read  detailed analysis of the work by art historian Ben Tufnell.

Read an American perspective on the gallery and the exhibit.

NB.Some viewers may find certain exhibits at the Whitworth offensive and/or unsuitable for children.

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