SPHERE took a trip to Cottonopolis for Manchester’s Buy Art Fair. With over 80 galleries and 350 artists exhibiting for three days it was some task to bring you the best from the alt-art set. We managed it, and got them down to our choice three…
This year’s Moorfield Media event remained faithful to its cause- promoting art commercially to everyone. With the work exhibited- ranging from fine watercolours to experimental installations – starting at £50 and reaching £35,000 there really was something for all tastes and budgets. After 5,000 visitors and hundreds of thousands of pounds of sales this remit obviously worked regardless of recession.
Along the way we ran into the Manchester’s Ultimate Holding Company. They’re a pretty political collective whose previous work included a working replica of a US internment camp in the centre of their formative town, but we spoke to them about a new project they have in the pipeline involving 100 people receiving a tattoo of 100 endangered UK species. We then stumbled upon the largest commercial gallery in Birmingham, The Art Lounge, where Terry Bradley’s imposing figurative drawings using bold, contrasting colours and an interesting use of perspective drew us in. And the small but beautiful work of Volker Kuhn, who creates miniature installations in ‘carry-away’ boxes, was equally impressive at Hertforshire’s Berkeley Gallery stall.
The first to really catch our eye however was the stall of the Li KaiLin gallery, based in Cheshire, and specifically the work of Beijing based artist Fan Xiaoyan. Xiaoyan has produced a set of sculptures, each representing the female form through re-appropriations of ‘male-dom’ and masculine motifs. Sexualised and arguably fetishist in their design, Manchester was lucky enough to have one such femme fatale on show. The cyborg hybrid shows the basic feminine form, limbs amputated and reconstructed from weapons, straddling a tank, nipple-guns protruding. We liked it, we liked its tongue in cheek wit, and we liked the aggressive way in which gender has been re-addressed. Further details can be found at www.likailin.com
Secondly we found The URBIS Creatives proudly peddling their wares on home turf. The collective was formed to promote the talented staff at URBIS, and features over 20 individual artists. In and amongst these faces is Gemma Parker, a talented young woman whose work also concerns the female form, but this time a little more traditionally realised. That said there was certainly no less provocation involved. Call it burlesque, call it fetishism, whatever the word is, we call it sexy and we’re pretty sure you will too. With images ranging from classic 1940s long legs to suggestively pronounced tattoos, these detailed caricatures remain contemporary whilst offering a wry nod at a nostalgia dominated by suggestion, something sorely missing from most of the imagery of our time. Intrigued? Then visit www.urbiscreatives.org.
The last lot that captured our attention hailed from much closer to home. Newcastle’s Opus gallery exhibited work that could only be described as subtly dark. Take for example New York’s Laurie Hogin, who draws fluffy animals that upon closer inspection are transformed into menacing beasties. Think ‘Gremlins‘ with water and you’re pretty much there. Like Wearbear collectors at a Wearbear function, we were incredibly excited at these imagined species, and have been dying to let you see some of her creations. They’re littered with references to modernity, society and the role of the artist, but we also think that they’re pretty cool to look at too. Anyone interested in viewing this work in the flesh should get down to their Tyneside home for the Dark Surrealism exhibition, which runs from October 3- 31. Details can be found at www.opus-art.com
For more information visit the official website.
*Photos: Martin-Guttridge Hewitt