Cornelia Parker at the Whitworth, March 2015

Posted on Wednesday 8th April 2015

Cai Guo-Qiang 'Unmanned Nature'

LAF member Kathleen Prince writes:

This was a visit truly well worth waiting for! The original December 2014 date had to be postponed due to a delay in the Gallery refurbishment. The £15 million project has seen the building beautifully transformed and cleverly integrated in to the surrounding park, after which the Gallery is named. It relaunched in February with ten new major exhibitions, including a stunning installations by Cai Guo-Qiand, ‘Unmanned Nature.’ This 45 metre, 4 metre high gunpowder drawing, evokes of a sense of peace and tranquillity as the observer walks through a Chinese landscape of mountains and valleys, all surrounding a large pool of very still, ice blue water which also reflects the drawings.

Cornelia Parker’s ‘Cold Dark Matter’ (An Exploded View)could not have been in greater contrast to, and yet oddly linked to this, by the two artists’ use of explosives in the creation of both works. The exploded building, displayed in fragments and suspended from fine wires, is a shed full of memorabilia and detritus donated by friends and family, and illuminated from within by a single light bulb. The shed was taken out to their demolition grounds by the Banbury Army School of Ammunition. Cornelia remarks, “They were really keen to blow it up but I actually pressed the button that detonated it.” Amongst her other work on display is, ‘War Room,’ which explores the concept of positive and negative, symbolising the absences which yet have a presence, by using yards of punched out paper poppies from the factory in Richmond.

There is much to amaze and enjoy in the other exhibitions – portraits by a wide variety eminent artists such as Francis Bacon and Sir Stanley Spencer. Many of the Gallery’s internationally renowned collection of watercolours are on show, items from its own textile collection, some vibrant examples of 60’s art, as well as works by Sarah Lucas and others.

Thanks go to Melissa Brakel , who gave us an insightful guided tour of many of the works together with a comprehensive and fascinating history of the Whitworth from its origins 126 years ago. Over the years many benefactors have contributed to the establishment of both building and contents, continuing the original aim that the Gallery should be for, “the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester.” We Loiners were delighted to share the delights of the Whitworth and that city’s excellent good fortune!