Friday, 12 November 2010

Visit to Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Unfortunately I was in for some disappointment – I had hoped that there would be permanent displays of wallpapers through the ages, but it would appear that they put on shows of wallpaper designs following a theme. The current display is called ‘Walls are talking: Repeating Patterns’ and the theme is gender/sexuality.

Although this was a very interesting display it wasn’t what I had hoped to see. Photography was not permitted in this gallery either, but I took notes of the designs that I found most interesting.

The first area of this show illustrated wallpaper designs specifically aimed at men, mainly in a sexist way that seemed to depict women as sex objects, such as ‘Right Hand Lady’ by Allen Jones, this paper is machine printed using gravure rollers.

In the second area of the exhibition was a range of children’s wallpaper designs featuring Barbie, Sindy, Batman and James Bond. These wallpapers were obviously designed as gender specific wallpapers.

In another section were wallpaper designs which included genitals and other unusual subjects for wallpaper, for example ‘Tits in Space’, a fun and quirky machine printed design by Sarah Lucas,  consulted on 11/11/10

One of my favourite sections of this show was two wallpapers designed by Francesca Granato and Helen Knowles, Conception (below) is a fascinating design based on the male and female reproductive systems, but it has been laid out and coloured in such a way that initially it looks like an Art Nouveau design – brilliant!

Birth, because of its scale also appears to be just a pattern until the viewer steps closer and see various images of birthing positions, very clever. These designs can be seen at  consulted on 11/11/10

In the South Galley is a wallpaper installation named Ivy Wallpaper by Thomas Demand. This is a very large, double height room with massive amounts of natural light from huge picture windows overlooking the Whitworth Park, and all of this is essential to set off the Ivy Wallpaper. It is simply a wallpaper design featuring life-sized ivy leaves, it has been machine printed but then additionally hand-painted to add texture.

There was also a fascinating exhibition of textiles, showing different types of fabrics, from diverse periods of history and places of origin and also produced by using varied methods of pattern application including embroidery, printing, quilting, appliqué, knitting and weaving.

‘The Whitworth's collection of historic and modern textiles is the largest and most comprehensive collection of flat textiles outside London. The importance and range of the collection, both geographical and chronological, as well as the facilities for research, make it second only in importance to that at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Objects in the collection, which number between 15,000 and 20,000, range in date from the 3rd century AD to the present day. Textiles have formed part of the Gallery's core collections since it opened to the public in 1890.’

Toiles –an original and behind it a contemporary and an edgier, cooler version from Timorous Beasties.

These are various examples of floral fabrics through the ages, including a 1960s print and an 18th century embroidered skirt.

Try as I may I could not get a good picture of this – the South Gallery is reflected in the glass – but I love this hanging so have still included it. The hanging appears to include quilting, appliqué and embroidery and when viewed properly has a lovely textured appearance. The swirly flow of water is quite magical and the weed looks like it would feel rough to the touch.

In spite of the fact that there was no display of wallpapers through the ages I really enjoyed my visit to The Whitworth Art Gallery, it is a very pleasing environment and I plan to visit again when the wallpaper exhibit changes next. I am also inspired to visit the V&A as soon as possible too.

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