Capsid: Exhibition Review

Capsid by John Walter at Home mcr

At some point I need to write a bad review just to show you guys that I don’t love everything I see! But sorry, that some point isn’t now. And to be honest, I think this exhibition is the best one visually this year at HOME mcr.

I say visually, as I have no idea really what the work is about, there is so much of it, and it is so overpowering, psychedelic and weird, that I actually have no idea what is going on! It probably doesn’t help that I have no idea what the word Capsid means, and I read the exhibition intro, and I still have no real clue. Something about aids and pills maybe? I’m going to Google it now.

‘The protein coat or shell of virus particle, surrounding the nucleic acid or nucleoprotein core.’

So…. I still have no idea. Some science thing. Which is odd to me, as I never thought science and art would be something I’d see together, but I am seeing this more so with recent exhibitions like ‘humansbeingdigital‘ and ‘machines will watch us die‘ and a new one at AIR Gallery named ‘Monitor.’ So maybe science and art are two GSCE subjects that can be conjoined? Even with not knowing what the exhibition is really about, I still loved it! It was like a drugged up dream, like I’d eaten too much cheese before bed or something. It was weird and wonderful, a true sensory overload. Every where I turned there was a clash of pattern and bold colours. It was like John Walter punched you in the face with a rainbow, knocking you out, and waking up in some freaky, sciencey, children’s crazy imagination.

Let me try to explain. This exhibition was the result of a collaboration between artist John Walter and molecular virologist Professor Greg Towers. This mix of science and art creates a weird world of colour. You walk in to the gallery space at HOME mcr and Boom, right in your face is kaleidoscope of neon colours. Walter creates these paintings-come-collages that protrude out of the canvas. There are dolls glued to the board with what looks like insulation filler, there are arms coming out of the walls, and behind them are bold, in-your-face, colours and layers of pattern. This whole exhibition is full of sculptures, paintings, installations, videos, costumes and sound. There is so much going on, you want to look at everything and experience it all, but it’s too much for our human minds to take in.

Based on my little knowledge of what ‘Capsid’ is, I imagined these heavily overloaded, detailed paintings are Walter’s take on a magnified disease. When scientists look into the petri dish of germs, and there are layers of patterns, repeated, organisms moving on a canvas, that is what I imagine these paintings are, a crazy representation of a human illness. Within one room you will find a series of mannequins wearing embellished onesies. One was covered in an an unimaginable amount of buttons, another, the hood was covered in tiny pompoms, making it look fun and comfy. One had tubes of colour intertwined in and out of the fabric. It reminded me of DNA, the twisting colours of our anatomy, going in and out of the body. The group of onesies and the colours that surround them remind me of Saved the Bell and its opening title – one for you 90s kids out there!

The best part of the exhibition was the yellow room installation. The whole room was covered, no white space at all, including the floor. You have to wear jazzy blue shoe sock thingys to protect the work. You step into a surreal world of art. There are drawings of creepy characters, next to little girls Barbies suffocating behind plastic, next to glitter based Christmas paintings. I honestly have no idea what was going on! The room and the work have similarities to Yayoi Kusama, the dots, the sheer volume of the work and the little negative space all remind me of her infinity rooms and pumpkins. You feel engulfed in the craziness of the work. The room, so dazzling in yellow, makes you feel happy, yet some of the work looks freaky and creepy. The whole place gives me a happy art headache!

I stopped and watched one of the video pieces, but I found it all too weird! I am not a massive fan of video art anyway, but this was on another level. ‘Why Not Sneeze Peppermint Butler?’ should have come with an epilepsy warning! The amount of flashing lights added to the overwhelming extra-ness that this exhibition had. I can’t even being to describe this video. It was like a cartoon version of shapes and colours, with a heavy experimental drum and bass type music behind it, and on top of that, multiple people sneezing! Totally random.

What I love about ‘Capsid’ though is that it is truly unforgettable. Whether you love it or hate it, and I can imagine a few people won’t ‘get it’, whether it’s too much for you and too weird, you will literally never forget it! There is so much, something new around every corner, your senses go into overdrive, and what a pleasure it was! It’s so different to the formal, framed, historical art, its BANG, in your face, big loud and ballshy. It’s confusing, but maybe complicated science creates complicated art? Maybe if my science lessons at school looked more like this, I’d understand what the word Capsid meant?

Capsid is on at HOME mcr from 10th November – 6th January. Free.

Find out more about John Walter on his website.

For a listing of all exhibitions and events across Greater Manchester, check out our What’s On Calendar.

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