Exhibition Review: Manchester Open

‘Manchester Open 2022’ at HOME mcr

Although I have been looking forward to this exhibition, I have come away feeling like something is missing. Let me explain…

The ‘Manchester Open’ at HOME mcr is a humongous event. They attract thousands of people to the gallery and they have the venue and capacity to showcase hundreds and hundreds of Greater Manchester artists! It’s an amazing opportunity and an amazing open call event for any artist to be a part of. I remember when this first launched in January 2020, before Covid shut us down, there was an incredible hype about the event. They had multiple launches for press and for the artists, and when it opened it’s doors to the general public, there was a huge queue to get in all around the First Street grounds.

That all seemed to be missing this time round.

I kind of missed the launch of the Manchester Open, and part of me thinks other people did too. It would be interesting to hear how many attended on the first day/weekend compared to the last event. It just seemed to have by-passed me a little. You go to HOME mcr’s Instagram account and there is hardly anything on there about the exhibition. I only knew it was the launch from seeing it on other artist’s Instagram accounts, artists whose work in included in the exhibition.

When I did get a chance to go and see the show – and I will get to talking about the exhibition itself in a sec – I left thinking that sadly, it wasn’t as good as the first time round. And this isn’t anything to do with the work on show, there were some amazing and stand out pieces. But it just felt a little ‘less’ in some way.

I honestly did love the work they had in the gallery and I have found new artists whose works I have never seen before! There were some stand out pieces for me including number 209, Anne Goldham’s piece named ‘Senetti Reds’. This painting mixed both abstract and realism and had a Picasso-esque look to it. I just loved the mix of styles in the one piece.

I also very much enjoyed 187, ‘I tried and failed to collect up all your tears’ by Maria Jackson. This sculptural pieced mixed so many elements together, it had what I think was found pieces in the bucket and the antique hook, mixed with drawings of the hole/well, mixing 2D and 3D elements into one overall piece of art. The tears were mirrored and secured to the wall, where the bucket hung free, placed over the 2D drawing in a frame. It told a story. It was something new I hadn’t seen before and that was what I was looking for whilst exploring the ‘Manchester Open.’

There were some previous Manc of the Month’s featured, including Jen Orpin, Marian Jazmik, Nancy Collantine, Jamie Kirk and more.

I also loved number 244, ‘MEDUSSA (AVEDON)’ by Jane Chavez-Dawson. This photo print was made up of multiple, fly-away sheets, just neatly secured to the wall from the top of the paper. There was then a soft fan blowing on the work, moving the sheets in the air. This added element makes this work really stand out, giving it movement and adding something different, another focus of the work.

There really was a huge mix of work on show, 470 to be exact (plus performance pieces too). I don’t know whether it’s the new layout, which was different to their last Manchester Open. This time there was more ‘breathing’ room as you walked around the gallery, with more open space to wonder. Whereas last time, the work was set in rows/aisles and did feel hemmed in. But I think I liked that, it was more of a shock, a ‘BAM!’ art-in-your-face type of thing.

I think I will return and take another look and maybe take more time to see each work individually. But as a whole, I don’t think this exhibition is as good as their last, but still a very good (and very much needed) exhibition to have here in Manchester and of such a huge scale. It’s amazing to see the variety of work and the talent that these artists have. I don’t know, I just think I need it to be a bit…more.

The ‘Manchester Open’ is on at HOME mcr from Monday 24th Jan to Sunday 27 Mar 2022.

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