It’s great to see Manchester artists being represented in our own galleries, and Home mcr is pretty good for that to be fair. As you walk up the stairs to Gallery 1, Suzanne Bethell’s work hits you in the face with a thick slap of colour. Her work is bright, fun, energetic, and really uplifting. I met with Suzanne at Home mcr and we talked about the exhibition, the work featured, and how Suzanne creates her pieces – which itself is a fascinating story.
Suzanne Bethell is a mixed media, Manchester based artist and has a studio at Hallam Mill in Stockport. I have met Suzanne previously and had her work in our first ‘In Manchester’ exhibition at Saul Hay. So when I saw that she had a solo exhibition at Home mcr, I couldn’t have been more happy for her.
‘Lucky Dip’ is on from 2nd April to 22nd May (so move your butts and go see it!). The exhibition is named after one of the artworks featured. I asked Suzanne to explain the name of the artwork.
‘Lucky Dip was painted on the day the lockdown was announced. It got me thinking about people’s lives, those that were lucky and those that were not. Being born, where your born, and who you are born too, are all lucky chances. Those who have front line jobs, and those who are safe at home, these are all lucky and unlucky situations.’
Suzanne works very intuitively, both in how she paints and the colours she uses. This painting reflects her thoughts and feelings as Covid19 was hitting the UK and we were all put in lockdown. But what I found most fascinating about Suzanne was the fact that a lot of her work is actually painted over previous paintings. I myself am not an artist, but I imagine that once an artwork is complete, then that is it, you finish the painting and move on to another. Suzanne however, uses her old work, ones she is no longer happy with, or feel it doesn’t ‘give’ anything anymore, and paints over it. You can see in some of the work, an undercoat, a hidden painting underneath. This adds to the depth of her work, giving you sneak peaks of what once was.
Suzanne said she see’s it as a way of re-evaluating her work. She said how through life we constantly re-evaluate ourselves, changing ourselves, growing and adapting. That is what she does with her work too.
My favourite pieces in the exhibition were the three from the ‘Flow’ series. These mixed media pieces are made with paint, pastels and collage elements too. They are bright, colourful, completely abstract and playful. The more you look at the work, the more details you see (which is true for all of Suzanne’s work really). The work is very unapologetic, it’s a bit mad, an explosion of colour on the page, and that’s how Suzanne likes it. She is very much led by her feelings on the day and led by the colours and how these relate to each other on the page. When speaking to her, I got the sense that she becomes so into the work, that she just ‘does it’, not really having a plan or an end goal, just moving with the paint and seeing where it takes her.
The exhibition ‘Lucky Dip’ spans across Gallery 1 on the first floor, and Gallery 2 on the second floor. The second floor focuses more on her ‘Neon’ series. Here, Suzanne plays with sharp neon colours and also brings in more spray paint work and print work also. I love the ‘Assemblages’ series. Nine, small collage type pieces are shown, some of which were commissioned for this exhibition. Here, Suzanne has been inspired by her larger work and with elements of off-cuts from other pieces, has created new work. This links back to the fact Suzanne is constantly re-working her pieces, nothing is waste, nothing is ‘done with’. She takes these elements, old parts of work, and uses them to create new and exciting work.
Suzanne’s work is the type of art that the more you look, you start to see different things within the work. I think it’s human nature to want to ‘find’ things in paintings. In ‘Abundance’ I could see crowds, the little circles representing heads of people. It looks like some type of event, a festival perhaps, where there is so much going on, groups here, tents there – a colouful painting of chaos. In ‘Winter Walk’ I could see soft, rolling hills, and to me, ‘Lucky Dip’ felt very musical, it reminded me of a jazz band, in the groove playing some tunes.
We’re big fans of Suzanne’s work her at Cotton On MCR and would highly recommend seeing this exhibition. If you miss it (which you shouldn’t) fear not, Suzanne is more than happy to meet people at her studio to show them her work. You can contact Suzanne via her website or social media below to arrange an appointment. What a privilege that would be, your own solo exhibition experience in a way! Plus, Suzanne is lovely, so it’s a win win!