Manc of the Month: Steven Heaton

We’ve been meaning to ask Steven Heaton to be a Manc of the Month for so long now, to the point where even last week our co-founder asked me ‘Have you asked Steven yet?’ Yes love, it’s sorted! With so many upcoming exhibitions that Steven is a part of, July is definitely his month. So read on to find out more about these events and read the best answer and description of Manchester’s Art Scene we have received thus far – it truly shows how proud us Mancunian art folk are.

Cotton On MCR: Tell us what you are currently working on. 

Steven Heaton: ‘I’m currently working on several different projects, one of them is looking to marry the rhythm of poetry with nature in a harmonious balance to create a visual kind of white noise. I’ve always wanted my work to act as a portal, the more time you spend with it, the more you fall into it… I’m looking for the perfect colour tone, curve and meeting of light whereby that pitch then becomes silent.’

‘I’ve always got several paintings on the go at any one time, my work can take years to resolve and most find themselves buried for long periods of time (literally, in the ground). I’m fascinated by our perception of time and how little we actually understand about it, all those unaccounted gaps, the ‘ghosts of departed quantities’ the parts we cannot measure and how our perception and memory interpret how we perceive our world.’

CO: Tell us more about being represented by Saul Hay Gallery.

SH: ‘They have been incredibly supportive of my work, showing me in several of their exhibitions. Ian and Catherine (the directors) are genuinely passionate about the arts and exhibiting work that they themselves love. The gallery itself, a converted lock keepers cottage, is in a beautiful location in Castlefield overlooking the canal surrounded by lovely places to eat and drink. It’s a great place to visit with a diverse selection of artwork in their exhibitions for sale. They also hold regular events, including curated art talks (with the incredible art historian, Sara Riccardi) to link in with their current exhibitions.’

‘It really is an absolute pleasure to work with and be supported by such enthusiastic, positive and encouraging people whose vision is such a genuine and honest approach to making beautiful contemporary art visible and accessible to everyone.’

CO: ‘You are currently featured in Saul Hay’s ‘Shortlist’ exhibition. How’s that going?’

SH: ‘It is going very well, it is selection of their favourite artists from the ‘New light’ touring exhibition, so it is a very diverse mix of work, from portraiture, landscape, sculpture to abstract, but again, from that genuine love of the work sits a perfect curation of incredibly talented artists from all these different backgrounds.’

CO: You’re also taking part in The Art Open House exhibition, ‘Landmarks’ (6th – 8th July). How did that come about?

SH: ‘It was during our last ‘open studio’ event that I met Kate, Fiona, Maggie & Sarah, Sarah told me about a previous open house exhibition they had done and I was really impressed and the relaxed, casual environment really appealed to me. I was approached a few months later inviting me to take part in their next open house event called ‘Landmarks’.’

‘I’m really looking forward to the exhibition and to meeting new people as they pass through and having some lovely discussions with like-minded individuals as well as exhibiting with some truly wonderful artists.’

Another exhibit currently on where Steven Heaton’s work is featured, is ‘Twice as Nice’ at P.S Mirabel. Steven and I had a quick chat whilst at the private view. He is a very social man, happy to chat with people and engage with them. We discussed this great turning point that Manchester’s is in, how quickly the art scene is evolving, which a lot of people have said to me.

SH: ‘The Manchester art scene has always been an incredible environment to grow up around and then be involved and work in. In the past few years particularly though, I have noticed a real shift as I have got to know many new artists who are producing incredible work and with Saul Hay showcasing this new talent. Castlefield Gallery around the corner and their New Art Spaces are also giving a platform for upcoming opportunities. There’s PS Mirabel’s & Paper Gallery’s wonderful exhibitions, The Whitworth’s outstanding refurbishment, Manchester Art Gallery’s incredible collection and HOME’s numerous engaging events. The Portico Library’s exhibitions, talks and the incredible ‘Art Across’ sessions, the upcoming and rebranded Manchester Art Fair…I can’t possibly list everything! These are just a few of the places I’ve recently been involved in and there is so much more. It’s a truly inspiring City of cultural interest, support and inspiration.’

CO: What advice would you give to budding artists? 

SH: ‘Surround yourself with creative, supportive and enthusiastic people, they are there for your successes and put your back on track with your failures and mistakes. Working at Cross Street Arts (where I have my studio) this is the environment that surrounds me, incredible artists and wonderfully generous people.’

CO: What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them? 

SH: ‘The challenges are consistent, whether it is financial, I have absolutely no interest in money, but bills need to be paid. Rejections, which every artist gets, but no one really likes to talk about that… These are all the things you have to overcome on a daily basis when what you actually want to do is paint. So I just carry on regardless, you have to keep the faith in what you do. I remember reading Maggie Hambling saying she was told to make her work her best friend, I think that is the best advice.’

We love Stevens use of colour and abstract forms, and his use of found objects. One of our favourites pieces is ‘King’ an oil painting that uses a For Sale sign. This work has fascinating layers and textures, with a mix of strong geometric shapes against softer, almost see-through brushstrokes. I am also fascinated by the fact that Steven sometimes buries his work. ‘Nothing is Ever the Past’ (also above) was buried for 6 years. To bury something is an act of disposal, or rubbish, even something that has died, finished, completed. And yet someones art work is priceless and valuable. There is such contrast in the action to paint something and to bury it. It’s something I have never seen an artist do before.

CO: What was the best exhibition you have been to? 

SH: ‘The one that comes to mind, not necessarily the best exhibition, but the one that made a significant impression on me, was an exhibition at Tate Liverpool. I was taken there by my art teacher from school, in the foyer/entrance was Carl Andre’s ‘Equivalent Eight’ and I had never seen anything like that before. It was just a pile of bricks, and it was incredible, it was that moment of realisation for me, that art can be whatever you want it to be, and you can never really know what will stop you in your tracks and change your perception of what can be a beautiful thing, without really knowing why. It would be years later before I would fully understand and know what this work was about, but nothing would really explain why it would have the initial effect it did on me. It goes someway to explain why I wasn’t popular at school, I was that kid who didn’t understand football but liked bricks.’

CO: You have five people to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

SH: ‘W.B.Yeats (I’d like to know more about his ‘Vision’) – Florian Fricke (his music has been a huge inspiration ‘Piano Recordings & Kailash; Pilgrimage to the Throne of Gods’) – Caravaggio (who would surely make a lively dinner guest… the starter would have to include artichokes) Ali Smith (for being a writer who makes me fall in love with the world with every new novel she writes) and Ellsworth Kelly (I finished the yellow painting for you, I’d like to show you).’

CO: If you could live in any painting/artwork, which would it be?

SH: ‘Landscape with the fall of Icarus (by Pieter Breughel… or maybe not). It’s an incredibly beautiful painting with all those lush green/blues, and I’d really like to have a conversation with that fisherman… how did you not just see what happened there? It is an aesthetically beautiful painting but also full of so much mystery.’

You can purchase some of Steven Heaton’s prints in the Cotton On MCR shop!

Shortlist at Saul Hay Gallery is on till 22nd July

Twice as Nice is on at P.S Mirabel till 11th August.

Find out more about Steven on Saul Hay Gallery‘s website

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