Manchester Open: Exhibition Review

Manchester Open at Home MCR

I have been so excited for this one! I have researched and stalked this exhibition like I am Joe from ‘You’. I love Home mcr, I love Manchester and I love Manchester artists! So when you combine all that love into one ridiculous and overwhelming exhibition, you create one very happy and and very impressed Domino (that’s me if you don’t know my name haha).

I am gushing, I know, but I am also a little jealous. The ‘Manchester Open’ at Home mcr displays 543 pieces of work from over 450 Manchester artists, old and new, young and old, professionals and hobbyist. This sounds like something Cotton On MCR should be doing! But unfortunately we do not yet own a gallery. So, I am more than happy for Home to do this instead, and they have done it well!

I attended the Press Launch which was a massive pleasure, to be one of the first to see this outstanding exhibition and have the chance to speak to some of the artists and the curator, Bren O’Callaghan.

I first spoke with Kay Shah (artwork number 317 above). Kay studied Fine Art here at MMU and his work has changed and grown since leaving Uni. He is now focusing on digital art and sculpture and he has two pieces on display at the ‘Manchester Open’. When I asked him what he thought this exhibition will do for Manchester’s artists he said:

‘It’s going to promote it really well I think, especially the opportunity for people who don’t consider themselves as ‘artists’, to show alongside people who are emerging and also professional artists. It’s a really good opportunity, not only for myself but for everyone involved as well.’

This is so true! As I walked around looking at all the works, it was amazing to see some familiar art and some of those that we have featured as Manc of the Month’s here at Cotton On MCR, including Steven Heaton, Jen Orpin and more recently himHallows. But at the same time, it was great for me to see a whole bunch of new art! I felt myself wanting to choose my favourites out of the ones I didn’t recognise. To learn about new artists and find fresh faces in Manchester’s art scene.

We also had a good chat with the curator, Bren O’Callaghan, a lovely lovely man indeed. When discussing the work on display he reminded me that not everyone makes artwork for the same reason. Some do so for their profession of course, but others do so for their mental health, to improve their skills, for a hobby… Their art isn’t always made to impress the viewer, and this exhibition collates all that.

He encourages you to pick your favourites but questions why they are your favourites, why have you chose them? Are their any commonalities between these, but also, why haven’t you chose the others? This exhibition gives you a chance to revalue what you appreciate in terms of art, what you like, and what you expect to see from a gallery. I also want to quickly mention that Bren alongside others from Home, visited every Manchester borough to encourage people to apply and to also help them do so, those that may not be able to take digital images of their work, or those that don’t have access to a computer. Bren went around to be there and guide them through all that. Truly admirable!

I also asked Bren if he came across any surprises or any shocks when working on this exhibition:

‘Yes, I have been really blown away and overwhelmed by the quality and standard of the entries. It has also been a real, valuable reminder to me as to why art is made and that is much broader than the narrow focus that can be applied in the contemporary art field. I’ve been excited by the really unfamiliar pieces.’

I know I have said it before but feel like I need to say it again, one of the main things I love about Home mcr is that every exhibition is different. They totally re-work the room, changing the walls and layout so that no two exhibitions are the same. This exhibition, with over 500 pieces, could be too much, it could be overcrowded. However, they way they have displayed the work, the way the walls are spaced, it gives the exhibition room to breath.

Open call exhibitions like this are massively important, as it really does give new and old artists a chance to showcase their work. It is refreshing to see that an establishment as big as Home is hosting something like this. Bren said he compares it to a Festival line up, instead of the local acts being on at 12pm on the little stages, they are on the main stage, in the head line spot! He also said there hasn’t been an open call like this in the city centre in 23 years! I bet Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery are pretty pissed that Home have got their first.

What I noticed when chatting to some of the artists featured there, was that they are all in different stages of their careers, or didn’t even see art as a careers at all! I chatted with Nicola Lucy (artwork 351), a very sweet young lady who does art as a hobby. She was on her way to work at one of the science labs in the hospital when she saw the open call poster on a bus and thought she may as well give it a go. She hasn’t done any art since high school, she didn’t even chose it as a main subject. And yet here is her digital image of her friends dog, sitting alongside artists who have been working for 30+ years.

You can literally see all work from all walks of life, video art, sculpture, textiles, paintings. drawings, digital art, ceramics, costume and more! This is one of those exhibitions that not only was open for anyone to apply, but also open for anyone to view. I don’t think you have to be a fan of art to come and see this, it is so varied and not pretentious. It’s art without the bullshit. It’s an honest, open for anyone, good ol’ classic art exhibition.

The Manchester Open is on at Home mcr from 18th January – 29th March. Free.

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