Twice as Nice: Exhibition Review

Twice as Nice at PS Mirabel

I recently wrote a review of Print UnLtd at Salford Museum and Art Gallery and said how busy the private view was, saying it was one of the busiest I’ve been to in a long time. Sorry Print, ‘Twice as Nice’ has just taken that title.

I know why it was so busy, it’s because there is so much work on display. This exhibition features a ton of artists. With the theme of ‘Twice as Nice’ each artist had two pieces of work on display. In total there were 51 artists and 102 pieces to see! PS Mirabel isn’t the biggest of galleries in terms of both wall space and floor space. So with so many artists being featured, and all being there at the preview, and with all the guests that come along too, it wasn’t just the artwork that filled the space.

I don’t want to write negatively about an exhibition at PS Mirabel as I have already declared that I am a big fan. I just think this time it may have been a bit too much. Maybe not if you go on a different day, but the night of the private view I felt it couldn’t handle the numbers, and I personally think the walls couldn’t handle 102 pieces of work either. It was kind of like the PS Mirabel curators were throwing a party and invited everyone, thinking that some people would be busy and turn down the invitation. But no one did, and now they have to accommodate for everyone as they all clicked attending.

So before it all became too claustrophobic for me (bear in mind that it was also a million degrees in there) I did get a chance to pick out some highlights, as well as meet and catch up with some artists, finally putting faces to names.

We missed Sarah Eyre’s exhibition back in October/November at PAPER Gallery so I was pretty pleased to see her work here at ‘Twice as Nice’. ‘Cut. Copy. Paste’ (number 57 and 58 out of 102) focuses on female hair. They are slightly distorted, broken with a curvy line that could represent the female form. The black and white images means it is unclear as to what the hair colour is. It could be blonde, or ginger, or mousey brown. It could be wig. It is not clear if there is a head or a face, or if it’s resting on a stand. It is a bit of an enigma. You can take so much from a persons face and how they look, and hair is a huge part of a person’s identity. This links back to the work I reviewed of Sonia Boyce, (Manchester Art Gallery till 2nd July).

Reading more about Sarah Eyre, her work ‘centres around the rather hairy subject of wigs – specifically women’s wigs, and their relationship to gender, identity and the female body.’ Without being ‘genderist’, I do think women’s hair perhaps means more to them than mens do. It’s a lot more open and common to talk about balding men, but what about women? You can walk down Oldham Street and through Manchester Arndale and find a bunch of hair shops focusing on women’s hair products, extensions and wigs etc. I can’t think of anywhere in Manchester where you can buy male wigs? Women’s hair dye, there are rows and rows of it in supermarkets and pharmacy shops, and maybe 2 or 3 options for men. It’s just crazy how women can’t go grey, can’t lose their hair, and we have to do everything to cover that up. Sorry, rant over.

Olga Woszczyna was one of the artists I got the pleasure of chatting to. She uses a lot of natural products and sources in her work and the pieces in this exhibition are no exception. Using tea bought from a trip to China, Olga creates textured and dark giclee prints. ‘Essence and Essence’ (21 and 22) named so because the work also has a scent of tea, bringing in a new sense that isn’t usually appealed to in the art world, so I commend her for that. The prints look almost haunting,  like in a dark forest night. The tea, being brown on a black background, creates an almost tangled web of branches. Reading Olga’s ‘About‘ page, she describes her work; ‘I am attracted to hectic cities with their variety of cultural and design influences. Finding natural elements being incorporated into the context of modern public spaces, I gradually gained a more profound appreciation for raw and natural materials, such as wood and other forms ‘that could be brought from forest’.’

I chatted with Martyn Lucas whose work also features in ‘Twice as Nice’, number 97 and 98. He uses vintage postcards of landscapes, usually of places he has visited as a child, and adds collage pieces to them. Martyn says his work is about thinking of the ‘difficulty of landscapes.’ Generations of artists have painted landscapes, Martyn wants to explore what we can add, what can do to make it different. Using those little pantone paint slices you get from B&Q, he immerses himself in the landscapes, working with a multitude of colours trying to find the right one to add. He tries to respond to the landscape as the original painter would, by examining the land, the colours, the shapes, looking at them through ‘artist’ eyes and deconstructing the image, enabling him to pick the right colour and create the shape to add as a collage. What initially may looks like a simple piece, actually has a lot of depth to it and can take Martyn a long time to create.

It was a shame the private view was so packed, because there were other artists featured that I wanted to see and missed, or briefly saw at a glance. A couple of others I want to mention were Garth Gratrix (73 and 74), he created two lovely little sculptures, that looked like a pastel coloured Wrigley’s extra strip that had been curled. Marc Beattie’s paintings ‘FRAGILE’ are also worth a mention, the crumpled up fragile tape, now looks likes like rubbish, contradicts with what the word ‘fragile’ means. There is great detail in the painting as you can really sense the crunch of the tape. Susan Gunn, Tina Dempsey and our current Manc of the Month Steven Heaton also feature.

With so many artists on show, there could be so much more to write, but it was impossible to take everything in. On the flip side, it’s great to see such a range of artists in one gallery, however individual works were suffocated and surrounded by the next piece. Just like I felt a little suffocated by the heat and the amount of people there. Too busy, too crowded, too much to look at.

‘Twice as Nice’ is on at PS Mirabel till 11th August – free to visit.

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