Words, Jessica Greenall
From sketchbooks and paintings to sculptures and film, Looking North is a diverse and impressive display of new additions to the Arts Council Collection by artists from North West England.
Upon entering the exhibit, Joe Fletcher Orr’s neon light installation, Friendly Name for a Fool, immediately catches my eye. His piece kindly and gently glows the phrase ‘soft lad’; an appropriate welcome to this celebration of Northern talent.
The neon sign is a reference to his father, who teases Orr with the scouse term, and to his mother who wrote the words by hand for Orr to copy. His black and white leaf patterned rug, Orranocro, is placed under the neon sign. This piece emerged after Orr’s father suggested that Orr could make a rug better than the ones sold at the family’s rug stall. In being inspired by ordinary family conversation and affection, both works reflect Orr’s use of humour to poke fun at contemporary art and the ‘seriousness’ of the art world.
Jesse Wine’s work is similarly autobiographical, as he uses everyday occurrences to create his expressive sculptures, such as overheard conversations and elements from his daily life. I really care V is a clay sculptor of one of Wine’s recent meals; a gleefully messy meal that has been seemingly thrown together.
Jason Thompson’s Aztec inspired paintings are rich in colour, taking influence from mechanical diagrams, and diagrams of plants and bodies. Thompson adopts a spontaneous and unplanned technique for his paintings, allowing them to grow by trial and error. His evolutionary process is evident in Mirror Sun Cloud, as the repeating shapes and colours appear like a blossomed flower.
In contrast, Mary Griffiths’ work is minimal and devoid of colour. She adopts a more controlled technique. Her drawings made with graphite and scratched marks are inspired by the places she visits, but contain minimal elements of the locations. Instead, Griffiths hopes to evoke their atmosphere in the thousands of fine lines she scratches into the surface using a small, hand-held, tool. The layers of graphite allow for a near mirror finish and the lines appear to shift as you change viewing position. Her other work in Looking North, Causeway and Microlight, consequently appear sculptural until you take a closer look.
Paul Rooney’s work proudly sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the Walker’s classical and historical archive. Flat 23 uses sound and video to deliver a melancholy, documentary, piece on places and memories. The viewer can see recordings of an empty apartment shown on three television sets, whilst the former resident of the soon to be demolished block of flats lists the objects that used to populate her apartment. Her voice is set to music and sung in a two-part harmony, as each recording delivers a different tone of voice, overlapping and disorientating her words.
Rooney’s work often portrays deceptions of language when representing ordinary moments and memories. The confusion of speech combined with three mundane recordings is oddly haunting, as it becomes difficult to make sense of the familiar setting. As the voice disjointedly lists objects the viewer can only see the three empty apartments.
What is made clear throughout Looking North is the artist’s ability to perceive and interpret the everyday into an interesting creative piece, whether it be an affectionate insult from a relative, an existing place, or a memorable meal.