fake empire – a year in art

this has been a really interesting year. i’ll admit, 12 months ago i never saw myself reflecting on a year in which i’ve started working at one of the best new  art galleries in europe and as a result have an ever growing interest in the visual arts. i don’t think i have ever seen myself as a ‘art’ person. during my masters course i stuck far more closely to the museum studies side of things, yet since april i have been delving further into the world of art. and i’ve been really enjoying it. so, here as a quick roundup of the shows that have really grabbed me over the course of 2011…

rachel goodyear, yorkshire sculpture park

wanderers - rachel goodyear

this is easily one of the most beautiful things i have seen this year. goodyear’s drawings are somewhere between mundane and macabre, creating a world inhabited by mostly animalistic characters living lives somewhere between love, death and pain. her simple-looking drawings contain such a sense of atmosphere, which is heightened even more by the small sculptural pieces which see her drawings sliding off the page and into the three dimensional world. i can’t put into words how much i enjoyed this exhibition, which you can still see until the third of january.

dark matters, whitworth art gallery

hiroshima flowers - elin o'hara slavick

i have always enjoyed visiting the whitworth, so upon coming back to manchester for a weekend recently it was always high on my list of things to do. i’m really glad that i did get up early on a monday morning to see dark matters, an exhibition bringing together the work of ten artists dealing with themes of shadow, darkness and wonder. i was particularly taken by how well the different media of this display fitted together, from daniel rozin’s interactive pieces through two stunning videos from r. luke dubois and hiraki sawa. for me the most impact came from elin o’hara slavick’s series of cyanotopes featuring objects left over from the debris of hiroshima – a powerful sense of what shadow can mean. once again, you can catch this at the start of 2012, it is still on until 15th january.

adolphe valette: a pioneer of impressionism in manchester, the lowry

manchester ship canal, adolphe valette

i love valette. i have done since the first time i saw his work in manchester art gallery the first time i went in there years ago. this exhibition brought together work from across his career, delving further than the usual ‘manchesterscapes’ which meant so much to me. this was a very well put together show, with a great flow to it around the gallery spaces. ok, so at points it made a bit too much of a point about valette being one of lowry’s art teachers, but you can hardly blame them. a fantastic collection of work from one of my favourite artists – must see. oh, and this one is still on next month too, till the end of january.

kid acne: kill your darlings, millennium gallery

stick to the plan, kid acne

i went to this expecting to enjoy it, but get that ‘ohimanindieboylookingaturbanartimabitoutofmydepthhere’ feeling. which i didn’t get at all. kid acne is sheffield’s foremost urban artist, and his work has a really dark edge which chimed perfectly for me. alongside photographs of his large scale outdoor work, this exhibition saw kid acne’s stabby women leap off the page and into film and installations in the gallery space. a small but perfectly captured show, and a fantastic introduction to my new city.

lucy crouch, westgate studios

lucy crouch

i’ve never really known any artists that well before, so this year is the first time that i’ve seen someone going through the process of putting their heart and soul into a collection of work for all to see. i’ve known enough musicians to understand the emotions folks go through, but seeing my good friend lucy putting this exhibition together felt different to that. it was a bloody brilliant show too. lucy’s work captures a real sense of trace, with fractured globes and memories of trees offering a story of a moment in time which may or may not lost to the ether. inspirational stuff for me, and i was really proud of her.

darrell viner: early work, henry moore institute

computer drawing, darrell viner

this was a real unexpected treat. i had never visited the henry moore institute before, so felt like i should give it a go. having been left a touch underwhelmed by the mario merz exhibition, i stumbled upon this display of viner’s experimental voyages into computer based art. as with crouch, viner creates a sense of trace which i really enjoyed. not an artist i knew anything about, but really glad to have discovered.

the hepworth wakefield

mother and child, barbara hepworth

and finally, the place that has seen me really developing my arty side. having been working at the hepworth since april, i have become quite used to spending the day with some of the most brilliant art around; sometimes you need a jolt to remind you of just how great this is. i got said jolt last week, watching the culture show’s end of year review that included the gallery as one of the highlights of the art world in 2011. the place that i work, every day, is one of the bbc’s highlights of the year. this kind of swept away the snowblindness a bit for me, and left me felling really proud. if you haven’t visited yet, i can’t recommend the hepworth enough. galleries 3 and 6 are so inspiring, and i can’t wait for our spring exhibitions which open in february, promising some post-apocalyptic views of the future – really exciting stuff.

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