Manchester Metropolitan University
North West England

I went to Manchester and I found a large white space, sophisticated degree work, projects which clearly had been loved and laboured and so many instances of students putting themselves into their work and remembering their audience. I visited Manchester Metropolitan University two times and in both cases I felt charged and inspired by the work on show. The second time I did go home and get on with work, work I had been procrastinating over. Thank you.

The Holden Gallery is a fine opener to any show at Manchester Metropolitan University, an amazing exhibition space, and there’s so much work around and beyond here too, yet it is the public face to the building and sometimes the institution. There were some favourites in the show, as I pay particular attention to that which I know, as well and to that which catches my attention.

The Foundation drawing prize captivates me every year, large A1 drawings beautifully executed, considered, technically mastered and with the personal and imaginative stamp of an authentic signature. This corridor space is alive and the addition of the plasma screen above the doorway descending into the old canteen space (I’m very old school, ‘I remember a time when all this was fields’) creates a fine dialogue between the stillness and silent nods of the drawings.

I wish there were more space to exhibit drawings sometimes.

The Holden Gallery has an interactive feel, sculptural, conceptual, filling the space like an playground for the eyes and mind. The exhibits (that seems like the wrong word, and yet the only word?) pull you around the space and as some of the more imposing strike you first the quieter considered pieces pull you in such as Yan Laundy’s ‘3 Curiosities’, hanging from the ceiling, a disco-glittering-sculpted metal-light installation. It’s mesmerising. And I think it was my favourite piece in the whole show.

The side rooms off the Holden Gallery offer a range of practice methodologies and frameworks from which you get a sense of not only individual authorship but also the of the faculties within the Institute, what they can offer and what influence this can have on students learning and output.

I go again with what I know, or rather, let me correct that what I have knowledge about, what I have the pleasure to be informed of – Branka Vidovich-Butler ( ) has a number of pieces in the show which bring to mind (in visual and conceptual content) a number of pieces I have seen by notable established artists and performers. Vidovich-Butler’s work is memorable, imaginative and metaphorically rich. There are a number of references from anthropology, to displacement, the feminine, language – both its form and its content as stream of consciousness and its core of identity. She has embraced a number of different processes and techniques which she presents through appropriate and considered means.

The Link takes you over to more Interactive arts work and design work, and you cant fail to miss the imaginative and fun design of Simon Green, who moves the functional up a gear and takes double yellow lines into functional 3D bench design, and its really comfortable…I wonder what he could do with parking tickets? He’s one of those students who, already, appears to be a functioning professional – which is what we hope for all those who BA students who work at it and desire it.

Going through to photography I came across the work of Vito Lui Mattioli, another multi-expressive student/artist. Lui Mattioli presents a film piece of unusual narrative, forwards and then backwards, a theatre of the absurd and intrigued, all within the format of base fundaments of the human condition such as solitary-ness, adventure, journey, masking and reversal. This piece is built into the gallery space with sculptural installations of broken umbrellas, tape and guiding or rather note writing to present a personal hook, seemingly displaced pieces which are, in fact linked together.
Lauren Patterson’s flesh, photo memory pieces in the same room are unusual explorations of physical and memory space combined, they take us to a close up space of flesh and blurred vision, of ‘wonderment, joy sometimes forgotten’.

Claire Cullens ‘The Grandsons of Abraham’. It’s good to see considered photo-documentary work which takes us out of the institution and reminds us of more global concerns to counteract our self absorption and recession stress. The photographs are sensitively shot, they instil a sense of peace and hope, and they are doing what photography is good at, and also what photography is much debated over, they are bringing to us something we ordinarily wouldn’t see. Representation and images are a crucial part of our society.

There is so much to see at the show and so much of the good stuff, and I haven’t even begun on the embroidery or design work, that will have to be for another time. The students have excelled themselves and I have only touched upon a few.
The degree show was wonderful. The creative output, the consideration, the dedication, the risks, the challenges, the learning, the presentation, the soul searching these are all things, which as I recall, you live for three years, the degree show is a stamp of completion, a chance for students to represent themselves and their course, and they’ve done it really well. The Manchester Metropolitan Degree Show 2009 has again presented something solid and exciting.

(photos to follow…)