Galleries - August 2018

HS2 might be some seven years from completion and the Northern Hub still a work in progress, but artistically, Manchester really isn't waiting. The biennial Manchester International Festival (the next one is just under a year from now) is well established –and it will have a major arts venue in The Factory, designed by Rem Koolhaas' OMA practice, open by then as well. The city is, in short, getting back to its confident 19th century ways. That includes the visual arts, with the newly re-branded Manchester Art Fair celebrating its tenth year in distinctly expansionist mode in its new-ish (2017) permanent home within the grand, single arched space of the Victorian Manchester Central station –a conference and exhibition centre in the middle of the city. It is an exhilarating venue for an enterprise that also hosts, under the same banner, the Manchester Contemporary, a smaller curated event, comprising some 30 odd stands and, remarkably, the “only invitational event for critically engaged art outside London”. The whole event has been steadily expanding its reach –120 plus exhibitors last year and likely to be more again in October – mixing commercial galleries and individual artists' stands. Art really is coming back in force to Manchester, and in a way that the city's famed Victorian businessmen collectors would readily recognise. Born a Muslim in 1939 in India's Uttar Pradesh region, Jamil Naqsh's remarkable life and artistic career is, in many ways, a microcosm of the huge upheavals caused by Partition on the sub- continent over the last 70 years or so. Forced by the ensuing religious troubles, he made an extraordinary solitary journey as a young teenager across India before finding his way to Lahore in Pakistan and the art school there, training initially as a miniaturist under Ustad Haji Sharif but soon also finding books and catalogues of 20th century Western art, Picasso’s work in particular. Thus two strands of art, Western and Islamic, became embedded in his artistic consciousness and out of these, he forged a successful and unique style that has made him one of the most famed Pakistani artists of his generation. To appreciate this remarkably subtle fusion of ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, bold calligraphic forms and tender figuration, go and see his latest show at Pontone Gallery this month. Nicholas Usherwood The gothic ‘keep’ of Abergavenny Castle (really a Regency hunting lodge amid romantic ruins) is home to the town’s museum. This is the pleasing venue for a collaboration between artist Rosemary Clunie and writer Ben Okri who have been friends for some 20 years, and their imaginations have become entwined. Landscapes, figures and symbols emerge from the serendipity and free association of Clunie’s batique-like mark-making, and Okri has responded to 25 of her paintings with imaginative stories. He says “The stories do not illustrate the paintings. They reach to the world from which the paintings came, the under stream of our lives.” The results, ‘The Magic Lamp: Dreams of Our Age’, are brought together in an illustrated book and the exhibition at Abergavenny Museum (in the Castle), which was arranged to coincide with the first Abergavenny Arts Festival. Peter Wakelin AND FINALLY . . . It seems our Welsh spelling has gone awry. In our review of Chloe Holt's show at Ffin y Parc in the July issue we left out the second 'f', put in a second 'n' and felt 'y' would be nicer than an 'i'. To compound the error we discover that this is not the first time we have spelt it incorrectly. We hope readers found their way to the shows regardless and offer sincere apologies. R OUND-UP 12 GALLERIES AUGUST 2018 from left D amien Hirst ‘Entreaty’ The Drang Gallery, Manchester Art Fair Jamil Naqsh ‘Mohenjo-daro X’ Pontone Gallery Rosemary Clunie ‘The Mystic Betrothal’ Abergavenny Museum M anchester art Pakistan journey Welsh dreams