Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The First Cut – Students’ Responses

The teacher’s preview evening of ‘The First Cut’ exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery included the opportunity to work with artists Nicola Dale and Andrew Singleton. Initially, the artists gave us an overview of their work to date and afterwards delivered workshops where they shared their secrets with us!
  This proved to be great fun and it was beneficial to us all as educators to be in the position of a learner for a change! I enjoyed the workshops so much that I took the ideas back to school and challenged my Year 12 students to take Nicola and Andrew’s ideas on board. Students were shown the artists’ work and after a demonstration were asked to work in small teams to explore the qualities of paper. 
Students initially experimented with different techniques ranging from piercing and slicing to rolling and wrapping. They were then asked to use the best of their ideas to create a group piece that could be hung in the style of Andrew Singleton. Their homework task was to take an old Manchester Art Gallery guide and create a small sculpture from it, as Nicola had asked us to do during her workshop. They were given the theme of water as the old guide was for a watercolour exhibition. One of the results of this task can be seen below. 
  It is interesting to see that this paper workshop and exhibition are still influencing students today as they work towards their final submission for Unit 3. I look forward to seeing the end results and would like to say a big thank you to Manchester Art Gallery, Nicola and Andrew for delivering such an inspirational session back in July.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The First Cut

The First Cut exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery is a stunning celebration of artists who use paper in original and exciting ways. There has been a growing trend of artists cutting and sculpting paper over the past few years and this exhibition brings together some of the most important names in one place. 

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a teacher’s preview evening in July where we found out about the concept of the exhibition and worked with two of the exhibiting artists – Nicola Dale and Andrew Singleton. As I am a such a huge fan of cut paper work (whether it has been cut by hand or by laser), it was a real treat to be able to work with Nicola and Andrew. Both artists took time to carefully explain the influences behind their sculptures before showing us their working methods. For me, it is really important to know how a work of art has come about as it places the work in context and becomes much more meaningful.
Watch a short interview with Andrew here
Watch a short interview with Nicola here

Paper sculptures in ‘The First Cut’ are dotted all over Manchester Art Gallery but the main exhibition area is on the top floor where artists have got the advantage of the vast rooms to display their creations. Walking in to the first room, I was immediately greeted with the surreal hanging sculptures of Manabu Hangai. Manabu’s ‘Wonder Forest’ is a series of enormous tree like sculptures that are suspended from the ceiling. As I wandered through his gently moving forest it conjured up feelings of being a child again. Manabu has created the installation from locally sourced branches and autumnal coloured leaves made from Japanese seaweed. The leaves are made from ‘hosojuzumo’ which is a seaweed based raw hemp paper pigment native to Hokkaido, Japan. The leaves have a lovely lace like quality to them and cast beautifully patterned shadows on to the floor as they slowly move around. Magical!

I was also thrilled to see two of my favourite paper artists in the first room, Rob Ryan and Peter Callesen. The scale of both artists’ work surprised me. Rob’s work was cut on a much larger scale than I had imagined it would be and Peter’s work was exceptionally small (being fashioned from a single sheet of A4 paper). It just goes to show the importance of seeing art work first hand (Year 13 take note!)
Claire Brewster has cut birds on display in the main exhibition area and butterflies on the first floor in the Pre-Raphaelites gallery. Here, on the dusky turquoise walls and amongst work of another time, she has pinned exquisitely cut butterflies. Claire has used vintage map paper to create the butterflies which range in size and shape – some look like they are resting whilst others are in flight. I like the reference that she has made here to the Victorian’s act of pinning and classifying nature.

There are many other equally talented and interesting artists in this exhibition – far too many to mention in this post! You can see a great clip of the exhibition installation here. If you are in the area, it is well worth a visit. The exhibition is on at Manchester Art Gallery until Sunday 27th January 2013 before moving on to Djanogly Art Gallery in Nottingham (from April).