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).

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