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Cube Open Exhibition

Wendy Jones visits two galleries; same city, same street, <i>different planets</i> and both irritating in their own special ways.

Published on August 15th 2007.

Cube Open Exhibition

Colin Jellicoe, the Grand-daddy of Manchester galleries, is celebrating its 44th summer exhibition. As I stood looking in the window, I wondered why I had never been in this gallery before...

I really tried to be charmed by the dilapidation of the place with its sagging broken chairs (sorry), chair. Scrubby, hand-torn signs and asthma inducing damp, I wanted to love it all, especially after Cube's pristine, so-cool-I'm-dead approach, but I didn't. Instead I felt quite annoyed with the whole thing. Pictures hung randomly, or stacked on the floor, a rack of post-cards, curling like old British-Rail sandwiches in the damp, and a raggedy carpet that was probably last hoovered 44 yrs ago.

I bought some of the curling post cards and as I handed Mr Jellicoe himself a fiver, prayed silently that he wouldn’t say, "oh I've got no change", but what were the chances?

Colin Jellicoe’s work is a bit magical, in fact a lot magical. Also, one of my pre-curled cards was of a painting by John Blenkinsopp, Italian Cornfield, which makes you feel the sun on your back just looking at it.

So that’s the reason this gallery is still going strong, very desirable pictures at good prices. So, if you're tolerant and nice and have your inhaler handy, get along there. And don’t tell him what I said about the mess.

Then, in complete contrast, as people used to say, nip over the road to Cube and its first Open Submissions exhibition. Not a trace of damp here, just a very lovely space to wander round, with a smashing bookshop and usually excellent informative and accessible exhibitions. Not this one though, which was so ethereal it almost didn’t appear.

Their handout says they had 250 entries to choose from and how difficult it was and the usual blah about high standards etc, etc. God, I nearly fell asleep before I saw an exhibit. It concludes by saying that the exhibition reveals the complex relationships that artists have with the city today. Pretentious, moi??? Well not to me it don’t, and no wonder they struggled to make the selection as there seemed to be only about five things to look at anyway.

The first delight was a plastic meat pie with a note attached that said, "If this is not moving nudge it gently". Well we all like a bit of animation don't we? so I did as I was told, twice actually. It still didn’t move and I felt the red mists rising.
On I went though, intrepid as ever, but it's quite dark in there and I tried to read the info, which, needless-to-say, is printed in pale grey on only slighter paler grey. Without one’s specs, well forget it. Please will designers start remembering that it’s quite handy to be able to actually read the bloody information that for years they have been hiding in mists and florals.

I took refuge in the bookshop where the staff are lovely, helpful and efficient, and the books plentiful enough to calm down the rattiest of reviewers.

A week later I took another look at Open. Same instructions onthe meat-pie, same result. Its official title by-the-way is Steakbake.

David Gledhill's work, of which there is one large city-scape is always memorable for me in that I never dare to look for too long for fear that one day I will actually find out what terrifying secret is lurking, hidden within it.

Helen Bendon has created a lovely kind of Creature Comforts moment, without the creatures, but with beautifully observed details of windows and net curtains and recordings of city-dwellers comments on their environment with marvelous, random one-liners such as there's too many squirrels round here ( not the usual complaint of urbanites)

Also worth long-looks are, Alexandra Dipple's Dots and Full Stops. Carol Evans The Queen and Fiona merchant's Untitled Drawing.

So, yes there is very good work to be seen, but annoyingly accompanied by pretentious descriptions and the need for night goggles, a torch and a compass to find them.

Cube Gallery, Portland Street
Open Exhibition
Till Aug 25th Free

Colin Jellico, Portland Street
44th Summer exhibition
Till Nov 3rd Free

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