You get Howard Donald’s arse at the bottom of the stairs. Very appropriate.
It’s part of Robert Walker’s limited edition of Take That photos and costs £237.50 a cheek - £475 a pair you might say. The main Walker pic is entitled ‘The Week Robbie Left’ (also £475) which tells its own story. Moody and starved of colour the images lend the collection at Phillips showbiz glitz. And Donald’s backside in chaps.
The real highlights are further down in the bowels of the building - so to speak. The group exhibition, lots of artists heaped together, is one the artists themselves can’t abide but is usually a good tactic in a small gallery. It enables variety rather than ego. Phillips is doubly good value because the owners David and Dianne Powell choose well, featuring a mix of Manchester themes and artists with incomers.
This exhibition is all about tranquillity although most of it’s awkward rather than comfortable. Astrid Kruse Jensen captures absolute stillness in ‘the House by the Water’ (£2,500, photo, 100cm x 120cm): a Norwegian home silhouetted at chill twilight over a mill-pond-like fjord with three or four rooms of the house illuminated excluding the viewer. James Naughton with ‘Storm Light’ (£1,200, oil, 10”x11”) captures long views under wet cloudscapes in Northern England, horizons disappearing into moody skies, like an evocation of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem ‘Inversnaid’ famous for the line, ‘What would the world be bereft of wilderness and wet’. Meanwhile Kate Davies ‘Woodland Remains’ (£2,450, oil on canvas, 49”x 63”) ratchets up the angry skies theme further with boiling atmospherics that could come from an image of the surface of Jupiter.
It’s not all countryside though. David Gledhill’s ‘Corner of Newton Street and Faraday Street’ (£3,500, oil on canvas, 36”x 50”) is magnificent. The anonymous junction is shown in photographic detail, brushed through with sepia and brown. Apart from the street furniture and signs, a quick guess might place the picture at the US/Mexican border. Completely depopulated and turning the familiar on its head this haunts the mind much more than the lurid colours of the obligatory Liam Spencer which also features, ‘Newton Street , Manchester’ (£5,000, oil on board, 8” x 10”).
There are humans on the gallery walls aside from Take That. David Hancock’s ‘Everytime you feel like crying, I’m gonna make you laugh’ (£11,000, acrylic on canvas, 48” x 72”) from the ‘Jane says’ series is worth a good long look not least for the technical ability. This is consciously Pre-Raphaelite with a tale told in the title. Put the tear stained school girl, a smile beginning to play on her lips, slumped in a school toilet with a single flower beside her in medieval costume in a forest in the same pose and give it the title ‘Patience weeping for Loyalty’ or some such, and it could slip straight into Manchester Art Gallery, unnoticed.
For the humans on the walls, this is the pick, otherwise the exhibition is best for those long scenes of uncomfortable silence. This exhibition is especially recommended for those
So, it’s sorry about your lovely arse Howard. For any Take That fans who are desperate for some butt action, if you forgive the phrase, then you’ll have to call in on the gallery as they wouldn’t let us publish the picture.
Phillips Art Gallery (10a Little Lever Street, off Stevenson Square, City. 0161 941 4197, 07968 047224 www.philipscontemporaryart.com)
Tue-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 11am-6pm
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Astrid Kruse Jensen ‘The House by the Water’
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