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Landscapes and Surprises

Usually, with his schedule, Jason finds himself sprinting to a gallery to view what hopefully will be an exciting exhibition...

Published on June 6th 2006.

Landscapes and Surprises

Usually, with my schedule, I find myself sprinting to a gallery to view what hopefully will be an exciting exhibition, then spend the first ten minutes at the gallery desperately trying to lower my heart rate whilst wiping the sweat from my brow. It isn’t pretty.

But not this time. No, this time I was determined to casually walk to my destination, relax and see just that little bit more. And where else is better to indulge this rare occurrence on a Bank Holiday weekend than The Manchester Art Gallery. Why? Because there’s so much to see!

Dan Hays ‘Impressions of Colorado’

My reason for visiting the Manchester Art Gallery this time around was to view the paintings by the award winning Dan Hays, who was educated at Goldsmith’s College in London, won the prestigious 20th John Moore’s Liverpool Exhibition and is represented in major collections including Tate and Saatchi.

The collection of paintings entitled ‘Impressions of Colorado’, oil on canvas, didn’t disappoint. Dan Hays, the artist, discovered poor quality jpeg images of Colorado landscapes posted on a family website by another Dan Hays. I’m presuming that Dan must have been sat at his desk one day and started surfing for his own name to see what would turn up. I’ve done it; and I know a lot of other people who have. Haven’t they? The difference is that I don’t know anyone who’s turned the experience into art.

Anyway, with permission from ‘the family man’ Dan Hays he made a series of paintings from these images. He stretched and distorted the source material and faithfully transcribed in paint the resulting pixillated screen image. Half abstract and half realist, the divisions of paint make reference to modernist grids and abstract paintings. There are also two self-portraits, one a mirror image of the other, of Dan Hays ‘the family man’ and possibly my favourite, a painting of Yogi Bear white water rafting.

When I entered the space I was immediately confronted by three paintings of the Colorado landscape, all different in style but each quite thought provoking in its own way. In the centre of these paintings, surrounded by lush foliage, sits a log cabin. I couldn’t help but wonder; who lives there, what’s their life like? Who ever does live there, lives in the middle of nowhere, but a sense of loneliness was not the emotion that washed over me. The paintings made me feel safe, and what’s more I wanted to be in those paintings, any one of the three, with the sunshine washing over me while I walk through the dense forest and over the mountains.

As I listened to the comments of the people viewing this excellent collection of paintings, I believe the most used term was ‘Wow’. And I’d agree. Wow!

Salvaged: Restoring the Sirens and Ulysses

My next stop took me to the gallery on the first floor which houses Salvaged: Restoring the Sirens and Ulysses. If you’ve ever wondered how a deteriorating masterpiece can be salvaged, look no further because for the next eighteen months, between Tuesdays and Fridays, conservation staff will be using this gallery as a public workshop to restore the painting for permanent display.

The famous 19th century artist William Etty considered The Sirens and Ulysses to be his greatest achievement. The painting depicts a scene from Homer’s Odyssey where the hero, Ulysses, is blindfolded and tied to the mast of his ship to avoid the temptations of the voluptuous and dangerous Sirens. Although the painting is in very poor condition you can’t help but marvel at its beauty. Soon after this painting was originally completed it began to deteriorate due to Etty using too much binding medium, which made the ground hard and brittle.

The space is excellent. There’s a film which talks about the painting, its history and what’s going to happen. Information boards enable everyone to learn a little bit more, a there’s also a computer which allows you to view the painting close up and see how it has changed. There’s even a Feedback Area where you can write down your thoughts about the painting and the work that’s being undertaken which, I might add, was full of comments from young and old.

Coming up on the 7th June there’s a Salvaged update where you can put your questions to the conservators and find out about the progress made on the project.

If you love art or are simply curious, visit this first floor gallery because viewing this painting and seeing first hand the work that is being undertaken will truly open your eyes. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the people of Manchester. I definitely know where one (or more) of my Holiday Days will be spent this summer!


To my surprise, as I was on my way to get a drink in the gallery café on what was turning out to be quite a full day at The Manchester Art Gallery, I found myself in the glass atrium where the voluntary organisation Pushpanjali were performing. First a lone young woman performed and then two girls.

Pushpanjali perform Indian classical dance from the southern state, which dates back over a thousand years. They then provide training for this beautiful art form through formal and informal educational workshops, and provide students with a recognised certification or qualification.

I found out that Pushpanjali aim to develop childrens’ creativity and expression through dance and music. If the resounding applause that filled the atrium was anything to go by, I’d say that they are more than well on their way.

And that was that, my two and a half hours of freedom were over. But take it from me, it ever you have a couple of hours, or even just half, do yourself a favour and give yourself a well earned rest. The experience is guaranteed to pleasantly surprise you, as it did for me.

ArTzu Gallery

Talking of surprises - three weeks ago, quite out of the blue, I was offered something I just couldn’t refuse. No not an original Warhol, a job in an Art Gallery! Mr Nick Betney of the ArTzu Gallery called me up and offered me a job. I snapped it up right away.

For those of you not already familiar with the gallery, which is situated on Great Ancoat’s Street in the vibrant Northern Quarter, let me tell you. It’s the premier supplier of contemporary artwork here in Manchester. If truth be told, whilst working at The Artlounge, I was always a little envious of Mr Betney’s great eye for quality work.

As you can imagine I’m very excited about my new position, which includes Events Co-ordinating. Nick and I have some very exciting exhibitions already lined up so watch this space. But in the mean time let me tell you a little about this treasure of the Northern Quarter.

ArTzu Gallery was founded in 1998 by Nick Betney as a vehicle for representing a group of North West based artists. While staying close to its founding ethos the company has since grown to become one of the leading suppliers of contemporary artwork (paintings, sculpture & photography) outside London. Betney moved the gallery from the Trafford Centre over 3 years ago to spacious new premises in the creative heart of Manchester’s burgeoning Northern Quarter, next to the iconic Daily Express building, across the road from the Frog and Bucket. This has served to raise its profile and attracted attention from artists, interior designers, collectors as well as first-time buyers of artwork. In parallel, Betney has been developing a complementary side of the business to provide a comprehensive range of art consultancy services for domestic and corporate clients. Betney is equally proud of the comprehensive, full e-commerce website, where virtually the entire portfolio of artwork can be accessed: www.artzu.co.uk

ArTzu’s first big break came when they worked with Peel Holdings and in particular John Whittaker who is the chairman. He commissioned four paintings to commemorate the opening of the Trafford Centre and from this Betney opened his first gallery in the Trafford Centre.
When Nick founded Virginia House in the Northern Quarter he instantly knew this was a suitable home. Not only is it a beautiful building, but it has that all important rare commodity in the city centre, a car park across the road! In Betney’s words, ‘It’s a wonderful space, it affords prestigious exhibitions and ArTzu Gallery is now regarded as one of the best independent galleries outside London.’ And he isn’t exaggerating!

So come and see us, browse through the extensive artists’ catalogues and watch this space because this is going to be a very exciting year for the ArTzu gallery.

Manchester Art Gallery
Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3JL. Tel: 0161 235 8899
Opening Hours
Tuesday-Sunday 10.00-5.00
Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays.
Also closed 1 January, Good Friday, 24-26 and 31 December.
Admission: Free

ArTzu Gallery
Virginia House, 5 Great Ancoats Street, The Northern Quarter, and Manchester, M4 5AD Tel: +44 (0) 161 228 3001
New Gallery Opening Times: Tuesday - Saturday: 11am - 5.30pm. Sun: by appointment only. Monday: closed
To receive information about upcoming Events and Private Views, or to get onto the Mailing List please call Tel: 0161 228 3001. Alternatively click on the ArTzu Gallery link and go to the 'Online Art Magazine' and submit your info.

Jason Selby
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