PAPER has pulling power. Especially when it’s cut, twisted, carved and manipulated into a feast of beauty and ideas.
Abundance, colour and vivacity are the hallmarks of Andrea Mastrovito's sublime works, Enciclopedia dei fiori da giardino, and Exodus:8:13, where Gardens of Eden burst from catalogues and magazines.
Manchester Art Gallery’s inspired decision to let 31 international artists loose with scissors, clippers and loads of treeware has delighted, charmed and informed visitors for three or so months now.
This Sunday is when it all comes to a close and the exhibition is folded up and packaged for a trip to its next destination. The First Cut is reaching its final cut.
This is art as pure experience. There’s dark, nightmarish, content in several of the works but the craftiness in execution, the leaps of imagination, can’t help but make the viewer feel uplifted on leaving.
Highlights come small with Peter Callesen's tiny works fashioned from a single sheet of white A4 ('the most common media for carrying information today') including a seated skeleton with a shadow of its former fleshed self. The work is called Looking Back, and carries its message in its title.
Highlights come large with Long-Bin Chen's Twist Angel, a ship's figurehead of a figure fashioned from discarded books. This life-size figure seemingly dives from the ceiling, an angel composed of redundant fact and knowledge.
Highlights come truly massive with Rob Ryan's remarkable The Map of My Entire Life, or Manubu Hangai's Wonder Forest, the seaweed constructed transcendental intro to the exhibition.
Chris Jones's work The Earl stands guard in the original atrium entrance of the gallery. The Terminator like presence makes reference to the Elgin Marble copies in the freize above donated in 1831.
Delicacy is the order of the day with Su Blackwell, Claire Brewster and Andrea Dezso's art, while abundance, colour and vivacity are the hallmarks of Andrea Mastrovito's sublime works, Enciclopedia dei fiori da giardino, and Exodus:8:13, where Gardens of Eden burst from catalogues and magazines - see main image at the top of the page. Meanwhile Norike Ambe's, A Piece of Flat World, has a colossal geological impact despite its modest size (see gallery of pictures below).
Only Kara Walker’s Grub for Sharks: A Concession to the Negro Populace, seems to fail. This room filling exhibition was previously seen in Liverpool in a show called 'the History of Liverpool and the Slave Trade’. It features life-size and larger grotesques of slaves and their white masters in silhouette.
It has value in reminding us that such potent eighteenth century caricatures still inform our prejudices, but it didn't fit in this show. Walker's work is akin to being clouted over the head by an arty sledge hammer, a sledgehammer made of cardboard. It's just too obvious.
Throughout the galleries, away from the main exhibition, you'll find other pieces from the exhibition. This is part of a new tactic of letting artworks talk to each and create associations across artistic spectrums.
With First Cut the tactic works extremely well: the whole exhibition does.
If you've not been, go.
It's more than worthwhile spending a couple of hours with this heavyweight yet exquisitely paper thin exhibition.
The First Cut is at Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, until 27 January. It is free of charge.
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