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There’s A Rainbow In The Road, Caroline Johnson, Reviewed

Phil Griffin adores these MCR and Salford streetscenes

Written by . Published on May 7th 2013.


There’s A Rainbow In The Road, Caroline Johnson, Reviewed
 

THE LOWRY opened in April 2000. A rare thing for a publicly funded gallery, it presented a selling show, a straightforward commercial exhibition, complete with price list. 

There are steel barriers slung beside the tramline, and the hard black verticals and tort diagonals of the poles and power lines. Again, the yellows and reds lightly punctuate the blueness of it all. If I could afford to treat myself to this painting I would. 

It was the first time Liam Spencer had shown his Manchester Panoramas. The show sold out. 

Liam made BBC news and the cover of City Life magzine. Now, I’m not suggesting that this was the start of a new movement of streetscape art in Manchester and Salford, but Spencer clearly put his foot down quite heavily on the accelerator of that particular bus. 

There’s A Rainbow In The Road fanfares the return to these streets of Caroline Johnson. 

The artist from Preston has come back after a couple of decades lived mainly in Northern France. Salford Museum and Art Gallery, itself fresh faced and spruced up, has had the good grace and taste to welcome the prodigal into its main space. 

Caroline Johnson pictures: photo Jan ChlebikCaroline Johnson pictures: photo Jan Chlebik

Johnson draws and paints what she’s looking at; pubs, chapels, back streets, blank walls. Nothing new in that. 

Ah, but her eyes and hands are controlled by a contrarian’s view. Her work is steadfastly un-picturesque. Hers is not an eye for genteel dereliction, ragged streets and ravaged pubs, though some of these are here. She flattens the world in a way that almost creates a new dimension; not even one dimension, some fraction of one dimension. And she looks intensely at things most of the rest of us barely register. 

Take the Arndale Centre… 

Never a Manchester favourite, Arndale integrates with nothing, has no visual cohesion, no architectural language to speak of and no (or at least not many) admirers. An especially blank corner of its featureless cladding is the main element in Johnson’s Market Street painting. Foreground is notional people tram-waiting. The place is a mesh; of tiling lines, blank windows and criss-crossing crow black power cables. Essence of un-picturesque. And yet there are those quick appealing yellows and unreproachful red. 

Market StreetMarket Street

Red brick Salford Lads Club, Kings Arms and Black Bull signs. Plenty of icons, some in memoriam; Hacienda is here before the apartments that stole its name, and Cornerhouse before the fools abandon it. 

Johnson scatters printed text around her streets, like paper caught in wind. And on cardboard ‘Elbow’s guitars’, part of the Blueprint sessions, drawings and limited edition prints from her residency at the Salford recording studios during the Build A Rocket Boys sessions. 

Chapel StreetChapel Street

That Liam Spencer show at the Lowry in 2000 had panoramas of Salford Quays. 

In just over a decade the abandoned docks have taken on the swagger of a Downtown as MediaCity has gown as facelessly as Dubai. 

Some of Caroline Johnson’s latest work has been down there. Like the buildings, these paintings are pumped up. A square metre painting of the latticed Salford University building is a beaut. Again, she flattens the view. There’s no water here, instead an empty road runs through it, cut by a shaft of light. There are steel barriers slung beside the tramline, and the hard black verticals and tort diagonals of the poles and power lines. Again, the yellows and reds lightly punctuate the blueness of it all. If I could afford to treat myself to this painting I would. 

Elbow's guitar stackElbow's guitar stack

Most of the work that I have enjoyed over the last twelve months or so has been in, or about Salford. Sadly, it looks like Cow Lane Studios is shrinking, though I gather Hot Bed Press is set to expand into some of the space. Though Sarah Hardacre now has her studio in the Northern Quarter (check out her work at sarahhardacre.com, but not in front of your mother), she still works with Salford skylines on a daily basis. 

Mr Spencer set off down the road of his career, and it was probably Chapel Street. The flyer for Caroline Johnson’s show is her painting of Chapel Street and Hope Reformed Church. If you haven’t been to Salford Museum and Art Gallery for a while, let me recommend you do it before 8 July. 

There’s A Rainbow In The Road is a rare treat, and a hefty slice of a fine artist whose work is only getting better.  

There’s A Rainbow In The Road is on until 7 July at Salford Museum & Art Gallery. 

Caroline Johnson Exhibition: photo Jan ChlebikCaroline Johnson Exhibition: photo Jan Chlebik

The Hacienda as wasThe Hacienda as was


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Adam PrinceMay 12th 2013.

And this is the beautiful work Caroline has so kindly donated to the Friends of London Road Fire Station and the upcoming exhibition of architecture competition, art, photography and history which will be in Piccadilly Place sometime late summer/ early autumn. img706.imageshack.us/…/47724340437211300882815.jpg…

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