The art year is kicking in strong. There were two galleries with openings in Manchester last week. On Thursday I went for a "catch it while you can" "launchpad" show at Castlefield Gallery. Jenny Core's curated show, "The Drawing Project" is only one until next Sunday, but go see it whilst you have the chance. All artists "draw", often as the work in progress, sketching out ideas, or filling notebooks. This show brings out the hidden nature of this transitory work in a number of intrigueing, often minimalist interventions that see the Gallery opened out again after a number of shows where bits have been cordoned off. Its a quiet, subtle show, but not without its surprises. Clare Weetman's video installation of a residency in Istanbul, and Hondartza Fraga's minimalistic multimedia works in particular are highlights.
Contemporary galleries like Castlefield are able to showcase subtle works well, but when we look at our great public galleries, such as Manchester Art Gallery, we expect something of "scale". More recently, Manchester Art Gallery has shown willing to open out all aspects of the building, and no more so than in the new exhibition by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. Her "Time Machine" exhibition gives this versatile artist the opportunity to explore a number of different forms - but what they all have in common is a sense of scale. Vasconcelo's work is a like that of a surreal feminist Terry Gilliam; from the giant textile baubles hanging in the atrium to the remarkable room filling installations of the main show, to her interventions in the existing collection, there's a confidence about these pieces that not only need to be seen to be understood but to be lingered in. In the main exhibition, there are only a few major works, but each of them will repay audiences from lingering longer than you might usually do. Seeing the gallery taken over by such unusual chimeras made the preview audience gasp with surprise, but also laugh at her humour and audaciousness. The MAG show is on for a while - and, though I didn't have time to check it out at the preview - is alongside an appropriate re-hang of twentieth century sculpture from the gallery collection.
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