the first cut


On Sunday I went to see Manchester Art Gallery's new exhibition 'The First Cut' which is all about paper, mostly paper cutting, but also other techniques including making huge leaves out of seaweed and hemp.

These delicate cutwork birds made from old maps by Claire Brewster were my favourite, perhaps because they symbolised a freedom and lightness of touch that I felt the rest of the exhibition lacked. Apart from the seaweed leaves and an enormous, gestural piece by someone I can't now remember, I must admit to an uncomfortable feeling of claustrophobia while walking around. There is something very tight, controlled and almost slightly verging on madness about the process of cutting tiny work from paper, the sort of thing I have seen prisoners or mental health users produce. Very reminiscent of outsider art in its varying forms. Some artists such as the perennially popular Rob Ryan manage to capture a poetry and humour that lifts their work, but I'm afraid a lot of it seemed too intense and gave me a bit of a constriction in the throat - not really something I usually look for in an encounter with art! What a difference from the outdoor freedom and space of last weekend's trip to the YSP.

Do leave a comment if you have been to see the exhibition - I would be interested to hear other perspectives.

14 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

I had a look at some of the images in the exhibition and I agree with your critique. Not keen on the Rob Ryan works either. Just as well I won't be going then...

Sandra Robinson said...

I was really excited to visit this exhibition but also came away feeling a little disappointed and not sure why, because on the whole the work is beautiful and incredibly clever. I went with a friend and neither of us could understand why one whole room had been dedicated to the silhouettes, I felt it could have been spread out a bit better.

Gilly said...

I'm trying hard to imagine huge leaves made out of seaweed and hemp!! But the birds are pretty. think I had better follow your link and find out more!

Frances said...

Sue, thanks for providing the link to the exhibit, so we faraway folks could see a bit more of what was on display.

I do believe that I agree with you about the works in this exhibit, although some paper-based art does fascinate me. I guess I also prefer pieces that still have some air in them!

xo

rossichka said...

I know about "The first cut" from Rob Ryan's blog - http://rob-ryan.blogspot.com/
I would love to go there, because I adore papercutting! My first thought was how lucky you were to have had the chance to visit the exhibition. I'm sorry to learn you didn't feel comfortably... Maybe this experience has a special meaning for you and you will decipher it.:)

Susie Hewer said...

I love those birds! We have an artist here in East Sussex who produces the most exquisite but quirky paper cuts - sadly I can't remember her name. My favourite was of tiny little figures, including a horse and Cinderella's carriage, emerging from a book of fairy tales. I think it was called "Escape from the fairy tale" or something like that and it was enchanting.

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

I haven't seen it but am hoping to ... I think, less sure now I've read this. I fear working with cut paper has something of the bandwagon about it ... I've seen pieces that feel derivative even when they aren't.

I'm off to Manchester later, but for a good reason, my daughter is taking me to a Civil Wars gig :)

eva ucgatwork said...

I love the YSP...it's one of my favourites. Walking among those beautiful sculptures, enjoying a picnic (great cafeteria! Love the Ale Pie)
Can't wait for summer...when I will be back in Northern England for 4 glorious weeks!
eva

JP said...

we went last wed and I rather liked it - grandaughter Phoebe wouldn't come out of the 'jungle'!!!! - couldn't imagine ever wanting to do work like this but I did appreciate the skills

ljw said...

I've been looking at images of Clare Brewster's artwork on her website. They really are rather beautiful.

acornmoon said...

I can see where you are coming from, especially with the huge, flowery exhibit which looked like hundreds of seed catalogues side by side. I can understand how you would make the connection with insanity but I did enjoy the exhibition for the most part, especially the book arts, my favourite being 'Wuthering Heights" My only gripe was that the exhibition itself was difficult to locate in the building. We almost missed it, mistaking the gallery selling cut pieces/prints on the ground floor!

mary said...

I haven't seen the exhibition but was interested in your reaction because I also feel uncomfortable with paper cutouts and Rob Ryan makes me squirm. I'm not sure why. It's the snippiness ...
Actually, now I come to think of it, I've always disliked pictures of Edward Scissorhands, too .

fishinkblog said...

http://wp.me/pY4YW-1ZS The First Cut Paper-cutting Exhibition Manchester City Art Gallery I loved it and will go and see it again next sunday on it's last day. We should catch up for a cuppa again soon x

fishinkblog said...

http://fishinkblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/the-first-cut-paper-cutting-exhibition-manchester-city-art-gallery/ and the second one too

http://fishinkblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/the-first-cut-paper-cut-exhibition-part-2-at-the-gallery-of-costume-manchester/