Art in Liverpool & Manchester: February 2016

Looking for visual art in Manchester or Liverpool? Here's our guide to the best in Northwest art in February, from rhubarb to non-anthropocentric AI, with work from Martin Parr, KAWS & more. Of course.

Preview by Sacha Waldron | 27 Jan 2016

Happy almost-February! This is the time of year when the sickly John Lewis and saving-for-next-Christmas adverts give way to that Heinz one where her glasses fog up over tomato soup. It's also the time of year when artists all over the land decide to make nice works on paper in the comfort of their own home/dressing gowns instead of braving the studio freeze. Or they do their taxes. But if you need an excuse to leave the house, there are, as ever, lots of new shows opening this month all over the Northwest (and slightly further afield). Here’s our pick.

New exhibitions in Liverpool

A new exhibition of work from Edgar Martins and Jordan Baseman, Flat Death, has just opened at Open Eye Gallery. Both photographic projects from the pair explore how society deals with death, both individually and as a community. A fun January theme. Flat Death runs until 3 April and you can catch a free exhibition tour on the 14 February (2.30pm).

Nearby, at Tate Liverpool, there is still time to visit The Imagined Museum, which invites visitors to select and perform an artwork they would like to be remembered forever – and it seems there’s a bit of a performance theme going on in Liverpool, as up at FACT you can also book to use/perform in their green-screen Creator Space (the exhibition it belongs to, Follow, runs until 21 Feb).

The Imagined Museum project ends on Valentine’s day and, the night before (13 Feb), Tate have planned a very grown-up, loved-up event, in which you are served a three-course dinner, classical music and drinks with your Matisse.

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 Art in the digital age: Amy Jones and Lesley Taker on Follow at FACT

 The Skinny Showcase: Manchester artist Amy Stevenson

Over at Gostins Arcade, from 13 February A Small View gallery presents a new group show, Ob_ject and Ob_serve, from the artists collective Object Liberation Front. The group, who are currently running workshops as part of Follow at FACT, get together to “discuss non-anthropocentric AI and its implications to the social imaginary.” Crikey. The preview is on 11 Feb and then the show is open Mondays and Saturdays between 1-5pm or by appointment.

In Southport, The Atkinson currently have an exhibition of shojo manga, Japanese girls’ comics. The show is a collaboration with the Kyoto International Manga Museum and introduces the moment when a small group of artists in the 1970s evolved shojo manga into the pop-culture mainstay it is today.

In other news, the Atkinson have also just launched a new contemporary commercial space within the building, called The Landing. Their focus will be mainly on regional artists' work and the first exhibition, of work by Derek Culley, runs from 6 Feb to 15 May.

New exhibitions in Manchester

The highlight openings in Manchester in February will surely be the two new shows at The Whitworth, Nico Vascellari and Ben Rivers.

Rivers’ work THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS is a recent co-commission with Artangel and was originally shown back in the summer in a huge installation at the former BBC Television Centre, London. The films, shot in the Moroccan landscape, explore different narratives, real and imagined, and are each shown in a specially constructed ‘set’ or screening room.

Castlefield Gallery open another Launch Pad exhibition on 12 February. This one features three recent graduates from Manchester School of Art – Nina Bristow, Tom Lambe and Aimee Walker – all of whom we featured in our review of the 2015 degree show. This show is just a short one and runs until 21 February.

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There are lots of machine-y/science-y themed exhibitions and projects doing the rounds at the moment as Manchester is, apparently, European City of Science this year.

At Manchester Art Gallery, The Imitation Game is a group show including machine-written love letters from David Link and Mari Velonaki’s Fish-Bird installation, in which two robotic wheelchairs have fallen in love but struggle to be together.

The title of the show, of course, comes from Alan Turing, who is also the subject of a work in the upcoming exhibition at HOME, AL and AL: Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse, which opens on 4 February. Film work The Creator explores the surreal dreams of Turing, combining performance with computer-generated environments.

New exhibitions further afield

A major draw to The Hepworth Wakefield this month will be the Martin Parr retrospective, The Rhubarb Triangle & Other Stories (opens 4 Feb). Although the exhibition will include work spanning Parr's whole career, the rhubarb element refers to his new Hepworth commission, which saw Parr spend 12 months photographing people, places, work and produce found in ‘The Rhubarb Triangle’ (between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell). Apparently it is famous for ‘early-forced’ rhubarb. Which sounds a bit wrong. Parr is in conversation at the gallery on 26 February and this will probably sell out/fill up quick, so book ASAP.

Just a short hop away at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and opening on 6 February, American artist KAWS will be taking over the galleries and outdoor landscape. Picture baby-pink, cauliflower-eared bunny figures, high-colour graphic canvases and creatures with x’s for eyes; a less grotty Paul McCarthy fried up with the New York street-art scene and advertising. It’s great to see more of KAWS’ work shown in the UK.

Finally, one more late January item worth a mention: The food/culture journal FEAST is launching its new issue around the theme of ‘cutlery’ on 27 January at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. You have to RSVP for the event, which also involves a screening (of work from Daniel Fogarty) and readings. Then on 3 February (6-8pm), FEAST will be hosting another event at the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections Gallery, Sir Kenneth Green Library, to introduce the next issue. This also includes readings from the library's archive. It’s unclear if you have to book for that one, so head to FEAST's website for further info.