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Blessings undisguised: part two

Submitted by on May 27, 2010 – 10:31 amOne Comment

An exhibition with such a wonderful title as Fantasies, Follies and Disasters is surely worth a visit? Manchester Art Gallery is currently displaying the work of the seriously deranged genius Francisco Goya.

Famed for his prints depicting the atrocities and evils of war, his work is still very contemporary and relevant in today’s world. The Goya-influenced sketchings by local schoolkids that adorn the walls approaching the gallery are testament to this. In short, Goya was one disturbed bastard.

Often called the ‘father of modern art’, he struggled with ill health throughout his life, but his genius is there to see in this collection, which the gallery boasts as one of the most impressive in the world. There are over 90 rare, first edition etchings depicting anything from monsters eating their children to soldiers lying slain on the battlefield.

So disturbing and disgusting were some of his images that they were never publicly released until well after his death, as it was thought people would be badly affected by viewing them.  Like many fellow Spaniards he was unhappy with the occupation of his country by France in 1808 and his subsequent prints targeted the ignorance and hypocrisy of society at the time. He turned his satire on establishment figures and highlighted the suffering of the normal man during the conflicts.

As explained within the museum: “Animals are shown portrayed as humans, to provide cutting commentary on the corruption, stupidity and vanity of nobility, the clergy and wider society. While his famous war subjects withhold nothing in their horrified depiction of violence, torture and famine.”

You could spend hours dissecting the various artworks on display and, being free from work, I did. But I also wanted to view what else the gallery has to offer. Alongside Goya’s work sits Jake and Dinos Chapman’s sculpture Disasters of War (1993), which is basically toy soldiers depicted in various scenes of war within a glass case. It was hard to resist the urge to return to childhood by rearranging them. I’m sure some of them were positioned inappropriately.

Elsewhere, there are fascinating works featuring Edwardian Manchester from the likes of Adolphe Valette, the Frenchman who settled in Manchester in 1906 and subsequently taught Lowry all he knows.

The exhibition includes his most ambitious work, Albert Square 1910, which shows the Victorian Town Hall and Albert Memorial bathed in fog. There are also a couple of Lowry works and when sat alongside Valette, it’s clear to see where he got the inspiration for the stickmen that made him famous the world over.

It’s not just old stuff though – there is an interactive gallery that allows you to recreate some items of ‘modern art’. This is as wacky as it sounds and probably aimed at kids, but when you’ve got the chance to sit in a darkened room to hear ghost stories, what adult is going to refuse this opportunity? Ace.

My trip to the gallery followed another visit to Manchester Cathedral to see the Chetham’s School of Music’s so-called lunch-time recital. Never a big fan of classical music and clearly the youngest in there bar the performers, I still thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing music in lovely surroundings. However, having said that I’m sure trumpeter Jason Evans was taking everyone round the corner when he told us he was just 17. He looked at least 35. The pick of the performers was, however, Yizhen Zhu on the violin. I never knew so many sounds could result from a little fiddle…

While thinking about my next destination on my week of doing something different every day, I noticed my uncle Bob was also enjoying the cathedral recital and taking up his own advice. Next up was a trip to Salford featuring beer and music, especially for those who’ve nodded off reading this instalment…

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