Len Grant reports back from two exhibitions in east Manchester
Although it’s been on tour for ten years, this is the first appearance of the Black Looks exhibition in Manchester. And very welcome it is too. The 25 drawings, paintings and prints by artist Colin Yates, trace the contribution of Black and Asian professional footballers in Britain for more than a century.
Colin was motivated to produce his work whilst playing amateur football: ‘…I was witness to a series of racist incidents involving my Black and Asian teammates,’ says the exhibition introduction. ‘As a response to these verbal and physical attacks I decided to create an anti-racist football exhibition.’
Colin accompanies the exhibition as it visits new cities, leading workshops with local schoolchildren as part of his continuing artistic response to racism in football. This week and last, he’s been motivating Wright Robinson High School students to create their own artwork based on the issues raised by the exhibition. Colin has worked with over 200 schools and community groups, educating through his art.
But what of the work? It’s powerful and full-on. Appropriately, Colin’s portrait of City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips kicks off the exhibition. It’s a beautifully-crafted copy of a photograph of W-P playing in a ‘friendly’ against Spain in Madrid. Behind him are Spanish fans, some on their feet, and you can almost see the verbal abuse hurled from the stand. The winger commented later, “That’s why I support the ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign. It’s been going for 10 years but there is still a need for it, because you still hear the chants.”
Colin’s exhibition also charts the rise of Black footballers in the British game. One piece, Black Explosion 1970-80, features 11 footballers including, Garth Crooks, Laurie Cunningham, Clyde Best MBE, Cyrille Regis MBE, and Viv Anderson MBE who, in 1979, was the very first Black footballer to play for England in a full international match.
Anderson’s achievement is further profiled in a poster-style piece with solid reads, blues, greens and yellows and the word LANDMARK below his portrait. Obama got a poster in the same style in the run-up to the presidential elections last year.
Other notable pieces works include a ‘neon’ Stan Collymore, a controversial figure who Colin says ‘joined the list of great footballing underachievers.’
The exhibition runs until Monday 26th October at the Sportcity Visitor Centre, Ashton New Road, near its junction with Alan Turing Way. Call 0161 227 3151 for opening times.
The second exhibition has sadly come and gone. Only staged for one day in the studio at The Angels Centre in Gorton, it was Peter Koudellas’ debut show. Twenty or so black and white prints were testament to Peter’s diverse artistic talent. As a member of the Gorton Visual Arts group, 52 year-old Peter, who has learning disabilities, has documented scenes from his travels around the country.
“He’s only been taking pictures for about 18 months,” explains his mother, Marie. “He takes photographs wherever he goes, he always has his camera with him.”
Peter is particularly keen on public art and has documented sculptures in Yorkshire, artwork at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, the Eric Morecombe figure on the Flyde coast and, nearer to home, Colin Spofforth’s The Runner at the City of Manchester Stadium. Not to upset any footballing rivalries his exhibition also included the Best, Law and Charlton tribute at Old Trafford!
As part of the Gorton Visual Arts group, Peter has also contributed to the Belle Vue mosaic at Gorton Market and to the group’s many artistic endeavours. Artist Ian McKay, who inspires and co-ordinates the local amateur artists, says of Peter, “His application of paint is fantastic. He’s already where many professional painters would love to be.”