An exhibition of wallpaper? It’s another project from the prolific Gorton Visual Arts group. Len Grant visits Hope Mill in Ancoats to take a look.
Our ’Ouse is inspired by the exposed wallpaper revealed in the once private interiors of half-demolished houses scattered around east Manchester. “It was the condemned terraced houses of Beswick that first gave me the idea,” says the group’s lead artist, Ian McKay. “Those exposed living rooms and bedrooms signify the area’s transformation and I thought it would be good way to record people’s memories of the past.”
Each member of the group has chosen images, or drawn their own pictures of treasured childhood memories. Family pets, long-demolished cinemas, gas lamps, cups cakes, clogs and even the pit heads at Bradford Colliery have all been featured in this day-long exhibition.
The accompanying text by each of the artists, all Gorton residents, offers another strand of reminiscence. Noreen West recalls, “…clogs that mother had bought with the Divi she had saved from the Co-op. They were green, that’s my favourite colour, and they laced up at the front.”
Margaret Greenhalgh remembers her father, an engineer, taking the whole family to visit the pit in 1941. “He made sure his four girls were aware of Manchester’s vast, diverse industry: something to be proud of.”
Elsewhere Freda Wallwork writes about her inspiration for her ‘vanilla slice’ wallpaper: “I worked at Sharples Brothers as an apprentice confectioner in the 1950s… We had a small kitchen for our lunch breaks, very like the one in the underwear factory in Coronation Street. We were a very happy, but busy, group of friends.”
As part of this 13-week project the group were invited by the Whitworth Art Gallery to view their current wallpaper exhibition and were able to ask questions of the gallery curators. Back at their base at the Angels in Gorton the group set to work creating their individual designs using traditional woodcut printing processes.
Without pausing for breath Gorton Visual Arts is now working a mosaic about the Beyer Peacock railway engine works in Gorton. “The factory was at the bottom of our street,” recalls the group’s oldest member, “and every day I’d watch as thousands of men streamed into work. Until we started on this new project, I never had a clue what went on behind those high walls.”
Wallpaper exhibition at Whitworth Art Gallery