Thinking About Painting @ManchesterArtGallery

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Museums are so much better than they used to be. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a small local collection or a giant world class institution, there is these days truly something to entertain everyone at every level.

Not everyone needs entertaining, of course. I’m quite happy to dawdle round on an uncharted course in any gallery or museum, allowing my route to be determined on whim and fancy. I’m also perfectly content to gaze at works of art without any background information whatsoever. But I realise that for many people, something to draw them in and prompt thought and reflection makes a visit a much more meaningful experience. And some of the ‘trails’ places set up for all age groups do just that extremely well.

As it happens, I did pick up one of these trail leaflets at Manchester Art Gallery last weekend. The title was quite irresistible: body language and relationships. Since I draw and depict the human figure fairly obsessively in much of my work, I’m always fascinated by reflections on the subject.

The gallery here has set up a trail of paintings with questions for visitors to think about. The questions are basic, but that’s precisely their appeal. It’s good to stand in front of real life paintings in a real gallery space and really, seriously ponder what is going on and what you feel about it.

In this age of image saturation and fleeting flickering barely perceptible image sensation, encouraging the experience of simply standing and looking is an immensely valuable initiative.

I applaud it.

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