Exhibition dates | 14 February – 14 June 2020
This exhibition brings together the work of six artists – Joe Beedles, James Desser, Amy Ellison, Frances Heap, Andrew Johnstone and John Powell-Jones, initially responding to The Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection (MKOAC), housed at the Whitworth. The MKOAC is the largest collection of ‘Outsider Art’ in a public gallery in the UK and features work by artists who are self-taught and have been historically marginalised from the art world. This year-long residency project was led by Venture Arts in collaboration with the Whitworth and Castlefield Gallery.
During the residency, a group of learning disabled and non-learning disabled artists came together, on equal terms, to explore the themes of ‘Outsider Art’: labelling, categorisation and art world power dynamics. The artists viewed the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection (MKOAK) at the Whitworth, researching collection pieces and having conversations on how artists are labelled, and how this can sometimes define their work and themselves as ‘different’.
They spent five months in a shared studio space at Venture Arts producing diverse pieces of work spanning sound, film, live art, digital artwork, drawings and sculpture, as well as costume.
The artists selected artworks from the MKOAC, which they co-curated into a display alongside their own work. Collection artists featured include Madge Gill, Albert Louden and Michel Nedjar.
The exhibition originated from a 2018-19 project, Conversation Series II, which was led by Venture Arts in partnership with the Whitworth and Castlefield Gallery.
Conversation Series II was the second part of a four-part programme, conceived by Venture Arts, and a wider network of national organisations including Castlefield Gallery. Castlefield Gallery’s role throughout the Conversations Series has been to act as a critical friend, and they provided the artists with mentoring to encourage reflection at key stages. The programme extends across multiple years, curated as a discursive and art making journey designed to enable and empower learning disabled artists.
You might like to read this in-depth feature on the exhibition (by Richard Morris for Manchester’s Finest).
Elements of the work and new pieces by Blackpool artists, went on display at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool (7-21 March 2020) in an exhibition called Conversations Series II – Other Transmissions. This latest part of the project brought together Blackpool and Manchester artists, with and without disability, to investigate how artists are labelled, who makes art and who it is for. The exhibition included works on loan from the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection and new works. View a selection of the works here.
Led by: Venture Arts
In Partnership with: Castlefield Gallery; the Whitworth; The University of Manchester
Touring Partner: Grundy Art Gallery
Image: Andrew Johnstone, Untitled, Posca pen on cartridge paper. His interpretation of John Powell-Jones’ ‘Hobgoblin 1’ costume