15 March 2023

In her latest blog Venture Arts artist Louise Hewitt visits 'Althea McNish: Colour is Mine' at The Whitworth.

  Louise is passionate about art and culture, visiting Manchester’s wealth of museums and galleries to gain inspiration for her own art and to write her bi-monthly Venture Arts blog…       The Whitworth was founded in 1889, the first English gallery to be located inside a park. The last time I came to this gallery was to write an article about 'Fayre Share Fayre', back in June 2022. I chose to return to this venue as there was an art exhibition that had intrigued me and I was keen to learn more about it. The exhibition is called 'Althea McNish - Colour is Mine'.  As an artist I am keen to look more at colour to see if it inspires me for future art projects. BLOG | Louise Hewitt visits 'Althea McNish: The Colour is Mine' at The Whitworth 1 I also chose to come to this art exhibition as I love to look at different patterns and styles and it reminded me of another previous art exhibition I saw in this gallery back in May 2022, the 'Open House' art exhibition. This exhibition is next door to the cafe at the back of the gallery facing a full Whitworth Park view.   The exhibition is about a woman called Althea McNish, a brilliant and talented artist, who became the first black British textile designer to earn an international reputation. Althea McNish was born on 15th May 1924, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and she died on 16th April 2020 in London aged 95. She studied her craft at London school of printing and graphic art, then went on to the Central School of Arts and Crafts and finally at the Royal College of Art. On graduating she won prestigious commissions from the likes of Arthur Stewart Liberty, Head of the Liberty department store, who sent her to Zika Ascher who commissioned her to design a collection for Dior. Althea McNish was the first Caribbean woman to achieve prominence in this field for prestigious clients.   In this amazing exhibition there were two pieces that really stood out to me and I felt connected to:  
  • The first amazing exhibition piece that I felt connected to was a piece called 'Lumiere', designed in 1961 by Althea McNish and manufactured by Cavendish Textiles for the retailer John Lewis (1965-1966). The colours in this are breathtaking and extraordinary with the use of blues, greens, oranges and reds and very vibrant and rather daring. It kind of reminds me of a tropical sunset in a field full of flowers.
  • The next amazing piece that I felt connected to was called 'Rubra', 1960 monoprint of a drawing of a design which later transformed into 'Rubra Green 1961', in printed cotton satin, manufactured by Hull Traders, a beautiful and elegant flower design in green, black and slight shades of orange. It at first reminded me of a distant peacock design.
BLOG | Louise Hewitt visits 'Althea McNish: The Colour is Mine' at The Whitworth 2 The work in this exhibition is truly remarkable and very difficult to narrow down, but during my visit I found my favourite design; it was called 'Golden Harvest' and is split into three prints (pictured above). The amount of detail in these exhibition pieces is beyond anything I have ever seen in a textile design. The colours are truly remarkable, they make me feel a connection to nature and think of the beautiful countryside. The colours of mixed oranges, yellows and blacks and a reddish pink are colour combinations I would never have dreamed of using, wow.   This art exhibition has inspired me by looking at colour in a different way. Some of the colours in this exhibition are truly vibrant and daring colours. There are colours I wouldn’t have dreamed of using before. I might look at applying some of these colours in my artwork in the near future. I am definitely inspired to do an art project based on this exhibition later on this year.   I think people should visit as The Whitworth has quite large open spaced galleries. There are quite a few interesting exhibitions going on at the moment, especially relating to textiles and design. For those who work or study in this field, I would definitely, one hundred percent recommend a visit.   My overall thoughts of the exhibition: it was rather interesting to see how much variety of colour there was in the many wonderful designs. As a neurodivergent artist I found some of this exhibition to be over stimulating. I definitely needed to look at this exhibition twice to fully absorb and truly understand it. The exhibition was truly incredible though and mesmerising, and mind blowing at the same time, one of the most beautiful and breathtaking and colourful textiles design exhibitions I have ever seen. This has been a truly remarkable and incredible experience for me.   The exhibition is on until 23rd April 2023 and is free to go and see. Find out more here.   BLOG | Louise Hewitt visits 'Althea McNish: The Colour is Mine' at The Whitworth
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