Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Two Exhibitions At The Whitworth Gallery

Unstable States, John Ruskin and the Truth of Water:  The Whitworth has a lot of English watercolours- a number of which came under the especial notice of John Ruskin- and this selection of pictures from the Whitworth's permanent collection builds upon these happy facts. Ruskin thought of landscape painting as 45% science- and rated examples for their fidelity to nature. No-one, he thought,  had ever painted water better than Turner did. I don't see it myself. I like Turner for his energy and near approach to abstraction- but I rarely look at one of his pictures and think- "Ooh, that's just how it is."  For the record I thought the paintings in the exhibition that were truest to nature were a couple of 17th century seascapes by Willem Van der Velde. Ruskin thought Van der Velde was rubbish. 

The Land Between Us:  Land is history.  It is contested.  It is the people who own it and the people who have been dispossessed of it. In Larissa Samour's video Soup Over Bethlehem a group of young people eat mloukieh and talk Palestinian politics, in Erkan Ozgun's Breath a young man walks fiercely  through the deserted streets of a small Turkish town- in what appears to be real time-  for as long as he can hold his breath.  A room full of Turners from the Whitworth's own collection comes with the far-fetched curatorial rationale that they represent the British Empire contemplating its heartland.  In a room of its own the film Handsworth Songs churns out footage of and about the Handsworth riots of 1985- including a clip in which Margaret Thatcher- in her breathy, nannying voice-  talks about Britain being "swamped" with immigrants.  The way into the exhibition space is through Olafur Eliasson's dark and oppressive Forked Forest Path. Go left and you're quickly out of the trees, go right and the way is climbing and circuitous. 
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