JMW Turner, Coniston Fells 1801 (D.1892.93)

The Whitworth has teamed up with The Guardian Northener blog to brighten up the online weather forecast with fantastic works from the Prints and Drawings collection. I’m currently working on pulling together a range of works depicting parts of Northern England in various weather conditions. These works will be shown on the website to illustrate the day’s forecast for specific regions and will be accompanied by a piece of information about each one. The broad range of art will demonstrate how artists have embraced the drama and changeability of the British weather to convey the power of nature and the unique quality of the Northern British landscape.

We’re hoping this will inspire people to consider their own region in relation to these timeless and unifying images – and will hopefully create some online dialogue.  A great way to explore the collection on a daily basis.

Dark Matters: Works from the Collection is now open at the Whitworth. Drawing on our fantastic  collection of prints, drawings and paintings, this exhibition forms part of the wider Dark Matters: Shadow – Technology – Art exhibition due to open on Saturday 24 September. The exhibition reveals ideas surrounding shadow as captured by artists in a variety of medium. Artists on show include Turner, Rembrandt, Rachel Whiteread, Paula Rego, Francis Bacon and Anish Kapoor.

The contemporary exhibition opens this Saturday and features ten internationally acclaimed artists who engage with a range of technologies, media and machinery to explore ideas surrounding shadow, darkness and illusion.

There are a range of activities, film screenings and after hours events on offer – a perfect way to spend the ever darkening days and nights.

Both exhibitions run until 15 January 2012. For more information visit

I’ve been having much fun working on this display of works from the collection. ‘Family Allowance’ is centred on the theme of ‘normality’ and the family. For decades politicians have championed a stable family life as a cure for the perceived spread of moral and social decay in Britain. Today, the state of the nations families is still high on the political agenda and the ‘respectable norm’ presented as a salve for ‘Broken Britain. These prints and drawings represent characters from throughout history, mythology, fairytales and religion whose conduct embodies persistent collective fears about the breakdown of society: single mothers, wayward children, absent fathers. All in all, a kind of art historical version of the Jeremy Kyle show! The display runs until Summer 2011.

The dancers are here and about to rehearse for ROTOR, an ensemble of installations, live works and dance choreographed and presented by Siobhan Davies Dance. I saw the dance in November down at their London studio and was given the task of responding to it with artworks from the Whitworth’s collection. It’s been a brilliant way to explore the collection and I’ve pulled together a broad range of objects including sculpture, prints, drawings, a mobile and even a handkerchief which I hope will strike up a dialogue between the artworks and the performance.  Can’t wait to see the dancers perform and looking forward to seeing the gallery in motion. ROTOR opens Friday evening with performances Wednesdays-Sundays until 6 Feb. The collection response runs until 13 March. Come and see!


After a hectic Christmas it’s quite nice to get back to the relative stillness of prints and drawings! I’m currently researching the ‘shadows’ exhibition due ton September 2011. There are some fantastic images from the Whitworth’s collection and my initial list for the show totalled around 120 works. I’ve now managed to whittle this down to around 60. The display will also incorporate some historic photography, museum artefacts and book illustrations from other collections and will represent the often subconscious presence of hidden narrative, symbols and emotions inspired by the presence of  shadow.I’m also curating a contemporary show which will run alongside the display. ‘Wonders in the Dark’ (working title – other suggestions welcome!) will explore how art shares with technology the ability to give form to our hidden imaginings and fantasies. In contrast to ‘pure’ shadow’ the exhibition will bring together contemporary works which engage and re-interpret shadow through digital intervention – leaving us with false impressions, fantasy worlds and ethereal visions.

Updates on this to follow. Any thoughts on the subject are always welcome.

The creation of a new performance by Siobhan Davies Dance has triggered a process of selecting works from the Whitworth’s Collection. ROTOR is a newly choreographed dance work which has inspired contemporary commissions from poets, writers and artists. I am currently also responding to the work by selecting objects from the Whitworth’s collection which will draw on themes from the dance such as disorder, power struggle, repetition and circularity. This is a great opportunity to bring together works which will hopefully create dialogue between static objects and live performance. It makes a refreshing change to respond to a new piece rather than have somebody use the collection to inspire a contemporary commission. Looking forward to seeing the dance in Siobhan’s studio next week which should stir up plenty of inspiration for further choices!

Performances and contemporary responses will run at the gallery from 28 Jan – 6 Feb 2011 with the collection display running until March. Keep an eye on the Whitworth’s website for further details.

Once again I’ve been delving into the Walter Crane Archive here in the Prints and Drawings Study Room. We often get enquiries about Walter Crane and it’s great to make use of this rich and varied collection. The archive contains almost 5,000 objects which reflect the prolific and diverse career of this prominent 19th century painter /poet /socialist/designer /writer/ lecturer/ illustrator & party thrower!It’s a great resource for anybody interested in 19thcentury design,art and book illustration as well as theories around teaching and politics.

The archive is accessible via our online catalogue and by appointment to the study room. A children’s website makes use of games, puzzles and animations to bring Crane’s life and practice alive:

A book published by the Whitworth, ‘From Toy Books to Bloody Sunday: Tales from The Walter Crane Archive’ gives further insight into the collection and is available in our shop.