Artist Colin Taylor in collaboration with poet Anthony Rowland
Preview Evening – 11th June 2015
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Read more about Colin and his work on his artist page.
Two artists with a growing reputation in their respective fields, the painter Colin Taylor and poet Antony Rowland will be collaborating to hold a joint exhibition at Contemporary Six – The Gallery in Manchester city centre, from 11th June. Both Taylor and Rowland create imagery about places they have travelled to, worked and for this exhibition, the city in which they both now live.
Over the past four years, Taylor has been working on a series of paintings of the Manchester skyline as viewed from some of its tallest buildings. It is the latest phase of an ongoing personal exploration of how ‘experience’ can be conveyed in visual form. In recent years Taylor has shifted subjects from the contemplative interior of a cathedral to the broad picturesque prospect of the northern upland and to the heat, clank and clatter of a street market in India. For this exhibition Manchester’s accumulated contours, transport corridors and its breathing space is explained as pure landscape.
“For the past 4 years I’ve been working on a series of paintings of the Manchester skyline as viewed from some of its tallest buildings. It was by chance that I met Antony and pure coincidence that he has been similarly occupied on a new collection of poems based on Manchester’s postal code areas. To collaborate on this exhibition was an obvious decision for us both to make.
Both Antony’s poems and my own paintings will be completely new and have never been exhibited – or read – elsewhere. ” – Colin
In 2012, Antony Rowland won the prestigious Manchester Poetry Prize; he has also recorded for the National Poetry Archive, and was included in IDENTITY PARADE: NEW BRITISH AND IRISH POETS (2010). His currency is the observed and the everyday and he applies language like layers of paint to images that reflect the sprawl and vibrancy of the surrounding cultural landscape. Some of these ‘postcode’ poems are published here for the first time.
Since Taylor started work on his Manchester cityscapes, he has been steadily building an audience for his work with solo exhibitions in New York, Cologne, Washington DC and later this year, in Paris. By chance, Rowland and Taylor realised that they were both thinking, not just about the contemporary structural and social characteristics of Manchester but also the ways in which history piles up behind, and leaks into, current experiences of the city. Taylor sees Rowland’s poems as ’not mere leaden fact, but a non-linear perception’ of change upon a single constituency which itself is part of a wider and similarly rapidly evolving conurbation.
Rowland has published two collections of his poems: the most recent in 2012 was I AM A MAGENTA STICK. Since then, he has taken up a post as Professor of Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University.
‘I am delighted to be working with Colin on these Manchester-inspired pieces. The poems have an affinity with the form of his paintings too, and are similarly influenced by modernist writers and painters.’
Paintings by Colin Taylor/Poems by Antony Rowland
Reviewed by Sandra Gibson
The Cityscapes/Wordscapes exhibition at Contemporary Six brings together the work of artist Colin Taylor and poet Antony Rowland: both concerned with conveying the resonant power of Manchester. By pairing the immediacy of painting with the more gradual unfolding of poetry, an interesting dynamic is created.
Colin Taylor’s views of Manchester have the same sense of spaciousness found in his previous work. His climber’s viewpoint is what we have – this and pervasive light, the contrasting solidity of colour depth, linear certainty, and form: form which may not be form, but space. And it is this apparent ambiguity – sky? misted building? distant landscape? all of the above? – that defines the core of this artist’s approach: “my work is not an optical expression, but an emotional one”. Photographic accuracy and topographical recognition are not the main aim here; the product is essentially an experiential process: “what I do is make visual images that are my field of research into a language that communicates more than what I see or what I can explain. In truth, it is probably more about what I can’t explain – but know to be there – and I’m equally sure I will never really be able to arrive at a coherent explanation, but my belief in its importance is now irreversible”.
And this is the experience that Colin Taylor’s Manchester paintings communicated to me, at that time and in that space: an immense realisation of the way geographical location has preceded human endeavour, and determined and dominated all that takes place at the human level, just as the motive power of waterways and roads and bridges sweeps through these paintings, determining their composition. The mightier forces are thus felt to obscure the ground-level minutiae, including here the human figures, which are not physically present. Rather they are represented by the fruits of their ingenuity and labour: infra-structure and buildings and continual renewal.
A painting grants immediacy of view; an immediate overall impression; an intuitive comprehension that precedes the rational, considered reaction. A poem, by virtue of the way language works, is a different way of looking: a more gradual revealing of what it there. Of course, initially, the eye discerns the overall shape and line length and divisions in a poem but the experience of the work is linear and cumulative. If Colin Taylor is using the juxtaposition of form and space and colour to convey the ambiguous, often unfathomable experience of place, Antony Rowland’s carefully chosen words and images address the minutiae at street level. For example, the precise naming of location and building: “the lost river Dene/and Hanging Ditch, Irk to Irwell/where the Hilton pummels a mansion”, or a sense of history: “as the night tiles to your first pint/where scutchers honed cotton fibre”, or rapid change: “This since photo/has been bulldozed over nights”. Then there’s the vivid narrative with character and dark deed: “where Stephen Oake/- DC with a memorial/hated with a chisel and daub -/drips on the threshold, weighted/with the suspect he will stumble/under” or the specificity of arresting image: “seborrheic road-dumps” or “Pollarded trees spike the heat” or “Late and gone, the nettle rails” or “water slops consumer dark”. Reinforcing this precision of detail is a tight format: 16 lines of 8 syllables, a strong use of short-vowelled, monosyllabic emphasis and the use of words from other cultures.
These are demanding poems in that the reader/listener will be required to follow parallel narratives which move between contemporary issues and ancient habitations, and an innovative use of language whose literal sense is not necessarily the point. Like Colin Taylor’s paintings, these poems are better experienced than analysed. As John Powell Ward has written: “Particles of observation, incomplete phrases and strange juxtapositions seem welded by some hidden charge into a power of feeling”.
Does it enhance the viewers’ or readers’ experience to recognise the places, the buildings, the confluences? I suppose it does, in that ‘you are here’ Google Earth sense, but you don’t have to be a Mancunian to fully experience Colin Taylor’s shifting, light-filled, structure-crammed and colour-celebrated Manchester or Antony Rowland’s richly worded linguistic evocation of this vibrant city.