Richard Sharland's new exhibition, 'What The Light Was Like', drew us to Manchester this weekend and made for a fantastic Friday night in the north west. I've come to know Richard over the last few years in his capacity as an inventive urban environmentalist, and we bonded further over a shared love of music pub chat, but now I realise that he also knows how to to turn a Bob Dylan lyric into abstract art!
'What The Light Was Like' focusses on output from the last decade, and predominantly the last year after Richard retired from Manchester City Council and took off for the American west coast. Given that travel also followed a bereavement, it was wonderful to see the evident lust for life in paintings like 'Self Portrait With Diamond Sky', which appears to feature the artist dancing like demon on a tropical beach.
This latter piece was part of a sequence of musically inspired works. Unfortunately, no amount of hints from the artist enabled me to make the connection between Richard's life-filled painting and the fourth verse of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (“Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free”).
I won't ruin things by revealing the other four Dylan-referenced works, other than to note the knock-out work of the exhibition for my money, 'Lost In the Rain in Juarez', a beautiful evocation of the special sensory impact of a downpour in a in humid Mexican city.
The big sellers on the first night were the watercolours and it was easy to see why. Here was a very different depiction of light, many inspired by landscapes closer to home, with the watery-blues eliciting a sense of calm and softness in contrast to the bright reds and yellows of the acrylics.
But special mention has to go to 'Greening the City'. From a distance this lively painting certainly suggests the exuberance of a carnival atmosphere, but little else is clear. But close up the collage is revealed to comprised of name badges, programmes and other mementos from the Sao Paulo C40 climate summit of 2011, which Richard and I were both fortunate enough to attend. Urban climate change strategy inspired art – cracking!
'What The Light Was Like' runs at 6 Picadilly Place (just a couple of minutes walk from Picadilly Station) until 6 May. A quarter of funds raised will go to the Carbon Literacy Trust, a great project offering citizen training on how to cut your carbon footprint.