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Tuesday 31 January 2012

One Man's Treasure | Creative Stars: Lost is Found | Cornerhouse | Manchester

Text by Liz Buckley

Found Objects have been popular as a medium since Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) began experimenting with the discarded and lost in the 1950s. The idea of making something out of nothing was intriguing for many post-war artists. Finding beauty in superfluous scrap is perhaps more challenging than putting paint to canvas, and the new exhibition at Manchester’s Cornerhouse, Creative Stars: Lost is Found, is a celebration of such. Lost is Found is a group show of work from nine artists based in the North of England. The exhibited works find beauty in the redundant and discarded, explore past lives and find new stories in transformations and fleeting identities.

Curated and developed by the Creative Stars, 19 talented young people from the Greater Manchester region, Lost is Found explores themes ranging from the displacement of identity, relics of childhood, secret desires, fragments of memory and traces of history. Brought to life through sculpture, photography, installation and drawing, the exhibition presents itself as a complex network of objects and experiences which act as the building blocks for identity.

Featured works include photography by Lucy Ridges, a visual exploration of intuitive understanding and unexplained meanings. Ridges’ images show fragments of people, as well as parts of bare trees, acutely relating the literal network of branches with the invisible network of imaginative thoughts which make up our everyday lives. This expression of all that can be imaginatively derived from our everyday thoughts and subconscious mind is a common theme in this exhibition, which focuses on the absurdity and often impossibility of a train of thought, a common occurrence in the fast paced life of a human brain.

Jon Barraclough’s All or Nothing graphite drawings are busy scribbles which possess a nest-like quality. Exploring the idea of networking, they are a clever representation of identity. Whilst the drawings could be “nothing”, they indicate the secrecy and personal nature of self, further implied by a blurred outline of a head in one of the two pieces.

One of the most interesting, and perhaps resourceful, inclusions in the exhibit is Richard Proffitt’s Louisiana Blues, Anywhere, an absurd totem of the modern world. Glorifying the found object, this piece uses everything from sticks, scrap metal, fur and light bulbs to fashion a makeshift ceremonial artefact inspired by the biker and teenage subculture, the hinterlands of suburban Britain and the deserts and ghost towns indicative of the American west. While this combination of redundant objects may not function as a bike should, it is certainly a thought-provoking comment on what can be made from what one would normally regard as waste. Displaying Proffitt’s interest in subculture, Louisiana Blues, Anywhere is an emblem of a biker’s way of life, and the disarray of objects and memories which coincide with constant travel.

Lost is Found is certainly a fitting title for this exhibition, as all the included artists have aptly demonstrated that a displacement of identity can often be found by looking to the past rather than the future. Clever "found object" pieces make the viewer question what one usually denotes as a "still life," and literal objects replaced by words bring to light alternative interpretations of accepted reality. Contrasting media is brought together here by shared themes and a desire to bring history back to life, whilst exploring all the fragments of existence, secret mind maps of experiences and misplaced memories that create an identity. The Cornerhouse have certainly presented a reminder for viewers that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that beauty, or sometimes even oneself, can most certainly be found in the discarded.

Lost is Found, 14/01/2012 - 19/02/2012, Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5NH. www.cornerhouse.org

Aesthetica in Print

If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The February/March issue of Aesthetica is on sale tomorrow and offers a diverse range of features from an examination of the diversity and complexity of art produced during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s in Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, opening 11 February at MCA Chiacgo, a photographic presentation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art's latest opening, Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection. Plus, we recount the story of British design in relation to a comprehensive exhibition opening this spring at the V&A.

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1. Installation shot, Lucy Ridges
2. Installation shot, Mark Beecroft, Untitled (2010), Dimensions Vary, Mixed Media
3. Installation shot, Emily Speed, egg, nest, home, country, universe (2010)
4. Installation shot, Richard Proffitt, Louisiana Blues, Anywhere (2010), Moped, branches, sheep skull, light bulb, wood, twigs, t-shirts, blu tack, fake fur
All images courtesy the artist and Cornerhouse, Manchester
Photo credits: Paul Greenwood

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