Northern light. New art exhibition at City Inn.

Kate Feld

Kate Feld admires a new art exhibition that captures Manchester at its most luminous

Artist Jean Hobson became fascinated with the city’s rapidly-changing landscape in 2007, when she began working in a high-rise office building in West Gorton. From her high perch she had views of the city’s frenetic transformation, watching as buildings were demolished and new ones put up in their place, and cranes crowded the horizon. Using the changing city as her inspiration, Hobson has produced a series of art works which are now being shown for the first time in Manchester, an exhibition at City Inn (1 Feb-31 May).

In one print, Manchester’s motley buildings seem to be an outgrowth of the natural landscape, organic and strangely beautiful. Another, a drawing of an Ancoats mill now occupied by a forlorn cash and carry stands out; the scene couldn’t sound bleaker but Hobson has invested it with warmth and approachability. Anyone who loves the city will recognise the stubborn pull that this landscape has on the people who call it home.

Martin Wainwright, Northern editor of the Guardian and author of True North, is an enthusiastic champion of Hobson’s work, and he will be speaking at the exhibition’s launch this evening. Wainwright says Hobson’s pictures are an honest vision of a city where stark mill buildings sit cheek-by-jowl with new build towers and whole neighborhoods have experienced a dramatic transformation.

‘Manchester has changed quite remarkably during my recent working life,’ he said.  Like many people, Wainwright identifies the IRA bomb in 1996 as the beginning of a sea change in the way the city perceived itself. ‘Manchester went from being very down in the mouth and dwelling on the past and suddenly picked itself up and said “let’s forge ahead.” I think Jean’s pictures tell that story and also look at the unexpected in the city.’

Hobson says that she paints these scenes because she finds them ‘absorbing and unique. The city is developing constantly and the skyline changes day by day but it is the contrast between past, present and future of the city’s architecture that really captures my imagination.’ The breakneck pace of that development may have slowed down for now, but these pictures will serve as enduring documents of an exciting time in the life of Manchester.

Manchester by Jean Hobson runs 1 Feb – 31 May at City Inn, One Piccadilly Place. Image: The old heralds in the new, Jean Hobson.

>> LUNCH FOR TWO at the City Inn. To celebrate the opening of this exhibition, City Inn offered a delicious three-course lunch for two (from its a la carte menu) at its City Café to one of our readers who entered via a competition on our site. The winner of the competition was Michael Coupar. This competition is now closed.

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