Ryan Gander, local artists and Castlefield Gallery

Susie Stubbs

As Manchester Art Gallery prepares to open a show by the critically acclaimed artist, so too does Castlefield – with a twist.

What are the perfect conditions in which art and creativity can flourish? It’s an interesting question – not least in the light of the ongoing debate around how much support public galleries should give to homegrown artists. The answer to that question is, of course, complicated, but it’s one that local lad-made-good, Ryan Gander (who studied at MMU) looks at through the prism of his “Culturefield”, a place that supplies just such conditions.

It is one of Gander’s works – called Porthole to Culture Revisited – that forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition at Castlefield Gallery. And no, that’s not a typo: alongside his major solo show at Manchester Art Gallery this summer, Gander is also taking part in a simultaneous group exhibition in Castlefield. So alongside a work that questions what it is that artists want and need is a series of new works by five North West-based artists: Robert Carter, Helen Collett, Monty, Lois MacDonald, and Joe Fletcher Orr.

It illustrates the fact that Manchester needs not just the international or the local, but both

Ryan Gander is an artist who refuses to be pinned down to any one form, material or genre. His work happily skips from traditional sculpture to interactive digital, via, well, pretty much anything else he can get his hands on. For him, it’s the idea that is the thing – that and the fact that there are no rules when it comes to creating work. The five artists who appear alongside him at Castlefield are similarly inclined; we have been told to expect a show that ranges from the buying of fine wines to a neurological examination of flies.

This is an exhibition that will add depth to Gander’s show at Manchester Art Gallery, shedding light not only on how he works but on how his contemporaries see the world, too. And it is interesting not solely because of its contents. As debate around who should support what continues, this exhibition, quietly introduced by Castlefield Gallery last night, illustrates that Manchester’s own culturefield needs not just the international or the local, but both – and that the perfect conditions for art and creativity come via collaboration (and, we suspect, a fair smattering of dogged determination). The challenge is, of course, how Manchester makes more of what it has, instead of fighting over what it hasn’t.

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