Leigh in Wigan, like most Lancashire towns, has been shaped by coal. It witnessed a period of dramatic economic expansion during the Industrial Revolution when it became an important centre for mining and production, followed by tragic decline following the collapse of coal mining in Britain during the 1970s and 80s. As such, it makes a fitting location for a new exhibition at The Turnpike by Manchester and Berlin-based artists Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, which sets out to explore the physical and cultural properties of coal, and the environmental impact of carbon-based economies, through a series of compelling and visually rich works.
Since they started working together in 1994, Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson have been drawn to the ways in which power and authority articulate themselves, and the grammar and rhetoric that surrounds them. In the Family of the Carbons will feature Song for Coal, a monumental video installation and immersive soundtrack produced with Opera North, that explores humanity’s quasi-religious ‘veneration’ of coal within the context of global hyper-consumption and environmental damage. The piece was first presented at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2015, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the UK miners’ strikes, and includes items from the National Coal Mining Museum and Drax Power Station.
The Turnkpike exhibition will also present works made using more traditional methods of production, such as hand-carving, weaving and an ongoing series of sculptures created from a rare extraction of cannel coal excavated from the Alexandra open cast mine near Wigan. Overall, In the Family of the Carbons looks likely to leave a significant impact on visitors, altering the way we think about this humble black material, the role it has played in shaping the last three centuries and, not least, the impact it may have upon our future.
Join artists Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson for a free, informal tour of the exhibition on 20 January 12pm.