A visit to the Whitworth, Manchester

Posted on August 5, 2009

Triptych: Sliver Birches & Bindweed & Beneath a Rotting Tree by Michael Porter

Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK

At the weekend I went up to visit my old stomping ground, Manchester, where I went to university. Going into the Whitworth Art Gallery, I found they had an exhibition on that was fascinating to me – a real touch of serendipity. The “Deep Rooted” exhibition is all about trees, and introduced me to a contemporary artist, Michael Porter (b. 1948), who paints trees, many of which are from the same wood in Derbyshire.

He walks in the woods making notes, rather than sketches, and then returns to the studio to paint, aiming to capture the memory of a place and its change over time. The paintings grow over time too, taking around six months to complete and involving oil and water based paints. The visual and physical textures on these paintings are fascinating.

The paintings above are hung in the south gallery of the Whitworth, overlooking Whitworth park and the trees outside. They had an iPod with audio files as part of the exhibition and I listened to a couple of tracks that were Michael Porter talking about his work in painting trees. He didn’t talk about his materials disappointingly, but he did mention that he takes photographs on his walks. He has been walking in that Derbyshire wood for twenty years and found that he tends to photograph the same trees over and over, recording their appearance and growth over that entire time period.

Sadly the gallery store closed before the gallery (why?) so I didn’t see if they had any catalogs for the exhibition or postcards, but I saw from his website that Michael Porter has a book of his paintings.

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