There’s A Rainbow In The Road, Caroline Johnson, Reviewed
Phil Griffin adores these MCR and Salford streetscenes
Written by Phil Griffin. Published on Tuesday, May 7th.
THE LOWRY opened in April 2000. A rare thing for a publicly funded gallery, it presented a selling show, a straightforward commercial exhibition, complete with price list.
It was the first time Liam Spencer had shown his Manchester Panoramas. The show sold out.
Liam made BBC news and the cover of City Life magzine. Now, I’m not suggesting that this was the start of a new movement of streetscape art in Manchester and Salford, but Spencer clearly put his foot down quite heavily on the accelerator of that particular bus.
There’s A Rainbow In The Road fanfares the return to these streets of Caroline Johnson.
The artist from Preston has come back after a couple of decades lived mainly in Northern France. Salford Museum and Art Gallery, itself fresh faced and spruced up, has had the good grace and taste to welcome the prodigal into its main space.
Caroline Johnson pictures: photo Jan Chlebik
Johnson draws and paints what she’s looking at; pubs, chapels, back streets, blank walls. Nothing new in that.
Ah, but her eyes and hands are controlled by a contrarian’s view. Her work is steadfastly un-picturesque. Hers is not an eye for genteel dereliction, ragged streets and ravaged pubs, though some of these are here. She flattens the world in a way that almost creates a new dimension; not even one dimension, some fraction of one dimension. And she looks intensely at things most of the rest of us barely register.
Take the Arndale Centre…
Never a Manchester favourite, Arndale integrates with nothing, has no visual cohesion, no architectural language to speak of and no (or at least not many) admirers. An especially blank corner of its featureless cladding is the main element in Johnson’s Market Street painting. Foreground is notional people tram-waiting. The place is a mesh; of tiling lines, blank windows and criss-crossing crow black power cables. Essence of un-picturesque. And yet there are those quick appealing yellows and unreproachful red.