Venture Arts: NARRATIVES – Reviewed

Horace Lindezey, Alice Merida Richards and Dominic Pillai, Falling; A Memory of Her, 2022. Image ©Michael Pollard-web

“A convincing argument for collaboration.” Mike Pinnington on Venture Arts’ new exhibition, NARRATIVES, at Salford’s waterside Lowry gallery…

We cling stubbornly to the romantic cliché that an artist toils away in solitude day and night as and when the muse demands. Dependent on their capricious whim, how else are great dreams made reality? How else are great works created?

We know, however, that art is never produced in a vacuum. Theories and ideas are articulated in cafés, group crits and bars. There, they are discussed, analysed, argued about, or augmented. But why not extend these things a step further, to the possibilities offered by collaboration? There, a flattening out of hierarchies is necessitated – along with a smoothing off of egos.

“The programme puts into dialogue learning disabled and non-learning disabled artists”

Such is the robust foundation on which current Venture Arts exhibition (in partnership with host venue The Lowry and Castlefield Gallery), has been laid, following a six month residency at a social club in Whalley Range. The organisation’s vision is of ‘a world in which people with learning disabilities are empowered, celebrated, included and valued in the arts, culture and society.’ Since 2016, they have produced a programme designed to encourage the exchange of art and ideas. Called Conversations Series, it puts into dialogue learning disabled and non-learning disabled artists, ‘to develop collaborative and creative exchanges’.

My introduction to the results of the latest iteration comes aurally rather than visually. Ascending the escalator to The Lowry’s first floor gallery spaces, I’m met with the lilting sound of music of a familiar refrain. I can’t quite initially place it. Before the tune on the tip of my tongue can be identified, it’s over. Entering the exhibition spaces proper, I find a brightly coloured pop façade of a juke box, on which is written ‘Falling’. It also has a big yellow button, which screams ‘push me!’ I do so, and the song begins again. This time, hearing it fully formed and not in transit, I get it. It’s the theme music from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Except it’s an equally great reggae version.

“More shows should include a jukebox containing artist-made cover versions”

On an adjacent wall there is an accompanying music video, and blue plaque commemorating the life of Julee Cruise, the vocalist of the original track, who sadly died last year. These works are born of the collaboration between Horace Lindezey, who adds reggae into the mix to rework the pop-songs he loves, Manchester-based musician Alice Merida Richards and filmmaker Dominic Pillai. These well considered breadcrumb-like artworks as clues make for a vivid and fitting tribute to Cruise, as well as a great first encounter with the exhibition. It makes me think more shows should include a jukebox containing artist-made cover versions. Curators: heed my call!

Laura Nathan Meine geliebte Pöppi, 2022 Installation: Printed cotton woven into rug canvas, audio piece, embroidery frame

Crossing a threshold delineated by mood, gallery two is a quieter, more intimate affair, dictated largely by the neighbouring textiles and sound work, and hand embroidered text and image pieces by Laura Nathan and Sarah Lee, respectively. Their works which, in-part, reflect on a discovery of shared family histories bound up with the Holocaust, complement each other beautifully. The pair variously draw on and incorporate oral histories, letters, and other documents in their work, so that, through fragments of fabric and memory, we are told stories of their relatives’ experiences. These poignant pieces, woven with both grief and hope, grant us a means by which we might understand and reconcile our pasts, as well as the aftermath and continuum of traumas wrought.

“The exhibition’s final room is a riot of activity”

By contrast, the exhibition’s final room is a riot of activity. Through an array of mediums, my eyes are drawn to a man free-drawing onto large sheets of paper fixed to the gallery walls. He’s lost in the act of doing the work, and it’s mesmerising. This is Leslie Thompson, who is recreating live the scene in which I stand, as well as the rest of the building, laying down ink like an image-making dynamo. Behind him and arranged in intervals before us on the floor, is a moveable feast of freestanding plexiglass screens. Testament to the ingenuity of artists who see potential surfaces everywhere, they were reclaimed by Omid Asadi from Venture Arts’ studios, where they had been used as part of their Covid measures during lockdown. On them, Asadi has collaborated with fellow artists Thompson and Jennie Franklin, and the trio has created a busy narrative full of colour, people, places and things.


These works in particular seem to represent the NARRATIVES project and exhibition in microcosm: a fruitful coming together of artists from different backgrounds who might otherwise not have done so. Out of their residencies, the artists have produced not only vibrant and energetic new bodies of works, but have also established new networks and relationships. In doing so, they present a convincing argument for the powers of collaboration, and in addition, the collapsing of frequently artificial art world hierarchies we too often take for granted.

Mike Pinnington

Catch the exhibition at The Lowry, Salford, until 26 February 2023 

Images: Horace Lindezey, Alice Merida Richards and Dominic Pillai, Falling; A Memory of Her, 2022; Laura Nathan Meine geliebte Pöppi, 2022 Installation: Printed cotton woven into rug canvas, audio piece, embroidery frame © Michael Pollard; Leslie Thompson in full swing © Mike Pinnington

Posted on 10/02/2023 by thedoublenegative