Fragments is based on the maxim that through life we all collect objects that represent personal memories of life in Salford. The fifty Start members from the various groups who created this exhibition give the visitor to the gallery an insight into their memories, dreams and aspirations. It makes looking at many of the exhibits extremely nostalgic, poignant and in some cases sad. This is cleverly contrasted with the youth work which contains a sprinkling of hope and innocence.
As you walk into the exhibition you are immediately aware of the audio exhibits that compete for your attention. On one side of the room is Spirits of Salford by Phil Hamer, a collection of photographs and audio commentary showing the decline of the public house in Salford. It's even got an old pub table and pretend pint screwed to the wall under the screen.
On the room's other side, and contrasting the decline of Salford, is work by Walkden High School's Gateway Unit where the pupils have used simple stop go animation and audio tracks to show their dreams and thoughts.
In between, the walls are covered with a mixture of ceramic tiles of the artists as children, screen prints and paintings. The prints have been made using photographs as stencils and display many of our city's buildings cleverly merged together to show the changes through the eyes of the Start members.
Three photo collages of personal memories by Donald McIntyre, David Narey and Sian Roberts convey the personal nature of the exhibition's aim. Furthering the nostalgic look towards days gone by are a collection of photographs taken Lee Erskine, which show the interior of the now demolished Pendlebury Methodist Church, the lack of love and care for the building in its final phase is shown by the artist's clever use of lighting to create mood. There is also a large display of embossed personal effects of the various artists, such as key rings and coins, adding to the exhibition's personal feel.
Not to be missed in the exhibition is a mock-up of the back parlour from one of the terraced houses that use to make up stereotypical Salford. As you step in through the back door your eye is drawn to the room's `window', complete with curtains, which in fact displays an oil on canvas painting by Sydney Cauldwell. It shows a terrace's backyard, with mother and child pegging out the washing, and small dog tied to its kennel. The parlour also contains a small chest of drawers which invites you to examine inside and on the floor is a poem about an old lady's reflections on life.
Sculpture dominates the middle of the room with thought provoking exhibits depicting life, using wood as a medium. Do not miss the handmade lampshades with paper butterflies and moths attached, a common memory of dark hot nights and open windows. On the floor you will also find plants growing out of tyres and old unloved cabinets, a memory for me of wasteland and our human trait of not caring where we throw our rubbish.
On a personal level two displays left a lasting impression in my mind, firstly a series of photographs of decaying doll's heads left me - as the artist John Brewer intended - with a series of conflicting and confused emotions; on the one hand the almost human like faces in so much decay repulsed me and made me feel uncomfortable; yet on the other hand a ghoulish curiosity to look closer.
My second highlight of Fragments are the paintings by Peter Waddecar, which are dotted around the room. They show different scenes of Salford life, some with stunning detail and atmospheric colouring which if created by another famous Salford artist would have the critics raving.
Overall, I found the Fragments exhibition interesting and thought-provoking, it once again shows me the therapeutic nature of art is open to everyone as a tool to express themselves and their emotions. The Start exhibition has been produced by Visual Arts, Art on Prescription, Woodwork, Ceramics, Photography, Youth Inclusion Groups and Arts over 50.
Fragments is another excellent exhibition put on by Salford Museum and Art Gallery - and combined with the other exhibitions of local art work, like the Salford Art Club annual exhibition (see here), Salford Life, and Dan Glenister's On The Edge (see here)which are currently on display, it is well worth a visit.
Review by Gareth Lyons
START IN SALFORD
Until March 2011
Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Peel Park, Crescent, Salford M5 4WU
0161 778 0800