I promised myself I would never again venture up north in February, but found myself in Liverpool, Preston and Manchester this week, and loved it!

First stop was Liverpool, with its shabby buildings conveying a sense of elegant (or otherwise) decay.

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I stopped off at the wonderful Bluecoat where there was a very arresting show by Gina Czarnecki. Her work is about the human body moving in space, and I found her video work very inspiring. The portrayal of frenzied and slow motion arabesquing movement is really beautiful.  I also loved the castle made of clear resin, much like spun glass, which is due to be encrusted with thousands of donated milk teeth in the four years to come. I wish I had retained my extracted wisdom tooth from a couple of weeks ago to add to the project!

There was another whimsical show called Republic of the Moon in FACT which was a great combination of sound, smell, installation and imagery. I particularly liked the “Moon Goose Analogue” by Agnes Meyer-Brandis, who has taken geese hatched and raised as if future super star astronauts. These cute fluffy things have been named patriotic space age names such as Boris and Svetlana, and spend their days wandering around happily in a lunar landscape space station in Italy, with a live feed to Liverpool.

Next stop was the University of Lancashire in Preston. It was surprisingly mild. I checked out the largest brutalist bus station in Europe and then the Harris museum.

There was  nice print show about walking the land, with multilayered boggy coloured meshes of paper installed in a quivering column above the central stairwell, by Tracy Hill, my host.

I toured the print department and had instant print studio envy when looking at their beautiful Columbian press. They have a very spacious department run by Pete Clarke and Tracy Hill pictured here.

I gave a talk on my work to local artists and students as part of their Art Lab talking Prints series, and showed them some of the latest video work.

For a nice review of what I talked about, please see the link here http://artlabcontemporaryprint.co.uk/?p=642

Afterwards I laid out a selection of prints from the past 12 years for them to view.

On my return trip I went via Manchester. It was rain rain rain, so a good opportunity to lurk around inside some great galleries, like the Portico Library where i saw a show on Victoriana, taxidermy and penny dreadfuls, and the Manchester Museum of Art. Ken Currie’s huge dystopian cityscape and Antony Gormley’s flying man were my favourite pieces in the Museum, alongside Grayson Perry’s ironic map of society (and technically brilliant etching) “Print for a Politician”.

Finally, I attended a private view in the Chinese Art Centre: Chen Man, a young photographer from China. Strangely enough, no-one mentions that she is also very proficient in Photoshop. Her images of women are stylized, glamorous, objectifying and sexual. The show is lavish! Fantasy female faces with luscious lips are printed larger than a metre high, and the imagery is appealing, commercial and desirable. (Shu Uemura sponsored the opening event with make up remover)… I liked seeing a successful female artist in such a solo show, but couldn’t decide if the vision presented was empowering or degrading to women.

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