It’s out – the 2009 shortlist for the Best of Manchester Awards has just been announced. And the nominees are:
Contents May Vary the artists collective have been nominated. Formed in 2004, this group of MMU Fine Art graduates has, for the past five years, staged a number of innovative group exhibitions and contributed to events as diverse as Artranspennine08, the Northern Art Prize and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Contents May Vary were also shortlisted for HONK, a touring exhibition that featured animation, drawing and performance – but where the ‘gallery’ was in fact the back of a white van.
Rachel Goodyear has been shortlisted for a portfolio of beautiful, yet unsettling, pencil and watercolour drawings. Goodyear has recently exhibited at Cornerhouse in Manchester and as part of Liverpool Biennial at Tate Liverpool in 2008; her work, as you might expect, shows great technical skill. But it is her interest in creating discomforting, ambiguous narratives, often presented as a ‘cluster’ of drawings unique to each gallery or display space, which drew particular praise from the judges.
Owl Project is another art collective, this time comprised of Simon Blackmore, Antony Hall and Steve Symons. Drawing on influences such as woodwork, hobby-style electronics and open source software, Owl Project has produced a range of semi-sculptural, semi-comical musical instruments that have been exhibited across the UK and Europe and premiered at events such as the Sonic Arts Network EXPO, Lovebytes and Futuresonic. Owl Project has been shortlisted for its portable ‘rustic’ instruments, the iLog, the m-Log and the Log1k.
The judges also awarded special commendations to Nick Jordan, who, with fellow artist and collaborator, Jacob Cartwright, was an artist research fellow at Manchester Museum, and Maurice Carlin, an artist who also founded the Islington Mill Art Academy and co-founded the Sounds from the Other City festival.
Jayne Compton has been shortlisted for a diverse portfolio that includes long-running experimental club night, Club Brenda, ‘a genuinely uncompromising underground art happening’, according to Compton that blends live music, art and performance. Compton has also been shortlisted for her Switchflicker Records label (which launched the Ting Tings with That’s Not My Name) and an upcoming Arts Council book, Strange Trees.
Natalie Curtis was shortlisted for a photography portfolio that includes portraits of bands such as Doves, the Paris Riots and Silversun Pickups. Her quiet documentary style has lead to a series of startlingly warm and intimate shots – and was singled out by the judges for its freshness and direct approach.
Max Moran has been shortlisted for a portfolio that includes the video-based music blog, ThisTownSounds.com. Running since 2007, the blog has premiered White Lies’ first ever filmed interview, as well as early performances from the likes of Florence & The Machine. Moran has also been recognised for his sell-out club night, Hot Club, its laid back sister session, Hat Club and, more recently, Moran’s burgeoning record label, Hit Club.
The music judges also awarded special commendations to Paddy Steer, an ‘unsung hero’ according to one of our panel, for his contribution to the Manchester music scene over the past 25 years; and to classical composer Joe Duddell who has curated (and conducts) the Elbow and Hallé Orchestra performances that form the centrepiece of this year’s Manchester International Festival.
Paul Griffiths has been nominated for his shop and clothing label, Babycakes. Despite being only two years old, Babycakes is already a smash hit: the label’s store opening in Manchester was met with a 400-strong queue, while its limited edition t-shirt designs regularly sell out within hours of their launch. Babycakes plans to open London and Los Angeles outlets in early 2010.
Holly Russell is an alumnus of Manchester School of Art whose shimmering, stunning graduate collection features hundreds of hand-sewn scarab beetle wings. Russell has also collaborated with a metal worker to incorporate aluminium into her designs and an astronomer to create embellished digital prints. Hugely ambitious but with a realistic approach to the fashion industry, Russell hopes to take up an MA in Fashion Womenswear at the renowned Royal College of Art.
Katie Webb is another Manchester School of Art alumni. Her understated, architectural collection is a stark contrast to Russell’s, featuring neutral colours and luxe fabrics such as leather, cashmere and silk. The judges highlighted Webb’s minimalist designs and technical skills, as well as her environmental awareness and subsequent drive to source fabrics from the UK and Europe.
The fashion judges also awarded a special commendation to Jen Scott-Russell, the milliner who runs the successful Northern Quarter-based shop, H’atelier.
The winners will be announced live at an awards ceremony at Urbis on 23 July. The BOMA exhibition runs 24 July-20 September, also at Urbis.