Cornelia Parker at the Whitworth


The main exhibition showing at the Whitworth following its reopening is a major retrospective of the work of Cheshire born artist Cornelia Parker.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was blown away by what I saw.

Cornelia Parker is described as a “sculptor and installation artist” by the Tate and the exhibition features works covering the range of her repertoire; large scale installations, bronze castings, found objects, flattened objects, objects transformed into wire, abstract paintings created from her blood.

The first room contained a collection of smaller works. There were metal objects- a spoon, a silver dollar and bullets, transformed into wire. The wire from the bullets was woven and manipulated to form grid like patterns. There wereDSC04867

There were two other weapon related works – a sawn-off shot gun that had been sawn up and the following work which consisted of teo metal pieces from the early stages of manufacture of a colt pistol in a glass case with a metal powder that was all that was left from a pistol that had been destroyed.


There were also Rorschach “ink blot” patterns made using snake venom and anti-venom antidote mixed with black and white ink and a series of pieces of canvas which were originally the linings of paintings by JMW Turner from the Tate’s collection which had acquired markings and stains forming abstract patterns.


Amongst the works displayed in he central barrel vaulted gallery there was Rodin’s Kiss (the real one, borrowed from he Tate) tied up with string.


On the floor there were two bronze works cast from the cracks between paving stones

Black Path (Bunhill Fields) was created from the paving stones around the tomb of William Blake in the non-conformist cemetery were he’s buried in London


There was a connection with the other similar work Jerusalem which was cast surreptitiously from the cracks between paving stones in occupied East Jerusalem. Blake’s most well known work is probably his poem, Jerusalem, which was set to music, becoming a popular hymn. There is a connection with the Whitworth which owns a number of drawings and prints by Blake and Manchester was the heart of his “dark satanic mills”.


In the Exhibition brochure Cornelia tells us about how she created the work

When I visited Jerusalem and he West Bank several times in 2012, I found myself meditating on William Blake’s poetry. His idealisation of Jerusalem is a far cry from the politically fraught place it is now. Territories and boundaries are contested on a daily basis.

On one of my trips I took a couple of containers of cold cure casting rubber as extra weight in my luggage. I used this to cast the cracks in a section of old paving in the occupied East Jerusalem. This was done at night, away from the Israeli armed guards that patrolled the streets. When the rubber mould was set, I peeled it up off the pavement, rolled it up and put it back in my suitcase – making off with a piece of Jerusalem. For this exhibition in Manchester it has finally been cast in bronze to sit on a different turf, in the home of Blake’s “satanic mills”

These two works sit just above floor level, propped up with pins. One visitor during the first few days of the exhibition tripped over one of them, so extra staff are on hand to alert visitors!

There were two other works close to the floor, this time suspended from fine wires attached to the ceiling.

Accidental 1 consists of 16 silver plated objects – plates, cutlery and the like that had been squashed by a 250 ton industrial press


and  its companion piece, 16 flattened musical instruments, Composition with Horns (Double Flat)


They were simple, but effective.

Other works in this room included a series of tapestries, hand embroidered by inmates of various prisons.


Each piece had two words with opposite meanings (War,Peace; Life,Death; Past, Future; Light,Dark; Conscious,Unconscious; Love,Hate) and their definitions. They were produced so that one of the pair was read from one side of the fabric and the second from the opposite side. Clever.

The other two rooms each contained only one work.

War Room was a tent like structure made from perforated paper left over from the manufacture of British Legion poppies which covered all the walls and were suspended from the ceiling..


Standing inside was quite a serene experience. Almost like being inside a chapel. I guess hat was the artist’s intention – to create a feeling of a chapel of remembrance.

The final work was probably the most popular and seemed to be especially so with children. The  “frozen explosion” of Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View


The description on the Tate’s website sums it up succinctly. It’s a

restored three-dimensional volume of a garden shed exploded by the British Army at the request of the artist. The surviving fragments, suspended from the ceiling and lit by a single bulb, create a dramatic effect and cast shadows on the gallery’s walls.

An amazing work.

All in all a fantastic exhibition. We resolved to return before it finishes at the end of May

4 thoughts on “Cornelia Parker at the Whitworth

  1. Pingback: Bunhill Fields | Down by the Dougie

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