For my 20th birthday in my first home of my own, my mum gave me a framed Paul Klee print. I loved it. The colour palette of that picture has left an impression on me and is part of my visual lexicon.
Years later I was living in a rented house where there were two original paintings on the wall – one of a young indigenous Australian woman wearing white against a sepia background, the other a series of white paint marks trowelled onto a nearly black surface. I know now that a print is one thing, an original piece is something else altogether. It didn’t matter that the artists were unknown, their spirit existed in the artwork. Those paintings contained a life force and they left an indelible mark on me. I didn’t know this when I lived with them, but I can see them in my mind to this day.
During the pandemic, a friend and I started a project on Instagram inviting people to share a piece of art they had at home, including a short film describing the artwork, how they came to have it, and what they liked about it. I was blown away by the responses of people to the art on their walls. It was something worth having, not to possess but to hold in the mind.
I’m just scratching the surface of how art can pluck at our soul in indescribable ways, how it helps us to know ourselves better and gain another perspective into our difficult, beautiful lives. It’s the reason why I’m opening an art gallery, because I know there are people who understand this and I want others to find it as well. This is what art is for – to communicate with another part of ourselves that doesn’t use vocabulary.
I have another reason for opening my own space. As an artist myself, I’ve realised that the current system doesn’t favour artists. I’ve learned that the only opportunities are because of a few die-hard optimists who run independent spaces in my home town of Manchester, and there are too many artists clamouring to be shown in what little time and space they have. As a result, I have learned to self-organise, to DIY, to work collectively so we can set up and run our own exhibitions in temporary spaces.
All that has led to the opening of Mura Ma, a new art space in Marple, Stockport. Rather than a city location, it’s a local one with a strong community spirit, a few art lovers tucked away, and some emerging collectors. I think Marple will appreciate it because art is a magnet. Art helps to create an exciting and vibrant community.
I hope that, with the gallery, there will be patronage and understanding. It’s fantastic visit big museum shows of well known, usually dead artists. What is equally brilliant is venturing into the unknown, seeing work being made by living artists, artists we don’t normally come across, because we have a lot to learn by looking at their art. It’s all in there, and even if it’s the smallest, cheapest little drawing, it will keep on sowing its truth in us.
On the subject of buying art, acquiring work from early career and emerging artists is much more affordable and attainable than you might think. It is collectible and valuable. We can also be part of the making of it and we can swap it with our friends who also make art, like a shared make-believe.
Main image: Nancy Collantine by Milan Nechvátal.
Mura Ma art space and gallery is open. You can now see Edgelessness, an exhibition of contemporary painting, as well as an accompanying programme of events and workshops.
Opening hours: Thursday-Saturday, 11am-4.30pm
Available for workshop hire Sunday-Wednesday. Click here for more information.