We have shown the work of Mandy Payne at Saul Hay Gallery since our very beginnings and she is one of the most successful artists that we have had the pleasure to work with. Her first solo exhibition has been much overdue and anticipated. Titled Out of the Ordinary, Payne invited us to see her latest works on the nostalgic past of dilapidated social housing and the issue of gentrifying those estates.
Payne’s most recent installment gave us snapshots into the brutalist architecture that was constructed, first beginning in the 1950s, across the country. They evoke a feeling of melancholia and pathos in the rigid lines and flat surface of the buildings, a paradox to the utopian image their creators once hoped to inspire. In the deserted landscapes they contain the memories of communities that have now since vanished, the layers of the past feel tangible to the onlooker, a grim but wonderful curiosity emancipated from the discarded brick and homes are envisioned in these portraits of declining urban environments. The brutalist architecture in Britain has been a continual theme and source of inspiration for Mandy Payne, like a modern-day Cezanne or Monet, Payne gives emotion and expression to these silent landscapes.
As an ode to these landscapes, Payne uses concrete slabs as canvases and spray paint to create her depictions of regressing urban environments. The use of spray paints is a reference to the graffiti that takes over these buildings. It also allows her to recreate the flat surfaces of the buildings, a meticulous process that involves stenciling and layering that renders her portraits with emotion and memory.
A recent innovation in Payne’s work is the employment of marble as a canvas. The utilization of the material is a hint at the regeneration of the areas Payne has been working with into gentrified spaces, no longer the homes of post-war families in Britain but to businessmen and the search of capital, something I would expect to be quite unimaginable for the people living originally in those estates. Marble is a material that is used in the construction of repurposed gentrified buildings, with juxtaposed on top of it images of the past, it produces a reflective nostalgia with an eerie presence. The choice of materials in Mandy Payne’s work shows a direct connection to the environment she is working in.
The much awaited show opened with the hustle and excitement that was only to be expected. The clinks of wine glasses and chitter chatter of the onlooker filled the room. Who would have guessed that the brutalist architecture of the 1950s and 1960s would give some much enjoyment to the present-day art-lovers living in the north. The success of the exhibition was encapsulated in the conversations and smiles of the guests. It has always been enlightening and an adventure to work with Mandy Payne at Saul Hay Gallery, special thanks to her for letting us be a part of her artistic career.
The exhibition will be open to the public until the 23rd of October 2022. Opening times are from 10.30 a.m to 6 p.m on Tuesdays to Saturdays and 10.30 a.m to 5 p.m on Sundays.
Words and photographs by Ethan Doncaster.
Ethan is a BA Fine Art student and Manchester School of Art and is helping out at the gallery for work experience as part of his studies.