Open Exhibition attracts fresh talent from across region as it relaunches for the first time since pandemic

Open Exhibition

An exhibition celebrating the talents of some of the most promising new and emerging artists in the region has launched in Warrington.

Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival’s Open Exhibition has returned for the first time since the pandemic and is available to view at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery until February next year.

The competition acts as a springboard for artists of every discipline and was open to anyone within 60 miles of the town.

After a judging ceremony and launch event last week, photographic artist Lāsma Poiša was awarded First Prize, while painter Isaac Jordan was named Emerging Artist.

More than 300 people came to the opening event with Lāsma’s work – a bold exploration of her becoming a mother to nine-month-old Esme – described by judges as ‘powerful, honest and confronting’.

Her prize includes a solo show at Warrington Museum with full support in 2023.

Lāsma, a British Latvian who lives in Todmorden, said: “I am overjoyed and grateful to be the winner of the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival Prize and I am looking forward to my first solo show at the museum next year.

“I am delighted with the response this image has received and am touched it resonates with so many. I had anticipated for my emerging career in photography to be hindered when I became a parent earlier this year.

“I continued photographing as it helped me to make sense of the world around me, but I did not imagine that my personal reflections would have such an impact. This subject is often over-romanticised in visual culture whilst many motherhood realities remain hidden. I am honoured that I will have the opportunity to represent mothers and motherhood and perhaps bring to light some of the themes that are unseen.”

Isaac’s practice revolves around creating small scale paintings in one sitting – featuring tiny figures captured in a moment in time.

The Manchester resident added: “I like how you can’t quite tell if they’re dancing, falling over or maybe stuck in a swamp. I start the paintings without a predetermined image in mind, instead finding a visual rhythm and balance in the making.

“I’m honoured to receive the Emerging Artist award and be part of a really great show alongside artists from the north west. Thanks to the judges for choosing my work and giving me this opportunity.”

Also Highly Commended were Kathryn Pool for ‘Ford 1’, an etching on Japanese paper, Alan Barker for his graphite drawing of a sculpture in its moment of collapse as part of his ‘Trap and Snare’ series and Klaire Doyle for the sound installation ‘A Sensory Sea Experience for a Swamp’.

Mario Popham, a photographer and educator originally from Japan and now based in Manchester, was this year’s guest curator.

He said: “Seeing the quality and range of works selected for this year’s Open has reaffirmed for me the abundance of talent, imagination and energy that defines the work of our visual arts community here in the north west.

“My role in curating this exhibition – of arranging this rich chorus of disparate artistic voices and perspectives together in the historic rooms of Warrington Museum – has been a uniquely enjoyable challenge.”

Also running alongside the Open Exhibition is John McLeod’s Pulled – a career spanning collection covering everything from architecture to club culture.

John won the Open in 2019 so is delighted to be back within its orbit for his long-awaited solo show.

He added: “I have attended the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival (WCAF) for many years and always look forward to the diverse programme. It has always fascinated me and the quality of the work has steadily increased over time.

“The idea of putting on a solo show was a daunting prospect, but with the encouragement of the WCAF team, I really enjoyed the process of putting an exhibition together specifically for the gallery space thanks to this great opportunity.”

The Open Exhibition is free to view and runs at Warrington Museum until 12 February.