Central Library


The Great Hall, Manchester Central Library, architect E Vincent Harris, 1934

Central Library is a tremendous lynchpin for a city: at the end of Oxford Street and opening onto St Peter’s Square. I’d been inside before but never to the first-floor reading room. It’s a wonderful circular space, lit by a circular skylight and supported by pillars arranged in groups of seven (of course). Its neoclassical appearance misleads: it’s very much a twentieth-century building, with its steel frame and reinforced concrete floors.

I’d been enticed in by the lure of a northern photographic exhibition. There were some nice photos – some of them (small boats and their perfect reflections, a ship’s hull, all by Ian Macdonald) the kind of thing I like to snap to much less effect. Also lovely, colour-tweaked landscapes and close-ups of plants and animals. I wasn’t quite sure if I agreed with Macdonald’s view that each photographic print from a single negative is the work of an artist; I view it more as a skill, but I’ll accept I could be wrong.

What stood out for me were photographs by Phoebe Kiely, who focused on the most banal things: white lines, shadows on walls, overgrown wasteland, small puddles on tarmac (all B&W). They spoke to that childish part in me that still notices cracks in paving stones (albeit nowadays more from fear of “having a fall” than treading on one and breaking a spell) and the way bindweed curls round any support it can find. Noticing such things have been with me for ever; I still occasionally mentally map out a hopscotch plan on pavements.

There was another photographic exhibition at Piccadilly station – this time of landscapes, all looking very hyper-real. Again, all had been tweaked in some way: filters, saturation, cropping, telegraph poles removed. It’s not really cheating, but . . .


About aides mémoires

This is a chronological list of things I have seen, places I have visited, and thoughts that have wandered through the space between my ears. A reading group of one; an art appreciation society limited by my preferences and prejudices; opera criticism by one who knows nothing about the subject.
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