This project began in February 2020. Nancy invited seven artists to take part in producing a response to Victoria Baths in Manchester. Three of the artists have previously taken part in a residency there in 2018 and had material to fall back on. The rest of the artists were halted midway by lockdown and were forced into responding at a distance, which led to some interesting experimentation and created work that was suited to showing in a virtual space.
Over one year later Victoria Baths opened again and we were invited to install the work for a heritage open weekend. Five of the original seven artists agreed to take part, here are their statements and images of the work which was curated by Nan Collantine in the Superintendents Flat.
Aesthetic Consequences, Kevin Boardman
Inside Victoria Baths Exhibition I was fascinated with the tiles. Apart from its aesthetic qualities, these tiles constantly adapt to the space throughout its life span from all different types of interactions. Even through restoration look closely at the tiles and one will see variations of unique marks to form there own signature identity. With the intention of using the Victoria Baths environment as the testing ground to investigate the tiles, I had to change direction. Instead the Covid -19 isolation led to my flat as the testing ground for research. Taping tile-shaped paper to surfaces including kitchen worktop near the kettle, bathroom and on the kitchen floor to capture to everyday activity.
It’s my way of researching and exploring the idea that the tiles in the Victoria Baths will each have their own story to tell and become unique by the fact of being old and used, evidenced by cracking, chipping and a century of wear and tear. I then took these ‘aesthetic consequences’ into forming repeat patterns to form a contemporary aesthetic.
Victoria Baths Assemblages, Suzanne Bethell
These assemblages are part of a series of 16 pieces inspired by the surfaces, textures and deep, rich colours of the baths and its ongoing restoration. The work began as a series of tiles/ assemblages, directly influenced by the spaces in the baths. For instance the first piece focused on the blue and rusts of the cubicles with their peeling paint. As they have developed, the colours remain but the work has increasingly been influenced by the notion of restoration and the materials and tools of construction. The rich turquoises, blues, ochres and emeralds are retained, but the textures have become more diverse, reflecting corrugation, sandpapered areas, tiles glossy and matt, protective perspex screwed over surfaces, BSI codes.
Where was I? Paddy O’Donnell
Film and installation
During Lockdown, I made a little film for an online show with Nan Collantine and the others. It recalled the first day of a residency at Victoria Baths in the Summer of 2019. Now we are back in the place, I re-imagined the film, playing on an ancient TV set in the old Superintendent’s flat
Paintings by Sophie Nixon
I painted a series of oil paintings that describe my visual response to Victoria Baths, to the beautiful light coming through the ceiling glass, the period details and the sense of solitude I felt in those empty upstairs rooms.
I have responded to personal histories held contained in this physical place, using painting as a way to connect these with my own memories and associations. Starting with drawings I made during a previous residency and sketchbooks of drawings made by others, as a result I think the paintings find a way to explain what Victoria Baths means to people, whether that is exhilaration, nostalgia, isolation or social awkwardness.