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November 11 2011

You too can be a Lowry stick-person

Go shopping or sight-seeing in Manchester, and Salford University can make you part of art history

Greater Manchester's profiteering from its dysfunctional but talented son L S Lowry continues apace. This weekend, you could end up being turned into a stick person while shopping or sight-seeing in Piccadilly Gardens.

Salford University, which is an extremely hi-tech centre pioneering lots of clever digital things, is staging the exercise to mark the opening of its new building at MediaCityUK on Salford Quays.

Two Manchester artists, Alastair Eilbeck and James Bailey, have been commissioned to marry Lowry's painting of the gardens in 1954 to cameras equipped with stuff called 'motion capture technology'. The effect is to turn someone such as myself, bumbling along in a comfortable way with my shopping bags, into an authentic stick person.

This will then be screened at on a large projection at MediaCityUK for everyone to laugh at, sorry admire, in a 're-imagining of Lowry's artwork with moving characters walking through the painted version of Piccadilly Gardens.' This sounds terrific and Alexandra King, Piccadilly Partnership Director at CityCo, Manchester's city centre management company, thinks everyone will agree. She says:

It's great to be involved with this innovative project which brings a much-loved painting of a familiar public space to life. We hope visitors will take part and have the image of themselves in the modern day gardens beamed over to the Salford screen. Working with the University of Salford and Metrolink, we'll be able to demonstrate just how close Piccadilly is to MediaCityUK.

Nervous BBC relocaters, take note. There are shops etc up here. Actually, there's an entire mall on the quays plus the Lowry and a bridge to Imperial War Museum North.

Nobody has to take part in the exercise if they are shy or with someone that they shouldn't be with, but it sounds intriguingly clever. The artists explain that:

Motion sensor cameras set up in front of canvases in Piccadilly Gardens and at MediaCityUK will film members of the public moving and, in real time, will reproduce their movements in a digital Lowry figure. In Piccadilly Gardens, the Gardens themselves will be the backdrop to the moving figures while over at MediaCityUK, characters from Piccadilly Gardens and MediaCityUK will be combined and integrated into a digital projection of Lowry's Piccadilly Gardens painting on a screen at the University's new facility.

Each of the animated figures will be based on actual people from some of Lowry's most famous paintings, including The Lying Man, The Cripples and A Day Out at the Prom, all produced by Lowry around the similar period to Piccadilly Gardens. Wirral illustrator Maria Pearson has painted each of the characters from four different views so they can be shown from differing angles on screen when reacting to the movements of visitors.

Alastair says:

The effect of the moving figures in the painting will be similar to split tin puppets, which I think will capture the spirit of Lowry and I hope it's an interpretation of his work of which he would have approved.

I'm sure he would.

The day's celebrations, which feature other joys, run from 10.30am-5.30pm tomorrow, Saturday 12 November, with free tram travel from Piccadilly Gardens and Eccles to the event, plus a free Salford QuaysLink bus service from Salford Crescent railway station and Salford Shopping City.

You can also watch the uni's promotional film above. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 14 2011

Exhibition for 'Monet of Manchester' who inspired Lowry

Adolphe Valette, little known French impressionist who painted striking landscapes on grimly industrial Manchester

He could easily be nicknamed "the Manchester Impressionist" or, at a squeeze, ''the Monet of Manchester" but the truth is that most people have not heard of him, let alone seen his striking landscapes of a grimly damp but dynamic and beautiful industrial city.

The Lowry arts centre in Salford hopes to help change that by staging the most comprehensive overview of Adolphe Valette's work to date.

Quite why the Saint-Etienne born Frenchman ended up living in and painting early 20th century Manchester is something of a mystery. But as a result, he not only produced truly fine work but helped invigorate and hone the skills of young artists, including LS Lowry.

"He really deserves wider recognition," said the show's curator Cécilia Lyon. "In his paintings of Manchester he really caught the dynamism, the atmosphere, the pollution, the industry – there is everything in these paintings."

The show was formally opened by Bernard Emié, the French ambassador, at a private view on Thursday. His presence was significant, said Lyon. "It is a very important sign of recognition for one of their painters which they have overlooked for a very long time," she said. "Valette is better known in the UK than France."

One reason for his comparative obscurity is that he did not work in London or Paris. Nor was he very good at or interested in self-promotion.

"Even now, an artist is only celebrated when the critics in a capital have given their verdict," said Lyon. "Also Valette was an extremely modest man, he never searched for recognition."

Valette brought the excitement of impressionism to Manchester and taught it to students at the Municipal School of Art, All Saints – now part of Manchester Metropolitan University.

His most significant pupil was Lowry who called him "a real teacher … a dedicated teacher". Lowry added: "I cannot over-estimate the effect on me of the coming into this drab city of Adolphe Valette, full of French impressionists, aware of everything that was going on in Paris."

The show has work by both artists and suggests that it was surely Lowry following Valette in bringing to life so magnificently the industry of Manchester and the north-west.

Claire Stewart, curator of the Lowry collection, said: "He brought all this direct knowledge of what artists in France had been doing to Manchester and it invigorated his students. They loved him as a teacher."

The show, with around 100 works, covers all periods of Valette's life so there are his best known Manchester-scapes from the Manchester City Art Gallery as well as loans from Chatsworth house and light-filled paintings from his time back in France living in rural Beaujolais.

Most of his works are privately owned and earlier this year the Lowry Centre appealed for people to come forward if they had a Valette on their walls. They got around 50 positive responses and nine newly uncovered works are included in the show.

There are also preparatory sketches for works still lost such as Manchester Street in Fog.

Adolphe Valette: A pioneer of impressionism in Manchester runs at The Lowry, 15 October-29 January © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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