True Faith – Manchester Art Gallery

A pilgrimage of sorts

It was 1990, the height of MADchester, when I last spent any amount of time in the City of Manchester. I was, and still am a fan of much of the music from this fair city. In the last millennium I was visiting what was then called the G-Mex to see Happy Mondays. But as a Joy Division/New Order fan the highlights at the time were visiting the uber cool Dry Bar, owned at the time by New Order, and a special guest appearance during the 808 State support slot of New Order Frontman, Bernard Sumner.

MADchester came and went, but the legacy of Factory Records, Joy Division, New Order, Peter Saville their graphic designer, has been with me my whole adult life.

So when I heard about the True Faith Exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, I bought a return ticket on the Megabus to Manchester straight away.

I left Glasgow on the 8:20 bus which would arrive in Manchester around 12:30. The journey gave me time to catch up on writing and editing some photos. It was beautiful weather and the city was buzzing with energy when I got off the bus. It’s a compact town centre, so it was only 10 minutes or so before I was at the Art Gallery itself.

Our love is like the flowers, the rain, the sea and the hours

By no means an Atrocity Exhibition

“Curated by Matthew Higgs and Jon Savage the exhibition brings together work by notable artists, True Faith explores the ongoing significance and legacy of New Order and Joy Division through the wealth of visual art their music has inspired.”

I won’t attempt to go through each installation, but you can read all about the True Faith Exhibition in this Guardian review.

I did 3 circuits of both rooms, first taking it all in, second time around I took some photos and finally I did a tour trying to shoot some video for posterity.

The exhibition itself was popular. It was a glorious sunny Sunday, but there were plenty of visitors taking in the exhibition.

The pieces consisted of a mixture of installation art, band memorabilia, short films, even hand written notes from Rob Gretton (their manager) and Ian Curtis’ original lyric notes.

I enjoyed seeing the Basket of Roses original painting reproduced on the cover of New Order’s second album, Power Corruption and Lies. The lesser known posters commissioned by Michael Shamberg in the U.S. and some of the very early E.P. sleeve designs like the Factory Sample were favourites. The Fac.1 The Factory Poster and an original Unknown Pleasures poster were also on show, these have been so influential in Graphic Design as well as in fashion and popular culture.

Probably the most haunting and powerful of all is the portrait of Ian Curtis titled Factory Icon. It is also used in the Manchester International Festival banners throughout the city. In fact the subject is not Ian Curtis who died in 1980, but a doppelgänger photographed by Slater B Bradley 2000/2017.

Factory Icon

New Order PosterI came away from the event with a lovely heavyweight programme as a keepsake. I do kind of regret not purchasing the re-released colours vinyl pressings of Power, Corruption and lies and Closer.

Time has been Kind to Manchester

I didn’t have much spare time to explore the city after the art gallery as I had to catch my bus back home at 5:30pm. I did walk down to the old G-Mex which is now called Manchester Central Convention Complex. It was all different now. The town centre is polished. Tram tracks run through lovely bright pavement and the sun set  the modern glass buildings sparkling.

Manchester tram

It still has little rough bits round the edges, though charming with it. I visited Oldham Street to see that Dry Bar was now closed, not only that but, a graffiti of bassist Peter Hook nearby had been itself defaced. A sad but humorous sight. I’m sure he would laugh it off himself.

So it goes, I for one will be listening for another 27 years at least to this wonderful sound from MCR.

Part of the Manchester International Festival, True Faith is a free event at Manchester Art Gallery, running from Friday 30 June – Sunday 3 September 2017.