A 150-year retrospective show at the Bolton School of the Arts has thrown me back together – after more decades than I care to think about – with a guy called Mike Wood.
Or that was what he was called when we were at school together. To clarify, we were in the same year at a ‘Grammar and Technical School,’ where the arts were tolerated and nominally on the curriculum.
When I say nominally, the arts option saw a class of two and a very underworked art teacher. The two were me and Mike.
So we left school and went to Bolton School of the Arts together. The foundation course – designed to explore aptitudes, capabilities and interests – eventually saw me and Mike diverge; I opted for design and Mike ploughed his way into fine art.
From then on in I watched Mike’s career flourish, with his fine art taking him in an unusual direction. He began to work experimentally with textiles, exploring embroidery, pattern, lace and floral imagery.
Now, that might seem a little obverse for a guy from Bury who went to college in Bolton, but these days Mike’s work can be found all over the world; from the Victoria and Albert Museum to the National Gallery of Australia.
He has exhibited in Geneva, Amsterdam, Brussels, Kyoto, North Carolina, Milwaukee, Chicago, San Francisco, Korea…the list goes on and on. And now on to the Bolton Museum for the School of the Arts retrospective.
It is very fair to say that he occupied (and still does occupy) a very central position in contemporary international art, synthesising and integrating textiles with other media. Completing residencies in five continents, he was senior lecturer at Goldsmiths in London for many years and was appointed visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2005.
For the Bolton School of the Arts show he has loaned two pieces of work. The show is on until the end of the year and is an interesting look at the talent that the School has produced over many, many decades.
From fine art to design and branding, across a wide spectrum, the history of the arts and art teaching reflected in the show is fascinating and often (almost always) not on the radar for either potential students or those with just an interest in all of the arts.
But for me – and call me nostalgic – the two pieces loaned by Mike are the stars of the show, both literally and metaphorically. It would be a shame not to grab the opportunity to see these ‘in real life,’ but also have the opportunity to view the complexity of Mike’s work at very close quarters. Because complex they certainly are, as can be seen here.
Oh and one last thing. Mike is now Michael Brennand-Wood. Far more suitable for a local artist with a global reputation.
Bolton School of the Arts 150 year retrospective at the Bolton Museum is on until the end of the year.