Sustainable Artwork and Environmental Themes at the Manchester Open 2022

The Manchester Open 2022 features over 400 artworks from Greater Manchester residents. Carly Bainbridge, Manchester Open Project Coordinator, has picked a selection of the artworks which highlight themes of sustainability and the environment.

Deforestation of the Sea by Victoria Hart

This mixed media wall hanging by Victoria Hart directly addresses issues of sustainability. Made entirely of synthetic materials such as plastic bags, net food packaging, dyed acrylic wool and cotton; you are confronted with a metre and a half of man-made materials. Intricately woven and layered, this work visually mimics the colours and textures recognisable to the coral reef.

Hart’s impacting message states that:
“if the global temperatures continue to rise by 1.5°C, an incomprehensible 90% of the coral reef will be lost”.

We are asked to think about man-made substances overruling the natural forms of the coral reef. The joyous orange, blues and pinks are being pushed downwards by the bleak washed out greys and whites – an all too familiar news headline image of “washed out” of now deceased coral reefs.

Hart also states how long it will take for this artwork to decompose, 200 years! A frightening message.

When thinking about facts and stats of global climate issues, they often can feel quite distant and hard to understand. This artwork becomes an illustration of these climate facts, especially as the looming metre and half tall artwork begins to feel quite small in comparison to the global wide issue.

(artwork number 106 in the exhibition)


Born to Run by Hathaikan Kongauruan

The next artwork is a “lighthearted” but equally impactful message when addressing a sustainable way to make art.
From Hathaikan Kongauruan’s Chairs that care series, Born to Run takes salvaged materials that would have gone to landfill and reanimates them with new life – the sculpture quite literally looks as though it could run away! It bursts with enthusiastic forward motion of new life energy.
The unreconisable, previously “skipped”, baby booster seat is attached to “Queen Anne” chair legs and painted in a matt light earthy green. The compatibility of the found objects becomes a new life. An object that would fit into any contemporary art setting. Kongauruan states the work is “alluding to its sentiment hope to grow” a positive forward-looking statement to sustainable art practices.

(artwork number 448 in the exhibition)


Substation, Chlorophyll Print using an Ivy Leaf by Thomas Larkin

You cannot pass through the Manchester Open 2022 without noting Thomas Larkins’ message of sustainability.

“Actuality and materiality within photography, focusing on camera-less photography and antiquated photographic process he is hoping to address and bring to light our obsession with photography and the mass consumption of it in the 21st century”

The application of chlorophyll, used to imprint the electrical substation image into the leaf through photosynthesis a mutual energy transfer. Chlorophyll is used as natural paint and the ivy leaf as the canvas. Throughout the timeframe of the Manchester Open Exhibition the ivy leaf and image will alter and ultimately disappear as the ivy leaf continues its life. There is an element of chance to the final aesthetic remains of the Larkins’ Ivy Leaf. To me this reflects the instability of manufactured electrical energy.

(artwork number 328 in the exhibition)


Manchester Courtyards; a proposal for Ancoats by Rory Chisholm

The final artwork I would like to highlight is by architect Rory Chisholm. Unlike the previous three artworks highlighted, the making process is not how the artist reflects sustainability; the detailed drawing probably looks most like the traditional sense of art – pencil, ink, watercolour handmade drawing.

Chisolm states

“The design and the drawing style both celebrate primal design principles and inject them into the modem city; a reminder that our wellbeing is rooted in our animal selves.”

In the ever quickly developing Greater Manchester (with an increase in skyscrapers cluttering our skies) I would like to ask the effect this has on ourselves, the way we inhabit our city and the wildlife that lives amongst us.
How can we conserve our outside spaces as the land comes under more demand?
Post lockdown, many of us have learnt the importance of local green spaces to our own mental health. How does depleting green space affect our communities and distance from natural landscapes and wildlife? I like the idea of this artwork being a “proposal”. A creative glimmer to the future, a balance of redevelopment and sustainability. A reminder of how we should respect, celebrate, and sustain our natural habitats when can easily be lost in redevelopment.

(artwork number 57 in the exhibition)


There’s much more sustainable art in the exhibition

There are many artworks this year’s 2022 edition of the Manchester Open Exhibition that link to sustainability – using recycled materials, found objects or biodegradable materials. From dismantled office chairs, crushed coke cans collaged to a backdrop celebration of local litter pickers portraits, recycled CD‘s, large cardboard sculptures, and even a mushroom spore print.

I wonder if the past two years have had an impact on the creatives of Greater Manchester as we have been kept in our local areas. Creatives are known to be resourceful, maybe this has given us more time to think about the materials and inspiration around us?

Did you know?
All packaging from the Manchester Open artwork delivery process is kept and stored. This is secretly hidden in the alcoves of the gallery hollow walls. Every artwork is returned to the artists or buyer in its original packaging. This is in support of our “zero to landfill” policy at HOME.

Find out more about Sustainability at HOME.

Our sustainability programme is supported by Shire Leasing.