Cornelia Parker at The Whitworth

I visited The Whitworth gallery in Manchester to see the Cornelia Parker exhibition.

She obviously enjoys ‘playing’, using anything and everything to make her sculptures and pictures. They are all about the ideas, with the actual sculpture/picture sometimes being secondary. For instance she displayed a number of images using wire which was made from the metal in bullets (‘Bullet Drawings’), or gold from dental filings. The arrangement of the wire in the frame looked pretty arbitrary and not arranged in an aesthetic way. This made many of the works interesting, but not decorative. Some of these were also humorous like ‘exhaled cocaine’ which was a pile of incinerated cocaine from a police disposal.

Sometimes the sculptures and pictures from these ideas are beautiful though, as well as being interesting. My favourite had to be ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991’, a blown up garden shed and contents, reassembled as in mid-explosion and hung from the ceiling by wire around a light bulb.


This sculpture has a huge presence and looks fantastic with the light breaking through the gaps. What a great idea and vision to see how it would be transformed from an ordinary object into a work of art.

Another favourite was titled something similar to ‘pornographic image’, which was a butterfly picture made out of ink from destroyed pornographic video tapes – presumably a reference to the blot pictures used by psychologists? On a similar vein was ‘Poison and Antidote Drawing, 2012’ where she used both snake poison and it’s antidote to make butterfly pictures which have the ability to kill and save your life at the same time.

Other interesting pieces were cast pavement cracks, where she had used cold cast rubber to cast a section of pavement in London and also in Jerusalem. The London location being a graveyard where she often played hopscotch with her daughter and the link between them being that the graveyard houses William Blake who wrote the poem ‘Jerusalem’.

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I’m only part way through her book at the moment, so may add to this post later.


On display at the same time in The Whitworth was a room full of a large drawing by Cai Guo-Qiang surrounding a lake, called ‘Unmanned Nature’.


It turned out that this huge drawing was made using gunpowder laid on Japanese hemp paper and ignited (with cardboard on top to contain the explosion and put out the fire). Amazingly this was done on the floor in a sports hall somewhere, so is actually quite contained. It produces some wonderful marks and is extremely effective in this drawing. Who knew you could draw with gunpowder? Tempting to try this out myself, although maybe not the best idea…….?!


Blazwick, I. and Parker, C. (2013). Cornelia Parker. London: Thames & Hudson.

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