Venture Arts showcase learning-disabled artists at Manchester Contemporary Art Fair

Andrew Omoding Man Climbing Ladder

Andrew Omoding Man Climbing Ladder

Following on from a successful exhibition last year, Venture Arts returns to The Manchester Contemporary from Friday 26 October until Sunday 28 October at the Manchester Convention Centre.

This year the space – run in partnership with Castlefield Gallery – has been curated collaboratively between two young and emerging curators, James Desser (Venture Arts) and Tom Emery (Castlefield Gallery Associate) and features significant new art work from digital photography and illustration to ceramics and sculpture from found objects.

Submissions came from a wealth of artists working at studios run by ActionSpace in London and Project Ability in Glasgow, as well as artists working from the Venture Arts studios in Manchester.

James Desser, co-curator said:

“This is a new experience for me, as it is my first time curating an exhibition. It was a challenge to make decisions about which art works to display, as in terms of quality they were all fantastic. So Tom and I went with our intuition on the pieces we felt were truly striking and would work best to show the diversity of art work that is produced by artists labelled ‘learning disabled’.”

Andrew Omoding
Omoding produces his constructions from ‘buried treasures’ found throughout the studios where he is based. Working instinctively, he assembles these intricate structures with narrative elements. Here, in Man Climbing a Ladder, the precariousness of the situation is strongly felt through Omoding’s improvised approach to making.

Ahmed Mohammed
Mohammed’s work comes from a compulsion to draw, and to rip up and destroy these initial drawings. This forms a cycle of creation and destruction where the initial ripped drawings are used to make new paper, adding other found elements such as leaves and twigs into the pulp, which when dried, is then used again for drawing on. The gestural drawing process allows for Mohammed to express himself freely, without inhibition, making his mark purely according to whim.

Luca Agathogli
Using photo-editing software, Agathogli digitally manipulates the images he takes to create surreal, dream-like snapshots. With ‘TheTower’ he focuses on a building on the edge of the void, an outpost with nothing but pure-nothingness behind it. Coupled with the electric-blue he uses to highlight the architectural detail, this real-world scene becomes fantastical and enigmatic.

Robert Dixon
Food – the smells, the tastes – can provoke recollection of deeply held childhood memories, instantly transporting our minds into our past selves and our past lives. Dixon’s pies evoke nostalgia for these comfort foods, vividly remembered and now rendered in clay. In a serendipitous coincidence, the act of making parallels the baking process with the initial combination of raw materials that are then fired/baked to produce the final product.

David James
James’s still life photographs bring together unexpected groupings of objects, shown in close-up, allowing for a high level of detail. The idiosyncratic groups offer a glimpse into James’s personality and thought-process, as he demonstrates the unusual combinations of objects that appeal to him visually.

Cameron Morgan
With his series of phone sculptures, Morgan produces cartoonish renderings of now out-dated and irrelevant technology, in this case rotary telephones, and mobiles that we would now refer to as ‘dumb’ phones. The phones appear absurd, but nonetheless provoke a nostalgic appeal for the calm and simplicity of a less connected world. The Three Stooges once again shows Morgan’s knack for cartoonish, vibrant imagery with this vision of the classic comedy trio.

Jennie Franklin



Franklin compulsively collects black drinking straws, the apparent banality of which brings to mind broader questions about why any collector is motivated to collect. With ‘Collection of Straws’ Franklin has completely transformed this initial source material into something unexpected, using an iron to mould the straws into one flat surface, then adding drawn elements to highlight aspects of this seemingly tenuous structure.

Barry Anthony Finan
Finan writes prodigiously as a method of freely expressing himself, often stating his wants and needs from life. In this case, he has taken a series of ceramic prints from an engraved letter to a television producer about his deeply held desire to be an actor. The now mirrored writing loses some of its legibility, while the new brittle, delicate form hints at the fragility of the hopes and dreams we hold for our lives.