The Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama features textile work by renowned international artist Alice Kettle.

Artist Alice Kettle in front of one of her textile pieces
Artist Alice Kettle in front of one of her textile pieces.

The work, entitled Red and Blue Movement in Three, is on permanent display and was designed specifically for the foyer space of The Martin Harris Building.

Alice Kettle is a major British textile artist. Her work is well-known to people visiting the University's Whitworth Art Gallery where her magnificent Three Caryatids can be seen.

It was from a close acquaintance of Alice Kettle's textiles in the Whitworth Art Gallery, and the enthusiasm of the Curator of Textiles at the Gallery, Dr Jennifer Harris, that Professor John Casken, Head of the former School of Music and Drama, came up with the idea of approaching Alice Kettle about the possibility of a new work for the foyer of Music and Drama's new premises.

Professor Casken commented: 'I was absolutely convinced that Alice's work would be perfect for the foyer of our new premises, and in conversation with the artist, we discussed the use of the space as a starting point for the new work. Creative forms, the nature of composing in its broadest sense, and the shared language of different forms of expression were key elements Alice and I discussed as she began working on the piece.

As Alice comments: 'The piece is a response to this special building, and a reflection of it. I wanted to suggest movement into the depth of a space, a kind of volatile energy across it, and to complement the integrity of the strong architecture, to make links across spaces which are dynamic in the juxtaposition of sight lines and walkways and walls.

'My response is physical, looking at the shapes of the interior space, the glimpses and the strong light and colour of the walls. I have tried to emphasise these links by pieces which have figures at various levels looking through, over and under walkways. As an onlooker you can interact with these wall hangings at any angle or level in the building.

'The work features human figures, simply outlined in a landscape of richly-textured, radiant colours which will make a striking impression to visitors to the building. It took more than a year to complete, and has been produced on a heavy canvas with machine stitch over the whole surface. The process is slow and labour-intensive, where the needle is 'free' so that the stitch is only created by moving the fabric, much like a fixed pencil with the paper moved underneath.'

Sponsorship came from the Oglesby Charitable Trust, and Michael Oglesby, Chairman of Bruntwood Estates Limited, and his wife Jean, have been responsible for major funding support in various areas of cultural life in and around Manchester. Without their help, this major new commission from Alice Kettle could not have taken place.