What is love? Great musicians from Meatloaf to Haddaway have pondered the question. But what is love to the people of Stoke on Trent?
Trading Love, a one-day only exhibition of music, art and literature in the centre of Hanley, sought to answer the question. The exhibition featured local artists who volunteered work reflecting their own portrayal of love.
During the exhibition I discovered art that I had to stop and stare to understand – such as a giant hanging dream catcher which the public were encouraged to contribute to by hanging onto it little bottles containing their dreams. In one corner, a small sign told us apples were on offer for people to take. There were pieces of art representing a love of the streets using graffiti, pottery, photography and just about any art medium you could think of.
To mention a few of my favourites, as pictured throughout this article, my absolute favourite was the two male lions nuzzling together. This piece captured my attention right from the beginning, as normally it would have been a lion and a lioness cuddling in such an intimate way. This was two males, and whether or not the artist intended them to show gay love or familial love I don’t know. I like to think it is up to the viewer to make their own assumption on whether it is brothers or lovers sharing a tender moment.
In the next room another piece saw a washing line that spanned almost the entirety of the room. The artist of this interesting and thought provoking piece was Jon Paul Green. Up on the top of this line were pegs that held intricately folded paper hearts made out of £10 notes to the value of £100. On a pole holding up this washing line was a note from the artist, as pictured below. He mentions how the money was free to take should you be so inclined, but you as the taker of the money should know that the artistic value of the piece is diminished with each note taken. The artist also asks that you consider how you would spend this money, and says that the aesthetic value of the piece could increase depending on how the hearts are spent.
Lastly another piece of art included in the exhibition was a huge ‘monster’, which I heard some children call it. The piece was made of wood and cloth, and hung from ceiling to floor in a pose that could be thought of in a few different ways. To one viewer, such as the children who called it a monster, it looks like it is lunging at you from a certain angle. Hands outstretched and face covered, it could also look like it is cowering from you. Another view is that it could be reaching out for a hug. As with most of the pieces on display at this exhibition, it’s all up for interpretation on how an individual sees the piece.
As well as some fantastic art on display from some talented local artists, Trading Love also featured some musical and theatrical sets. Sitting in a huge loft space with coffee and pancakes, the public could sit and watch poets reading their work on love, and even a reading on the science of love. Did you know that romantic love produces the same levels of ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain as a ton of cocaine? I didn’t!
Alongside this cheerful atmosphere and incredible artwork was a stall set up by the amazing locally owned shop, Handmade in Stoke. This shop works alongside local artists who can’t get on their feet when trying to sell original art and craft pieces. So who better to go to than a man who built his own shop just for that purpose? Handmade can be found in Stoke on Church Street and is absolutely worth a look if you get the chance.
Thanks to the great work of Siobhan Mcaleer, Rich Brown and Ryan Ball, Trading Love looked to be a great success. Siobhan as co-organiser also gave her thanks to Emily Andrews and Sean Dissington for their help in creating, Trading Love.
This year Stoke-on-Trent has the chance to become City of Culture 2021, and the response to this has been high. The people of this wonderful city have begun pulling together cultural events left right and centre in a bid to receive this title. It is art exhibitions like these that bring a sense of wholeness to the community, and encourage acceptance and love to be passed on through our city. It is events like these that make Stoke-on-Trent perfect for the title of City of Culture 2021.
The Trading Love exhibition was part of a one-day art, music and theatre festival at the Tontine buildings in Hanley on 28 January 2017.