Updated: Monday, 14th October 2019 @ 6:12pm

Art review: Graham Hudson's Angels vs Demons @ Mustard Tree – November 8

Art review: Graham Hudson's Angels vs Demons @ Mustard Tree – November 8

By Tui Benjamin

Reformed criminal turned one of the region’s most inspiring visual artists: Ardwick-born Graham Hudson is perhaps not typical of the art scene.

But his experience of spells in prison totalling eight years as well as three years of homelessness spent battling drug and alcohol abuse means that his first solo exhibition since turning his life around is a deeply emotive collection.

The display, which opened last night at Ancoats charity Mustard Tree and runs until November 22.

Entitled Angels Vs Demons, it features 12 brand new works from the 52-year-old, as well as acclaimed paintings spanning his entire career.

And the open plan warehouse space of the charity which Hudson describes as ‘my salvation’ is the perfect location for the exhibition, ensuring that the artist’s past cannot fail to inform a viewing.

For this is art which has a story to tell.

Moody, evocative and emotionally engaging, the collection uses inventive mixed media and draws inspiration from Hubble Telescope space photography to explore Hudson’s longstanding fascination with angels.

The result is large and striking pieces which toe the line between the chaotic and the still, contrasting dark sections with splattered paint creating eruptions of colour.

Ordering shapes, symbolic of celestial beings, draw the eye to points of calm in the centre of the movement and flow.

Citing influences as diverse as Mark Rothko, Andy Goldsworthy, Patrick Heron and Howard Hodgekin, Hudson manipulates ink, acrylics, watercolours, felt tips and layered paper and plaster to create colourful images which range from the psychedelic and Hendrix-inspired to the dark and bleak.  

The titular demons of the exhibition are present in darker and more disturbing works created during the less settled periods of Hudson’s life.  

A man whose 44 years of criminal activity saw him carrying a knife from the age of eight and dealing cocaine, LSD, cannabis and speed, kicked drugs in 2008, Hudson shunned crime two years ago and no longer drinks.

Hudson, who says that he has never felt as inspired and excited by a body of work in his life, feels himself to be deeply indebted to Mustard Tree.

“While I know Mustard Tree has no miracle cures, I can’t think of a better place in this city to begin a journey of positive possibilities,” he added.

Hudson sees the Angels Vs Demons exhibition as his opportunity to create a body of work exploring one idea in great depth, a first for him.

“The creation of the works has felt almost automatic, as if the pieces have been waiting for me to bring them to life for a long time.”

“Having previously painted in full view of visitors to my studio at Mustard Tree, these new pieces have been created completely in private, so I am looking forward to the added magic that unveiling the work will bring to exhibition visitors who are both familiar and new to my work.”

With professional commissions including works for The Bank of New York, John Lewis, Manchester United and Archbishop of York John Sentamnu, Hudson has also had work featured by Sky Arts and the Listening Project.

Angels Vs Demons runs until November 22, Monday to Friday 9am-7pm and Saturday 10am-4pm and is held at Mustard Tree, 110 Oldham Road, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AG.

For more details go to www.mustardtree.org.uk