Painting of a lock off the River Irwell in Manchester. painted by Cathy Read selected for SWA Exhibition

Mysterious Painting – Deep Dark Lock.

It's a Mystery

Cathy Read’s Deep Dark Lock is a mysterious painting. This intriguing lock leads off the River Irwell but where’s the canal? It seems to take you to a brick wall, and no further. What is going on?

Let me set the scene...

Early autumn is in the air, the leaves are turning gold on the distant bank of the Irwell, a few float on the still water in the lock. The river beyond flows slowly, but here is stillness. Number one lock leads off the River Irwell and is the start of a disused canal that was built underneath Manchester in the 1800’s.

Gazing into the deep, dark waters, we see the reflections of the lock gates, railings and bridge above. All silhouetted against the bright blue of the sky. We look along the lock to the great wooden gates, half open and ready for action.

Locks are often like this in the mornings or at the end of the day, especially in remote locations. I had intended the area in the lock to have more bright blue but the initial swirls went so well that I didn’t want to change them. Sometimes that happens in the painting. It’s like the inks are alive and want to influence how that they will be. Watercolour is a dynamic medium, and watercolour artists persuade the paint, rather than control it, especially if painting water is involved.

The railings and barriers dominate the land, far more than is visible in the image. Normally locks don’t have so many railings, as they interfere with the working of the lock. And their presence is more dangerous than if they aren’t there. This lock is in the centre of Manchester though, and the risks to revellers walking home is probably why there are so many rails. For a sturdy structure, railings always seem so delicate. They are like a lace edge along the path, especially the cross structure on the bridge. Wherever engineering and manmade structures exist, nature will always try to reclaim its ground, especially where water is involved. The small branch coming out of the lock wall is reflected in the waters below, a testament to the resilience of life to claim new ground or should that be reclaimed?

Canal paintings and the lure of the Lock

What is it about deep water that’s so fascinating? Is it the reflections of ourselves and surroundings or the mystery of the unknown. What is it that’s hiding or should I say lurking in the depths?

Whatever it is, this deep dark lock, lures the attention of all who pass

Where does it lead?

The strangest thing about this lock is that it leads to nowhere. Well, that’s the first impression and you have to look into the history of the area to times when canals were essential to transportation and the discovery of an underground system of canals, now disused. This is Lock Number One of the Manchester Salford Junction Canal Tunnel, which allowed boats to travel between the Irwell and the Rochdale Canal, avoiding the high tolls of the Bridgewater Canal’s Hulme link.
You can find out more on the Hidden Manchester Website

Painting of a lock off the River Irwell in Manchester. painted by Cathy Read selected for SWA Exhibition

Deep Dark Lock is one of Three paintings selected for the Society of Women Artist's 161st Annual Exhibition

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