Painting of Manchester featuring the Town Hall, an old map and one of the bees from the Great Hall.

Manchester Map

Maps are a city’s footprint.  Each uniquely depicting streets and buildings that grew organically over centuries.  Manchester Map is no different.

City layouts are often designed intentionally, but in other circumstances natural features dictate the plan. Think of places where rivers wind their way through a city’s heart bringing trade from far off lands.  Or a petrified volcanic heart lending itself to building a perfect fortification. I think of course of Edinburgh Castle.

Heart of Manchester Map

Sometimes man goes a step further to enhance natural features and builds a river or canal to bring ships and their cargo into and out of the city, as was the case in Manchester. The trade brought wealth and enabled the Manchester Town Hall build – the resident’s pride.  Its grandeur was such that the likes of which might have graced London’s halls. “But Manchester is a northern metropolis?” you might note.  Yet, I recently discovered that filmmakers have used the Town Hall as a worthy substitute for the Houses of Parliament.

 Why I Featured a Bee?

The humble bee – a symbol of industry and cooperation. Symbolic indeed. For what was this city built on? And what were its exports? The backdrop is a map of itself – Manchester in the 1800s. The mosaic bee hovers near the Town Hall – wings still and broken up by tiny tiles. One of the many creatures that decorate the floor of the great hall within the Town Hall.

A bee, a symbol associated with Manchester for years took on an added significance in 2017 following the Arena Bombing. Since then, they creep into my work, never more consciously so than in this painting.

The streets on the map are unclear. Names are removed. They have changed dramatically since the map’s creation. The Town Hall is there but hidden in the street chaos and mosaic tiles. The Free Trade Hall is the only building named. The rest of the map blends in amongst the bee mosaic tiles and the Town Hall’s gothic decoration, the latter looms above. The sunbathed clock face marks time at 4:20pm as golden light details a blend of confusion and clarity on the stonework. Subtle colours pick out details – sap green, deep purple, and earthy browns – that blend to define a civic pride symbol.

Painting of Manchester featuring the Town Hall, an old map and one of the bees from the Great Hall.
Manchester Map- ©2020- Cathy Read-Watercolour and Acrylic - 56x76cm

The painting reflects on Manchester city with pride. A city that is here, leaving you in no doubt that it intends to make its mark.

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