Manchester’s art scene has never been more exciting. The city’s relationship with art and design has flourished in recent years, with artists from the Northern Quarter to Macclesfield producing unique work that has become a true symbol of creative Manchester and its eclectic arts scene.
From vibrant street artists to contemporary designers, Housing Units has listed 10 of our top local artists who perfectly embody the grassroots of the city.
Nomad Clan is formed of street art duo Cbloxx and AYLO, two globally recognised muralists based in Manchester. Their street art style celebrates history while also placing the spotlight on issues and concerns surrounding society, such as unemployment, female empowerment or the solidarity of the city following the arena bombing in 2017, represented through Bee Manchester.
Showcasing their Mancunian talent to cities and countries across the world, Cbloxx and AYLO’s work has earned them many accolades, including being named one of the top 5 female street artists in the world by The Guardian.
“When I create from the intuitive guidance system we all have, a flood of energy pours into the work and almost decides its own narrative.”
Graphic designer and illustrator Kerry draws freehand in ink and charcoal, creating beautifully finished digital pieces that show both texture and depth. She skillfully combines portraits with art that is inspired by life and emotions, reflecting the choices that humans make and the stories we tell.
Wallpaper and mural designer Barry is another artist who was involved in the Bee Manchester campaign. His cosmic work is inspired by the effects of light, from the Big Bang to the desert sunset.
His dynamic designs and outstanding paintings draw on themes such as birth/death, creation/destruction, regeneration and constantly changing structures. His bespoke designs give personality to walls and he works with design studio Woodchip and Magnolia to create made to wall measured designs.
Children’s illustrator and character designer Emma merges illustration and storytelling to create unique characters for children’s books, projects and animations. She has worked on some of the biggest channels in the UK in children’s TV, including BBC, CBeebies and CITV and is currently working on her first picture book, Rescuing Ms Birdley, by Aaron Reynolds. She has also created her own comic and blog series in which she takes advantage of humour to portray her thoughts on social issues such as anxiety.
One of just a few female glass-blowers in the UK, Gemma has more than a decades experience in the art of making beautiful blown glass objects. Taking inspiration from the outdoors – in particular birds and birds nests – the Northern Quarter-based artist creates an abundance of unique designs. From woven cotton rope installations to ornaments and original trophies, her work is demonstrated in an abundance of different industries.
World-famous illustrator Stanley Chow produces iconic prints with defined strokes that have become his unmistakable style. His work has been featured across the world in The New Yorker, GQ and Wired and he began the art by sketching his friends, including fellow famous Mancunian, Elbow’s Guy Garvey.
Born and raised in Manchester, much of his work is a pinnacle of the north. He has produced artwork for local campaigns portraying local music artists such as Sting, and his Great Northerners collection featured portraits of legends such as Liam Gallagher and Sir Ian McKellen, with 15% of sales going to local charity Forever Manchester.
“The stories people tell, and the journeys they remember when spotting a familiar place fascinate me”
Bright city lights, landscapes, portraits, paintings – Meha’s work showcases a wave of Manchester pride. All of her work is created alone or in collaboration with other local artists, with her designs then printed onto an array of items such as gin glasses, mugs or even aprons. Originally from Kenya, the professional artist uses a broad array of colours to perfectly capture the livelihood and culture of Manchester.
“In a world preoccupied with technology, there is something remarkable about painting.”
Those are the words of Ian Rayer Smith, a contemporary expressionist from New Islington. His paintings use expression to explore art that carries emotion and brings modern culture and his own experiences together to create skilful unique artwork. Ian is also a member of Art Experiences, an international organisation which enables him to offer bespoke one-on-one experiences on the way he works and the process, which is offered from his Manchester studio.
Illustrator Michelle is a popular watercolour painter who specialises in recreating local scenes and football paintings. Since winning IJAYA Young Artist of the Year in 2007, she has grown into a popular local artist with a uniquely recognisable “washy” style. Her process includes layering oil paints, combined with collage and photography which allows for her specific effect.
Jewellery designer Ambrin has had a lot of success in the city and often designs her work on the back of a societal issue, such as her golden “tampax pearl” which was made in response to the tampon tax, after they were dubbed luxury items.
She takes inspiration from the ancient tale of King Midas and The Golden Touch, and how even some of the lowliest, most invaluable objects become trophies. With this, she applies her own “golden touch” to transform ordinary things into luxurious items.