Queer erotic art and embroidery show launches at secret gallery in Castlefield

The exhibition at Friends of Dorothy gallery features a huge collage of multimedia artworks by Smart Barnett.

By Kelly Bishop | January 24th '23

Content Warning: This exhibition involves themes of a sexual nature which may be sensitive for some people.

The ‘secret’ gallery Friends of Dorothy is running a new exhibition of work by Manchester artist Smart Barnett. Friends of Dorothy is a queer arts curation and production company run by Rob Devlin.

Combining modern techniques including digital art and print with traditional techniques such as hand embroidery, artist and designer Barnett creates beautiful objects of art exploring often painful or confusing memories and experiences.

Smart Barnett’s art combines embroidery and queer erotica. Image: Friends of Dorothy (blurred by our photo editor)

This, the largest exhibition of Smart Barnett’s work, features a large mural comprising individual embroidery pieces covering an entire gallery wall. There is also an immersive presentation of the artist’s other works around the exhibition space. 

Barnett’s work is both playful and challenging, sitting at the intersection of textiles and digital art. Embroidery is at the core of his practice, and the juxtaposition of this traditional technique with disarming and provocative imagery makes for something well worth your attention if you like art that shakes up the status quo.

One of Smart Barnett’s embroidered artworks. Image: Friends of Dorothy (blurred by our photo editor)

Taking inspiration from online dating and screen-based intimacy, his work draws upon the way in which these cultures have expanded the breadth and familiarity of erotic imagery. The work is highly personal and highlights the struggles experienced by many gay men. Themes of identity, belonging, isolation, sexual complexity, sexual abuse, and sexual fantasies and obsessions are all explored.

Barnett says he finds the relationship between what we reveal or conceal in our online lives fascinating. He uses his practise to question his own exhibitionist tendencies, obsessions, self image and trauma.

Artist Smart Barnett draws on themes of identity, belonging, isolation and sexuality. Photo: Friends of Dorothy

In addition to the exhibition, the artist has created a special limited edition series of homeware items, postcards and signed limited prints which will be on sale to the public. 

The exhibition is running now until Sunday 29 January 2023 at the Friends of Dorothy private gallery in Castlefield, Manchester. Private viewing is available via pre-booked tickets only. Full gallery address details will be provided on booking tickets.