When it comes to prolific epicentres of artistic endeavour, London, Paris, Tokyo and New York come to mind. Denton is down the list a bit.
But from Manchester artist Lazerian’s studio in deepest East Manchester, in a factory that once made Homburgs for Winston Churchill, he turns the mundane into the extraordinary.
Liam Hopkins (Lazerian is taken from his father’s middle name) has made this huge warehouse space his workshop for the past 16 years, a tangle of industrial materials, power tools, spray cans, welding gear and, in one corner, a robot from an old car factory.
To some, this might look like a place for lost things, but underneath it all is pure potential.
Liam has undertaken commissions for everyone from the National Lottery – producing a huge interpretation of the HMS Windrush made as a huge wire frame for Black History Month – to car manufacturer Skoda, Bloomberg and Habitat.
A host of his permanent sculptures also appear in public spaces and parks up and down the country.
He learned about handling materials and processes hands on, before computer-aided design became ubiquitous, at MMU’s Manchester School of Art and what was then Tameside Technical College.
But it all started long before that, when aged 14, he bought a Mini for £50 and took it to bits and rebuilt it. “For me, I’ve always wanted to build my knowledge base, about how things are made,” he says.
“Even if I’m not interested in the actual object, I’m interested in how it was made, so then I can use that to make something else.”
He’s turned his hand to many a medium since – he took discarded electronic waste to make a fully drivable Formula E racing car. And at both the United Nations Cop 26 and Cop 28 climate change conferences, he exhibited sculptures with a strong message of sustainability.
His work has also found a home in major exhibitions in London, Milan, New York, Amsterdam and Moscow.
Like the cream of Manchester’s art scene, Liam will be exhibiting at the Manchester Art Fair this year – his fourth year at the annual expo.
“For the last few years, I’ve tried to make it interactive, so that people can be part of it, to make it accessible,” he says.
Last year, he formed a giant coronavirus cell, a 3D sculpture with spray paint cans attached to each protruding spike, which dispensed paint when being rolled around a canvas.
The abstract canvas was then covered with 500 metal butterflies, each flecked with paint. This year, you’ll be able to own a piece of the canvas, with the ghosted outline of the butterflies, with a range of new butterflies also being produced.
In a democratisation of the work, he’ll be employing a ‘pay what you can’ system, should you wish to take something home with you.
“I want people who love the work to have a piece of it, without feeling intimidated. Unfortunately, that’s been a thing around the art world,” he says.
“The pretentiousness, the wealth. I try to make it not about that.”
Check out Lazerian’s work at this year’s Manchester Art Fair. You can grab free tickets for the event here.