about

Alan Ward has been a book designer for artists, galleries and art-house publishers since moving to Manchester 30+ years ago. During this period he quietly continued to make his own personal photographic work, much of which saw the light of day in book form. But in 2013 Ward made the conscious decision to develop his artistic practice. This has led to commissions and projects that include video, text and public art.

Many of his commissions are informed by research and engagement, whether historical or community led. Archives both personal and institutional have become a significant reference point for exploration and reflection on ideas centred on the construction of narratives, identities, and individual and collective memories.

He enjoys making unexpected discoveries, connections, and combining idiosyncratic observations to consider alternative readings and perspectives on our surroundings. Like W G Sebald, Ward is interested in opening up a discourse with a wider audience investigating ‘the transience of all human things’ and how the memory of places is fundamental to a sense of self.

Ward appreciates the reciprocity of collaborative engagement and what it can reveal, and is committed to giving people a voice and the opportunity to express themselves through this process. Facilitating and being part of this, is a key output of his practice. Photographically he is interested in the often overlooked details and the ‘infra-ordinary‘ of our geographies. His work has been described as ‘a poetic and quiet consideration of our place in that landscape’. His skill in combining image and text through storytelling, is reflected in the publications accompanying his projects and commissions.

During 2023 he explored new ways of working both collaboratively and visually with the assistance of an Arts Council England ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ funding grant, using current project La Vojo Returne as the focus.

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Currently:
Developing a new body of work through engagement with the small town of Grandpré in France, whilst reflecting on and using a collection of postcards of the town gathered during and after Covid pandemic lockdown. The project is titled La Vojo Returne.

Recent touring exhibition and commissions:
Photographs from Another Place @ The Hostry, Norwich Cathedral 3-26 November 2022.
A major exhibition and publication after a long-term photographic research project based around a collection of re-discovered 1920s glass negatives purchased from eBay. The exhibition originally showed at the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum in December 2019 – February 2020. 

‘Memory and Identity’ December 2022, Cista Arts, London, online group show. 2 works from La Vojo Returne project development.

Pass! Shoot!! Goal!!! May 2022. A commission by, and exhibited at Touchstones Rochdale, after completing a six month community engagement in collaboration with artist Neville Gabie around the first commercially written song about football recorded by Gracie Fields.

#I_Am_Clarion September 2021, explored Socialism and its communal bond within the Clarion cycling movement, it is a declaration of identity. Commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts as part of their wider Pendle Radicals programme.

He completed a major public art commission Cambridge Rules 1848 in 2020, with Neville Gabie for Cambridge City Council, to commemorate the role of Parker’s Piece as the birthplace of the 1848 Cambridge Rules, which helped establish the modern game of football. Originally titled Written in stone / interpreted worldwide / brought back to Cambridge, they delivered both a permanent marker on Parker’s Piece, a digital on-line archive, and shared pieces of the sculpture in an international cultural exchange with five locations around the World including Brazil’s Maracanã stadium.

Other work features in Breaking Ground a publication from an artist residency at the abandoned football ground of Bradford Park Avenue. This book, designed by Ward, was the first ever crowd-funded artist book to be short-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, in 2017. He also completed an Ex(s)ports European arts commission, again with Gabie, in conjunction with the KAA Gent Ladies football team in Belgium.

In 2014, Citizen Manchester a two year artist residency with Dan Dubowitz at Manchester Central Library during its refurbishment, culminated in an exhibition of interventions at both the Central Library and Manchester Art Gallery. Commissioned by Manchester City Council and the developer Laing O’Rourke, a Manchester University Press coffee-table publication accompanied the exhibition (designed by Ward).