Tag Archives: Walker Art Gallery

The world can never have enough glitter!

In the limbo period of Xmas and New Year I found myself taking several parties of friends and families around the Pool of Life at different times. It is quite something, seeing the City through the eyes of strangers, aliens to its charms. I have a love affair with the City Centre which anybody who has read features on here previously will know.

The first shock to my friends was that the Museums are free!

If you have not had the pleasure of embarking on a ship as an emigrant at the Maritime Museum, do so! Although the black wigs on the dummies looked like they could have been stolen from a Human League Appreciation party. The Walker has a wealth of art, so much that only a limited supply is actually on display. Check out the new exhibit of Liverpool images though the years to see views of Castle Street and the St John’s Market resembling Covent Garden.

In a world where Russia creates ridiculous restrictions for LGBT drivers, it was an absolute pleasure to show off the cultural richness the City proudly exhibits and particularly the work of Homotopia:

  •  An ongoing exhibition about Gay life in the Navy with HELLO SAILOR at the Maritime Museum. It was an insight to discover that the common Scouse term bevvy (slang for a drink) stems from Polari .
  • The internationally ground-breaking April Ashley exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool Life. April Ashley has LIVED a life, a pioneer in LGBT history. I read the book April Ashley’s Odyssey last year. What a ride! From dining with aristocracy and being dated by Hollywood royalty to being skint in Hay-on-Wye, living on tinned food.
  • THE GANG, photographs by Catherine Opie at The Walker. Her collection of portraits of LGBT friends, an entourage of individuality, subverts American archetypes.

OPIE-square-The-GangCatherine Opie sums up how far we have come in terms of equality,

I made THE GANG after individually shooting them all for the 1991 body of work, Being and Having. It was great to see them with their moustaches and I couldn’t resist making some group photos of them…..I think it is perfect in celebrating Homotopia as this work was made 20 years ago, in relationship to visibility within my queer community. It is good to reflect on the equality that has been achieved, as well as the fight in regard to homophobia that continues.

So to banish the January blues, I would suggest painting over the grey and dark bleakness brought to us by the weather by catching the Technicolor works on display at all of the above.

Sail away to another land.
Check out the LGBT exhibitions.
The world can never have enough glitter!
And the Museums are free!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Golden Country

‘Cheeky bum cheeks’

That was the first thing I remember about the John Moores Painting Prize. It was also the first time I saw Hockney’s portrait of a man emerging from a poolside, Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool, in the collection of previous winners. The rush of the blue flooded over my retina imprinting its memory on the canvas of my cranium. In my years of teenage wildlife, I’ve been visiting ever since.

David-Hockney-Peter-Getting-Out-of-Nicks-Pool-1966-Acrylic-on-Canvas-84-x-84-c-David-HockneyRecently, an early Sunday morning in October 2014. Town was littered from the previous night’s disorder. A carton of mushy peas and a blonde discarded fascinator lay on the pebbled courtyard, debris from a battle in a nightclub. I thought perhaps Saatchi may purchase it for his next happening.

88 CaloriesI love the Walker Gallery; it is a source of inspiration, William Roscoe’s collection of Medieval Paintings, Stubbs classics and one of my ultimate Pre-Raphaelite favourites, The Metamorphosis of Narcissus. This year’s selection for the John Moores Painting Prize is an impressive batch of real painters. From the meticulously crafted 88 Calories by Conor Nial Rogers – painted on a minute crisp packet – to the texture rich, 18.45 April 7th, 2011 by David Dawson that up close looks like cake, paint is layered on as thick as a Scouse girl’s make up on a Saturday night.

18.45 APRIL 7TH. 2011My favourite piece is The King of Infinite Space/Don’t Let Life Pass You by David O’Malley, I think as I have a passion for the work of David Bowie. I see the displaced astronaut as a Major Tom-like figure. Instead of swimming in a tin can, the space cadet is floating in a most peculiar way in front of garish bad taste wallpaper.

THE KING OF INFINITE SPACEDONÔÇÖT LET LIFE PASS YOUI also love the massive Vinculum by Juliette Losq, which looks like it has come straight out of a Victorian penny dreadful. This piece covers the span of an entire wall and the detail is stunning. I have often believed that an artist needs to refocus the viewer into seeing the beauty in the everyday and that is apparent in this collection of diverse work.

Juliette Losq VinculumThere are a few pieces in here though that I feel suffer from the Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome, but this is an impressive gathering of creative souls. I’d also advocate for seeing the exhibition with a kid. For a child has that Huckleberry Finn quality of telling it how it is. I took my niece, the ginger minx, for I have always valued her perspective, sometimes over the experts. I took her to see a Sarah Lucas exhibition several years ago at the Tate and one piece was just a massive photograph of a spotty male bottom. Two art groupies stood in front of the piece pontificating with syntax laden with terminology and pomp. Not really sure what they themselves were saying.  The kid was three at the time and she looked up at the piece, looked at me, gazed at the two adults drooling over the masterpiece in front of them, she looked back at me and then pointed at the art and growled, ‘EEEEE!’ In one word she summed up the fact that this naked image was in fact gross.

The exhibition encourages people to vote on their favourite and submit it in a ballot box. She chose Homeland by Covadonga Valdes and on the card when asked why, wrote simply, ‘It is unusual.’

HomelandThe exhibition is on till the end of November, I have made several visits back in my lunch hour, it beats sitting at a desk, with a stale sandwich and internet glaze. Go and vote for your personal favourite and if you can, take your own little mini art critic. Remember those artists need you!

Details of the winners can be found here. The ‘Visitors’ Choice’ award will be presented towards the end of the exhibition. Visitors can vote for their favourite painting when they visit the gallery. The winner will receive a prize of £2014.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Golden Country

Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’

Have a look around your current living space. Open up a few of the drawers and cupboards. Are they crammed with things, crammed with stuff? We all manage to accumulate things and, even if you de-clutter, if left for a few months the stuff accumulates again. What we accumulate is all a matter of taste.

The current exhibition at The Walker Art Gallery by Grayson Perry,
‘The Vanity of Small Differences’, presents a series of tapestries that are littered with things. A body of work that displays an impressive attention to detail and telling commentary on society today. The exhibition was created during the filming of the artist’s Channel 4 documentary, All in the Best Possible Taste (2012).

Perry was inspired by Hogarth’s 1733 work, A Rake’s Progress, which tells the tale of a young man who inherits a fortune, tries to integrate himself into high society – with all its pompous airs and graces – squanders his wealth and ends up dying in a madhouse. Perry’s tapestries chart the life and ‘class journey’ made by the fictional Tim Rakewell from working-class origins to fame and fortune.

GP360_Expulsion-From-Number-8-Eden-Close_2012-FULL

The pieces are bold tableaus, woven Polaroids. Perry has put the mirror up to society and reproduced what he has seen. This exploration of British taste is impressive. ‘It is all part of life’s rich tapestry’, words that I often cite when explaining the insanity of life and the varied things that can occur. It is all here: from the politics of consumerism, mobile technology, to celebrity culture. At the core is Perry’s belief that

Class is something bred into us like a religious faith.

Each tapestry is littered with objects that can evoke memories, a 70s horse ornament, fake fire and industrial portraiture. The action that takes place is subtly thought-provoking, tattooed and toned cage fighters presenting gifts to a new-born baby, while in another, a suburbanite is rapidly vacuuming the Astroturf lawn.

the-adoration-of-the-cage-fighters

As Hogarth captured the Britain of his day, so Perry has ‘gone on a safari’ around the country to identify its ‘taste tribes’. His findings resonate through his work. The gym now as one of the last strands of community, replacing the pride of working industry. The business of football as a tribal industry, where winning a trophy is like bringing a stag back from the hunt and club shirts are like a talisman, a marked indication of the tribe you belong to. Females use makeup to create a persona, a tribal mask that is constructed to indicate a degree of artifice. This alter ego comes out to play at the weekend, but who is it for?

The Guardian reader, cultivating an organic life of sustainability, filled with chickens, vegetables and cupcakes. The old aristocracy, an endangered species. In contemporary society, the aristocratic family coat of arms is now made up with corporate logos. Idols are now more I.T.ols, with the Gods of I.T. being worshipped. Bow down to Steve Jobs, genuflect to Bill Gates, please. Or salute the god of social mobility, Jamie Oliver, and his quest to feed us properly.

Perry’s work is both parody and celebration. What I like is the way he looks at his subject matter with an accurate critical eye, but never ridicules or patronises them. This is in complete contrast to the work of photographer Martin Parr. I find Parr’s work has a lack of humility or compassion towards the people he shoots.

My favourite image was the final tapestry that illustrates a horrific car crash. Once again the detail is symbolic, a shattered mobile phone, a shredded cover of a Hello-style magazine that has the protagonist’s wedding snaps on the cover. An onlooker takes pictures on a mobile phone to send out to the net, to make the tragedy go viral. The retail logos that shine in the background give off a subliminal message, Dreams/To Let/ Toys’R’ Us.

favourite Grayson Perry

We are all but toys, perhaps with dreams to rent.

The exhibition is on at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool until 10 August.

1 Comment

Filed under The Golden Country

Father of Liverpool culture’s voice continues to resonate in the Pool of Life

Another of our guest posts by John Maguire, whose biography of William Roscoe is due for publication in 2014

Liverpool John Moores University continues to champion the spirit of the esteemed father of Liverpool Culture, William Roscoe, via the 2013 Roscoe Lecture Series. These free lectures will recommence after the summer with the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson OBE discussing the challenges and opportunities facing Mayors and their cities, to be held in October at the Philharmonic Hall.

The esteemed talks have seen some of the country’s leading commentators join the people of Liverpool in discussing the issues that really matter to them. Speakers as diverse as writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, cosmologist Professor Martin Rees, the campaigner Esther Rantzen and his Holiness the Dalai Lama. To encourage an exchange of ideas, question and stimulate debate, to generate a deeper understanding in a time of increasing diversity and social change.

The lectures are named after the father of Liverpool Culture: William Roscoe. A man who helped transform 19th century society by campaigning against the evils of slavery. He had the guts to stand up and rail against the slave trade that had made the fortunes of many of his peers. Roscoe made a massive contribution to the Liverpool tapestry, he created the Liverpool Botanic Garden, formed the Liverpool Royal Institution and the Athenaeum Library.

William_Roscoe

The highlight of this season’s free lectures had to be the 107th Lecture, where Claire Tomalin was welcomed to muse on her latest literary offering, Charles Dickens: A Life.

Ms Tomalin passionately enthused on Dickens and illustrated many comparisons between Roscoe and the Great Victorian Novelist. The work of both illustrates a transformative manifesto for social change. Dickens’ father was constantly in and out of debt and the trauma and humiliation scarred his very being and indeed fired his furnace of ambition. Leaving school at fifteen he worked as an office boy in a law firm and took up shorthand, this skill led him to legal reporting and he could draft detailed reports which developed his reputation with the newspapers. The contacts he made in this industry would eventually lead to his sketches being published and creating such an impressive body of work.

Roscoe too left school at an early age, having learned all that his schoolmaster could teach. With a passion for education he began to read the classics. Alongside his work as a lawyer, he made acquaintance with the language and literature of Italy, which was to dominate his life. An aficionado of art, examples from his collection can be found in the Walker Art Gallery. His obsession led to writing a history of Lorenzo de Medici in 1796. Quite co-incidentally Claire Tomalin owns a first edition of this book!

The discussion touched on all the facets of Dickens’ character, including his love affair with the ‘Pool of Life’, which began when he sailed from the Mersey for the first time in 1842 for America. He wrote from the Adelphi to his sister on the ‘warmth and reception’ the Liverpool people had given him.

He had a lust for life and his pre-talk rider would often be a pint of sherry and a pint of Champagne. The ‘inimitable’ Bos would walk every day, writing typically till around 2pm and then perambulating around the Metropolis, stoking the fire of his creativity, orchestrating his plots and narratives. He famously declared in later life, when seized by gout, that he would explode if he could not work. His sheer mental and physical energy is illustrated in the fact that, alongside writing his novels and running a magazine, he would also steam through at least one hundred letters of correspondence a year.

Dickens’ regard for those on the edges of society went beyond mere research for his novels; he would often visit prisons and was genuinely interested in real people, far from the kind of staged concern adopted by many modern-day z-list celebrities and Hollywood royalty.

Indeed, the sheer opulence of the Liverpool architecture left Claire Tomalin ‘stunned’. However for a biographer writing about an author famed for his research and attention to detail – Dickens trained at Bridewell to be a special constable just so he could wander around the Liverpool docks later at night – it is almost bizarre that it was Tomalin’s first visit to the Hall, scene of Dickens’ legendary penny readings. Still, the theme of the evening, how Dickens turned himself by his own efforts into good order, delivered by a lady who clearly understood her subject and spoke about the man with passion was enough to brighten up a dull wet Wednesday evening

The Roscoe lecture series continue in forging the very fabric of this city’s greatness. As the man himself cited,

everything connected with intellect is permanent.

Thankfully the lecture series continues to be a permanent feature in the university.

All lectures are free but entrance is by ticket only. To reserve your tickets for next season, please contact LJMU’s Conference and Event Services team on 0151 231 3668 or email RoscoeLectures@ljmu.ac.uk

Picture by Rod Crosby at Wikimedia

2 Comments

Filed under The Golden Country