Public View: celebrating 300 years of the Bluecoat

<em>Public View:</em> celebrating 300 years of the Bluecoat

The Bluecoat is 300 years old. Miraculously, the oldest building in Liverpool city centre has twice survived the threat of destruction (post-war city planners thought it would be a great idea to replace it with an inner-city ring road) to become one of the UK’s oldest arts centres. Completed in 1725, after two centuries serving as a charity school, in 1907 the building was taken over by a group of artists determined to stimulate Liverpool’s artistic and intellectual life. Two years later they hosted the First Post-Impressionist exhibition that featured work by Matisse, Picasso and others. Today, the contemporary arts continue to be showcased in this Grade One listed building. I went down to have a look at Public View, the first in a series of events celebrating the Bluecoat’s first 300 years. Continue reading Public View: celebrating 300 years of the Bluecoat”

The Pool of Life

The Pool of Life

Arts Matters The Pool of Life

I’ve been to the Bluecoat, where the painting by the Singh Twins, Arts Matters: The Pool of Life, is now on show. The painting is one of two Singh Twins works commissioned by the Liverpool Culture Company to mark Liverpool’s 800th Birthday last year and the 2008 celebrations.

The first, Liverpool 800: The Changing Face of Liverpool (below), was unveiled in April last year by the Prince of Wales at the gala re-opening of St George’s Hall. Presented in the form of a coat of arms, the painting featured hundreds of interwoven references to events, people and places relating to the city’s 800 year history.

On the latest painting, Amrit Singh said: ‘Our main focus was on the community groups and arts organisations who have worked really hard to make Liverpool the cultural centre that it is today.

“We wanted to represent a cross section of what culture is all about, so there are famous figures in sport, comedy, and the visual arts. The whole composition is about representing Liverpool as a world stage. It is an indication of how Liverpool talent extends beyond the city itself,” added Rabindra.

The work is the culmination of two years of interviews, research and painting by the twins, and its display marks a return to the Bluecoat for the artists, who were given their first solo exhibition there in 1994.

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Liverpool Art Prize 2008

Went along to the recently-opened Contemporary Urban Centre in Greenland Street to take a look at the entries for the Liverpool Art Prize 2008.The artists whose work was on display were: Mary Fitzpatrick, Gareth Kemp, Jayne Lawless, Emma Rodgers, The Singh Twins, Imogen Stidworthy.

The Liverpool Art Prize is a new annual exhibition and award for fine artists based in the Liverpool area. This inaugural year’s event is housed in a Grade II listed converted warehouse in the new ‘Independent Arts Quarter’.

From over 400 submissions, a panel of judges have selected a short-list of six artists to be put forward for this year’s prize. The artists are all mid-career professionals who are currently establishing themselves on an international level. They are working in extremely diverse practices – from surround-sound installations, to Indian miniature painting – and have made significant achievements in the past few years.

The venue is the huge gallery space within the NOVAS Scarman Group’s new Contemporary Urban Centre North West. The Liverpool Art Prize is the first event to take place in this new development.

I really liked the Singh Twins‘ paintings:

The Singh Twins, Amrit and Rabindra, are internationally acclaimed contemporary British artists whose award winning paintings explore universal issues of social, political, religious and multicultural debate through a narrative, decorative, symbolic and witty ‘Past Modern’ style that combines Indian miniature with aspects of traditional global aesthetics, creating a unique body of work which seeks to challenge the Eurocentric stereotypes in art and society through an ongoing programme of touring exhibitions, publications, seminars and education workshops.

Photographer Mary Fitzpatrick specialises in images of places abandoned after conflicts, particularly those in the Middle East. She is currently working on a project in Ramallah on the West Bank. Originally a painter, Mary exhibited in London and then after moving to Northern Ireland made large scale photographic sculptures based on a two year art documentary of events within the Irish Peace Process before the ceasefires. She continued making work in Belfast until her move to Kuwait. Mary is now mainly known for her large scale atmospheric installations incorporating images from places left abandoned after conflict.

Gareth Kemp is a painter based in the North West of England. For the past few years Gareth has been working on a series of paintings called Fifteen feet of pure white snow. These canvases are inspired by a set of old family photographs of a remote part of Wales where he grew up. The paintings allude to more innocent times, whilst hinting at some kind of impending horror or disaster. Some of the pictures have figures in them; which lends an eerie, creepy and voyeuristic feel to them. In others, the landscape appears bleak and olde worldy; the only signs of the modern world are subtly painted electricity pylons or telegraph poles.

Postscript: Imogen Stidworthy was awarded the Art Prize, while The Singh Twins were the People’s Choice Winners.

Hawkins & Co: 15 Contemporary Artists – One 16th Century Sailor

Also showing was Hawkins & Co, an exhibition consisting of more than 70 major works by fifteen British-based and international contemporary artists. The theme recalls Elizabethan naval commander Sir John Hawkins, whose 16th century voyages to Africa and the Caribbean pioneered the British slave trade. The 8-week exhibition will be one of the opening shows at Liverpool’s new arts venue, the Contemporary Urban Centre, and will contribute to events in the former slave-trading port during the city’s year as European Capital of Culture. The fifteen artists are all known for their thoughtful and sometimes provocative work. Every piece, including Guineas by George ‘Fowokan’ Kelly (above) explores a different aspect of the culture and history of the peoples of the transatlantic African-Caribbean diaspora affected by Hawkins’ 450-year legacy.