Review: Building Merseyside at St George’s Hall

Pete Carr with his photographs.   Photo © Minako Jackson
Pete Carr with his photographs. Photo © Minako Jackson

We bumped into fellow Liverpool blogger Stuart Ian Burns (Feeling Listless)  at the Dot-Art Private View at St George’s Hall last night. He has written a review which, as usual, is far better than anything I could come up with, so I’m delighted to re-blog it here in full. Check out his blog for lots more entertaining writings.

the several hundred copies of Peter Andre’s “Flava” album
By Stuart Ian Burns

When I was working at the old HMV store in Liverpool, I always seemed to greet lunchtimes like a spiritual experience. Stuck as I was in that stock room, often on the floor, head down labelling cds, to step into the sunlight of Church Street was a revelation, and because my neck was usually hurting one way I would always look up. It would be a lie to say that this was the first time I’d appreciated the architecture of Liverpool, but it was certainly the first time that it’s mere existence was a reminder that there would be a life beyond that concrete floor, beyond the several hundred copies of Peter Andre’s “Flava” album.

In Liverpool, we enjoy an unusual architectural variety, a physical history of buildings stretching from the Tudor-style of Speke Hall up to the modernist edifice of One Park West. To be a student of architecture in Liverpool must be to spend half of your time studying books and the other half simply walking around, your eyes forever fixed on roofs and doorways and finials collectively pointing at archways and spires. This heritage is so much a part of our environment that we often forget how lucky we are.

That’s the theme of Building Merseyside: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Architecture of Liverpool and the Surrounding Area, the new exhibition at The Artists Studio in St. George’s Hall whose private view was tonight. I tend to miss these gatherings, either because they’re on a Thursday night and I work on a Thursday night or I’m rarely invited to them. The show was the other event happening in the hall tonight. I almost blundered into some kind of sports awards, where I would have looked even more out place.

Photography makes up the majority of the work on show. Peter “Pete” Carr is there (that’s him at the top right), the best of his selection “Hope Street” a stunning evening shot taken from the top of the Anglican Cathedral on a long exposure leading to the streets being eerily empty at one of the busiest times of the evening. Alan McKernan’s group offers Soviet-like monochrome prints of iconic buldings that highlight the angles and corners of the likes of the Liver Buildings. Bev Evans’s intriguing Q Park Shadows reduces one of Liverpool’s new features to abstraction, people walking across the ceiling of the multi-story car park (viewed from below) reduced to a jumble of shapes and images.

Evans highlights the changing face of Liverpool and Ryan Jones’s “Lime Street Station” catches the rail gateway at moment of transition as the ugly 60s shops which once sat huddled in front of the industrial moment sits demolished instead, hoarding on the front of the station signalling Liverpool’s cultural renaissance. Stephanie de Leng takes a more impressionistic approach, only allowing splinters of the subject a piece the fog of her out of focus backgrounds, the tip of a railing, a sea gull, the Liver Buildings as seen from Birkenhead. She’s trying to capture the soul of the city, I think, and like the soul of people, only ever managing to glimpse at one small section at a time.

Of the painting and sculpture, the most eye-catching is Susan Finch’s “River City” an explosion of impressions of the buildings we’ve already seen in the exhibition montaged together and merging in places to form the kind of memory a homesick Liverpudlian might have of their home town, and the more we look, the more we notice with some elements not quite fully formed. Tony Evans’s courageous “Liverpool Waterfront” recreates those elements haphazardly in bronze apparently creating a view from across the Mersey, a pattener in the bronze base providing a blue sky.

Well worth seeing, the exhibition even has room to explain to us that fabulous scenes do exist further affield, Simon Birtall’s pointillistic paintings of Birkenhead Priory and park and of Ashton Park in West Kirby bursting with colour. But all of this work is a fine reminder of the beauty that surrounds us city dwellers should we care to look.

The Exhibition runs from 27th November 2009 to 3rd January 2010 and is open 10am-5pm daily (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day). Admission is free and all work is for sale (except Tony Evans sculpture which is on loan).

Paintings by Simon Birtall.   Photo © Minako Jackson
Paintings by Simon Birtall. Photo © Minako Jackson
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