Wendy Richmond reviews Street Scenes at Liverpool Academy of Art

Street Scene is a two-person exhibit currently showing at the Liverpool Academy of Arts featuring artist Emma Worth and photographer David Graves. From the outset it’s clear that a “street scene” can be interpreted and portrayed in very different ways.

With a few exceptions, Emma seems to favour cityscapes with iconic landmarks that are recognizable whether you’ve been there or not. People appearing within her frames are often featureless and don’t compete with the city scenery. In contrast, David’s images are zoomed in at street level and focus on characters with no easily identifiable location.

I was struck by how immediate David’s photos were; you get the feeling that if you turn away, the subjects will have gone when you look back and someone new will have taken their place. His work also favours the banal as opposed to the iconic. The subjects are eating, smoking, commuting; one is even passed out in the middle of a square. He has an eye for people being…well, people.

The best feature of an exhibit with two very different perspectives of the same theme
is that it gives the viewer the opportunity to draw comparisons between the pieces. I particularly enjoyed the clever pairing of two portrayals of old folks sitting on benches. Emma’s piece is idyllic: a sunny, leafy square with a line of grey-haired people reclined on benches under a shade tree. David’s photo is of an old couple sitting on a bench that is inexplicably (and hilariously) facing towards, and only inches from, a construction wall. The couple looks anxious and there are no trees for shade or sun to be shaded for that matter. Each piece has a completely different feel, sort of like the ideal vs. the real.

With 45 pieces in all, there are plenty of comparisons to be made, but this show is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it exhibit, only running until June 28.

Liverpool Academy of Art
32 Seel Street
Open Tuesday to Saturday 12-4pm.

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