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Liverpool Art Prize Awards Review


By Stuart Ian Burns

“Organised randomness takes a lot of work…” — Stéphanie, ‘La Science des rêves’

For reasons too boring to describe here, I didn’t need to work today (It was March 9 – sorry its late. ed.) so instead decided to put my head around the door at the awards ceremony for Art In Liverpool’s Liverpool Art Prize. The event and accompanying exhibition were at the brand new Novas Contemporary Urban Centre on Greenland Street near the waterfront. It’s a new art venue with gallery spaces, bars, restaurants, offices and soon a small cinema developed within a Grade II listed warehouse in the slowly minted Independent Art Quarter.

lap08awards-2.jpgDuring Ian Jackson’s announcement a heckler noted Liverpool Art Prize was ‘Better than the Turner!’ and on reflection, and with a certain local bias I can’t help but agree. It was just refreshing to find the six finalists were working accessibly in what are considered traditional art forms. Emma Rodgers sculpts instants in time, finger marks forming, for instance, the exact moment a hare has all four paws of the ground. Gareth Kemp paints evocatively in near monochrome, figures in snow, imagined incidents inspired by his family. Mary Fitzpatrick photographs the floor in areas of conflict, capturing the scarred landscape left behind by humans, most poignantly a school.

lap08awards-3.jpgThe main winner, a suitably surprised Imogen Stidworthy works in sound and images; ‘Get Here’ features Liverpudlian voices repeating the way their parents probably called to them as children ‘Get here now!’ The People’s Prize, voted for by public passing through the exhibition went to The Singh Twin whose incredibly detailed graphic art depicts a merging of eastern and western imagery – in the catalogue there’s an image of the William Brown Street with the roads replaced by Indian tiling. Always the contrarian, my favourite was the conceptual artist Jayne Lawless the best of her two works consisting of an red balloon tethered to a concrete block with a desktop fan gently blowing a breeze against it. According to the notes she was attempting to depict what it’s like to be a contemporary artist.

The ceremony itself had the feel of a really good private view, especially since as Ian himself admitted there wasn’t a celebrity there to overshadow the proceedings. The venue had a good atmosphere and although my coffee was a bit watery, the carrot and caramel cake was lovely. The company too — it’s amazing who you can bump into at these things and I’ve been to enough of these kinds of events now that at least I’m seeing some familiar faces. Not backed by the Culture Company (unless you count a listing in their brochure) this had the feel of an award by us and for us, done in the spirit of what Art In Liverpool’s always succeeded in doing – highlighting the cultural aspects of the city that would otherwise be overlooked.

Liverpool Art Prize 2008 continues at CUC NW until May 7 2008