Blue Room at Ten, Review
Blue Room has, for ten years, been working with learning disabled artists not just in creating new art, but creating new relationships, increasing confidence levels, and exploring ideas and techniques alongside each other.
Since 2008, three groups of artists have met weekly at Bluecoat, with some utterly wonderful results, making the most of Bluecoat’s fantastic print facilities, flexible studio rooms and welcoming spaces.
Until March 2019, an exhibition celebrating the ten years of brilliant work being done there is open daily in the gallery, Blue Room at Ten. The exhibition is built from sgraffito ceramics and screen printing (some of which was even for sale at Bluecoat’s reception desk) in collaboration with a handful of amazing crafters from Liverpool’s most respected studios.
Louise Waller and Alice Odgers from Baltic Clay worked with Blue Room members on a new collection of ceramics inspired by the archives of Bluecoat and Blue Room. What most obvious about the ceramics on show is the enjoyment of making them. They’re more tactile than most ceramics, made free-hand with free thought, proving exactly what’s Blue Room is about; the power to make art an enriching experience, and to make something valuable as a result.
The ceramics are inspired by the late Julia Carter Preston, one of Bluecoat Chambers’ longest serving studio members, whose sgraffito bowls are an iconic part of any local collector’s hoard. It’s a heart-warming reference to the building’s history as well as the group’s.
Becky Peach, director of The Royal Standard and print room assistant at Bluecoat Print Studio, worked with Blue Room artists on a series of prints that accompany the ceramics, showing off the industry leading studio facilities the group has access to here at Bluecoat.
But as well as facilities it’s important to stress that Blue Room is about more than making, its about creating a community of artists who work together to build new relationships and new ideas through art. Over the last ten years there have been dozens of projects and exhibitions that have stood out, including a current initiative with Norton Priory in Halton, taking the work outside the city centre for more people to be able to access.
It was Auto Agents that has stuck with me most though, working with contemporary artists and academics, the artists at Blue Room engaged in passionate discussion about what art was to them, and took a leading role in curating an exhibition at Bluecoat.
Jannah Ballass, Tony Carroll, Diana Disley, Leah Jones and Eddie Rauer took the lead in curating the exhibition with the support of Jade French and artists Mark Simmonds and James Harper, who made new work in an entirely new way, focussing on shared experiences of making and thinking, rather than assuming any learned understanding of art.
It made for one of the most accessible exhibitions Bluecoat has ever shown, where the viewers got presented with work that was absolutely to be taken at face value in the most blunt way. It was really wonderful and an exhibition I will never forget.
Blue Room has had ten brilliant years producing work like this, this exhibition is one of them, and long may it continue.
Blue Room at Ten, and StudioMe are both open at Bluecoat until 10 March 2019
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith