Words and Photographs by Moira Leonard
Over the last few months a group of 14 to 18-year-old school pupils from Prenton High School for Girls, South Wirral High School, St John Plessington Catholic College and Weatherhead High School, were invited to respond to a variety of themes around culture, nature, artists and places. The result is ‘Fresh Perspectives’, an eclectic and dynamic exhibition showcasing some very talented budding artists.
I overheard a visitor comment “good grief this artist is only 14…what was I doing at this age?” They were obviously impressed, as was I. At 14, I too was fascinated by the idea of art but I wasn’t ‘responding to concepts’ I was drawing reflections and capturing aesthetic detail.
These youngsters have gone one step further and created original works based on ideas. The range of individual interpretations are fascinating to see. In some pieces joy jumps out of the canvas, in others pain, and uncertainty. In all cases, it is obvious that a lot of thought has been put into the subject.
Each school provides an accompanying folder outlining the pupil’s thoughts on their own practice. I recommend reading these alongside the exhibition to immerse you further into the experience.
While the whole exhibition deserves a mention, some pieces particularly stood out:
- PRENTON HIGH SCHOOL FOR GIRLS
A simple glass cabinet displays a delicate, fragile collection of organic forms made from wire, paper and coffee filters. These sit beneath a complimentary, contrasting digital display full of colour and vibrancy. Words like underwater; coral reef; decorative; unearthly; magical all come to mind. Both group displays are very beautiful.
Ellie Taylor’s ‘Landmarks’ also really impresses me with her acrylic painting and collaged paper on canvas. The strap line ‘To Travel is To Live’ resonates, but it is the attention to detail which really draws my eye. Phrases ‘I’ve seen…’, ‘I’d been…’ and ‘wandered…’ all visibly emerge from the painting the longer I look at it. This does not feel coincidental.
- SOUTH WIRRAL HIGH SCHOOL
The most alluring work from this school is the oil painting ‘Without Words’ by Hannah Fairburn, Aged 17. Here, a striking young girl stares out from the canvas through a curtain of luxurious dark curls, the letters SHH upon her lips. Tension and defiance emanate as if at any moment, she will emerge from her hiding place. Unclear about the terms of her restraint and not a comfortable place for her.
- WEATHERHEAD HIGH SCHOOL
Here I am drawn to two very contrasting works: ‘Locked and Bolted’ by Ella Griffiths aged 17; as well as ‘Reflection’ by Amber Blair Keys, also 17.
Ruin is the theme chosen by Ella. In her painting, inspired by the artist Ian Murphy, she experiments with texture to excellent effect. She focusses on rusting and decaying metals to create a very sturdy piece. The salt and watercolour mixture brings the picture to life.
Meanwhile ‘Refection’ is a realistic portrait of an old man. Beautifully executed and capturing the essence of an older person looking at themselves without flinching at the lines, shadows and wrinkles that are inevitable signs of aging. This is an intense study in detail and spirit.
Also, I’d like to mention the ridiculously cute whimsical creatures from year 10 students which cannot fail to bring a smile to your face, as well as a range of sumptuous embellished textiles.
- JOHN PLESSINGTON CATHOLIC COLLEGE
Focussing on the theme of portraiture the pupils draw inspiration from the neo-impressionist art movement mainly using the pointillist method, enhancing their paintings with more modern techniques e.g. Psychedelic and Art Nouveau. Echoes of Turner Prize winner Chris Offili shine out of many of these canvases especially Agelya Mohan, Kirah Igor and Charlotte Boyle.
In a corner of the room, I am drawn to the painting simply called ‘untitled’ from the 15-year-old Jade Chisholm. It is a study of an older lady in a whimsical setting – those eyes! In the bottom right I do believe is an octopus in a dream catcher. Oh yes, this unexpected delight captures the essence of the exhibition for me.
A quirky little exhibition and well worth a look if you are in Port Sunlight.
Runs until 1 May 2017