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Review: Liverpool Open 2016 at Editions Ltd

Liverpool Open Art Prize 2016

Editions Ltd. Friday 13 May – Saturday 18 June 2016

Words and photographs by Patrick Kirk-Smith

Art prizes are odd things really, places where artists at any stage of their career can flourish. Whether it is a newly fledged artists finding their wings or an artist who has spent an entire career slogging away, they all come together in presenting work when there’s a chance of praises and/or prizes.

I’m guilty of it myself this year, having presented work at the exhibition myself. Searching for some sort of ego boost at first, but after reflection the experience is a perfect chance to develop something new, or explore alternative narratives to work when it is in a new context; curated in a weird and wonderful array of work with no link, no reason, no common goal. But rather than feeling disjointed, when it’s all for a prize it’s a rare opportunity to see all of these works on face value.

It’s difficult to predict a winner, and I don’t envy the judges at all. There were some excellently funny works, alongside local satire and masses of canvases braying to make the loudest statement. Give Peas a Chance, and some print and collage work (in particular, one that satirised the housing ladder as a road to nowhere, was definitely amongst my favourites), but the huge canvas by Deborah Butler looked far more at home in Editions Ltd. than anything else in the room.

Last years’ winner, Michael Lacey, followed his success with an exhibition of his own at Editions Ltd., as well as a full feature on Art in Liverpool. Another of the previous winners, Peter Cameron, returned for his own exhibition at Editions a few months ago, as well as entering further work for the competition this year. But it’s not just these regulars that make this exhibition, it’s the exceptions. The mass of fresh talent on display helps to define how the arts in Liverpool are changing, with critically engaged work, and a sea of comical notions hung up, side by side.

That diversity is why people continue to hand over their time to visit this exhibition. Simply put, it’s a show that covers all bases, and allows anybody to come and visit a massive overview of the emerging and established talent of Liverpool, all in one room. And that’s quite special.

Unfortunately, with the gigantic selection of work, and the range of disciplines it covers, the judges, understandably, haven’t quite made their decision yet. But there is a very small amount of work which wouldn’t deserve the crown, so regardless of who the winning entry turns out to be, you’d be hard pushed to find a more deserving set of 58 runners up.