Review: Threshold Festival Exhibition at Unit51

Threshold 2016 at Unit51
Threshold 2016 at Unit51

Alchemy Visual Arts at Unit51. Threshold Festival 2016
Unit 51, Jamaica St, Liverpool

Words and photographs by Patrick Kirk-Smith

Unit51, the creative centre of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle was the setting for the public launch of Threshold Festival 2016, with music and performance and art its heart. Just as it has been at The Gallery, and at FUNF, Unit51 joins the ranks of the festival’s group exhibitions featuring work from James Bowman, Joseph Massie, Max Da Silva Willis, Tony Lavender and Kalosedos and Eimar Kavanagh.

Threshold Festival is in full throe right now, leading Liverpool into a cultural whirlpool of mixed arts. Whether you’re heading there during the day, or in the evening, Baltic Creative is home to as many mixed art forms as you could ever imagine in one space without giving yourself a headache, but this article focuses on Alchemy, the visual arts side of the festival, so put the paracetamol back in the cupboard. The centre piece to this is James Bowman’s D.N.A painting.

Bowman’s work in this case is an ambitious rethinking of how painting works, and of how life works. As we heard recently, this work is a response to a complete transformation in the artist’s life, reflecting the Alchemy theme perfectly. D.N.A is a clue to a small new Bowman, but also a celebration of the start of life in general. D.N.A is the structure of everything living, and his structure stands tall in a work that holds together in an ambitious construction for an artist who usually works far more haphazardly than this.

Kalosedos use lenticulars to display shifting, changing images in response to natural beauty. If that word, lenticular, has you stumped, remember the dinosaur cards that used to come in cereal packets, and they moved? Back when we thought that was the height of 3D technology? Those. There’s a retro beauty to the technique that still has us dumbfounded by how individual artists put it together, and the results are absolutely mesmerising.


The natural world that Bowman and Kalosedos hint at gets taken through several stages of evolution in Unit51. Eimear Kavanagh’s Fuel For Fire is a response to the ‘human exhaust system’ – a natural system which is somehow, despite all its flaws, capable of thought, feeling, light and dark. But nature doesn’t get exhibited much more clearly than in Joseph Massie’s To Bloom, a display of golden Crocuses dangling from the ceiling. Literally filling the space with life. And a point of note: James Massie is a multiple RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal holder, so this is a serious response to growth and alchemy in nature – how gold can literally be grown out of the ground.

The exhibition is slapped right in the middle of Alchemy Visual Arts festival, and holds up to the responsibility that puts on it. This is a serious centre, packed full of work from artists addressing the theme of alchemy directly, and changing their approach to practice dramatically as a result.