A Portrait of Liverpool for 2008

I do enjoy a good contrived photoshoot. Here’s artist Ben Johnson pretending to work on his huge painting while Julian Treuherz (Keeper of Galleries, NML) looks on.
Here’s the story.
Internationally renowned artist Ben Johnson has been commissioned by National Museums Liverpool to produce a huge portrait of Liverpool to commemorate the city becoming European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Ben Johnson has produced other cityscapes including Jerusalem, Zurich and Hong Kong but this will be his largest work to date, standing at 8ft x 16ft, an area of 128 ft in total. By the artist’s own admission it is the most ambitious of his panoramas to date. This is the first time the artist has worked directly with a public gallery to produce a commission on this scale.

Johnson’s cityscapes take years of painstaking work. First the subject must be closely explored by taking photographs, considering alternative viewpoints and absorbing the atmosphere of the city. Then detailed drawings are produced, often numbered in their thousands. Johnson is incredibly precise and his paintings are executed in minute detail. This will be the most detailed painting ever made of Liverpool in its history.

Johnson has already undertaken much of the groundwork relating to the Liverpool Cityscape’s composition. Despite looking at the city from a number of viewpoints, he has chosen to immortalise Liverpool’s famous skyline from a vantage point high above the River Mersey, looking almost due east towards the Three Graces.

Zurich Panorama copyright Ben Johnson
It is planned that the final work on the painting will take place in the Walker Art Gallery in front of a live audience in early 2008 where it will be on display for the rest of the year, before taking up its permanent home in the Museum of Liverpool.

As the portrait progresses, Johnson’s collaboration with National Museums Liverpool will also generate a programme of community outreach projects.

Ben and his assistants create most of the painting with spray paints working from templates created from the computer models and photographs before Ben does the final touches with very fine brushes.

Personally I couldn’t stand the thought of working on the same piece for more than 2 years and its a pain having to wait that long to see the finished product. Hopefully Ben will send us progress updates occasionally.

Here’s a couple of very short mpeg video clips of the canvas being moved around the Pier Head to get the best shot, not something you see every day.
Vid1 Vid2
Ben Johnson’s website