Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith. Photographs courtesy of dot-art.
Dear Liverpool, begins dot-art. It’s an introduction to a city that has both supported and been supported by this organisation since 2006, and one which you may not have heard of. dot-art has had a huge impact since its conception, but finally seems to have settled down in the right place.
The company has held successful partnerships with the well-established and widely known Bluecoat and Walker galleries as well as the much more intimate Rex Concept Store. These collaborations have led to a great deal of bouncing around and supporting artists in a way the public never really got to see. But now it’s business time, and on the borders of Liverpool City Centre’s commercial and business districts is a creative gem that appears to be summing up Liverpool’s move towards cultural business.
2014 saw the International Festival for Business spice up our docks and bring unprecedented interest into the commercial visibility of the arts and creative industries in this clever city. Not surprising then that dot-art took the opportunity they had been waiting for and rode the energy of the IFB to open up a gallery which can provide a constant visible front for the artists they have, until now, only been able to help online and outside of direct view. Now we know what’s going on, and it’s more accountable, more visible, more public, and more exciting.
There’s a feel of a second Rennie’s to the shop front, and that’s exciting in itself. Just before Christmas I was told, quite convincingly, that it would be impossible to truly replace that Bold Street institution, or even to give it real competition. Not in business, but in value to the city. And yes, they were talking about the materials shop, but we do not stop often enough to look at the gallery side. A commercial art sales room that defines Bold Street, and has done for several generations of artists. It’s real art on the high street. It works. It makes it seem accessible. Now that commercial front is rivalled in The Victoria Quarter, and the interesting thing will be watching them work together, rather than in competition. Can dot-art fill a gap that Rennie’s can’t?
The danger is that it continues being Dear Liverpool. A constant barrage of pictures of Liverpool’s waterfront, which are wonderful as an introduction, but may not stand the tests of public opinion beyond the tourist market. This new gallery has the potential to be a truly interesting setting for these artists based in Liverpool to explore their practice with all the support they need, and that shows in this introduction.
Just look at some of the artists on their books, and in their gallery. Artists who are making a serious and inarguable impact around Liverpool, from Simon Jobs’ digital collage and contemporary forms to Martin Jones’ crisp distinctive paintings. Jones’ Cathedral was a brilliant addition to this exhibition, providing visitors with a very current snapshot of Hope Street. It’s not a glorification, it’s a reality, including temporary scaffolds; historic buildings; the new Empire Theatre development. It’s a moment in time of Liverpool that will never again be painted.
These pictures contrast the more contemporary style of Jefferson Waters, who takes local jokes about local history and immortalises them in eye catching graphics. There is something for everyone in this exhibition, and for the thousandth time, it is a brilliant introduction between city and gallery, which will undoubtedly boost the reputation of an incredibly useful organisation.