Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith. Photographs by Patrick Kirk-Smith and artinliverpool
Alchemy Visual Arts, as you know, if you’ve been following Art in Liverpool at all, in any way, on any network, is upon us. A three-day weekend extravaganza of mixed arts flooding the Baltic Triangle with all sorts of controlled madness. Over the next few days there will be more to come from Art in Liverpool on this festival, but I’d like to kick it off with a huge congratulations on the varied display at The Gallery Liverpool, acting as a multi-arts hub for the festival over the course of the weekend.
If you’re new to Alchemy, or its umbrella festival, Threshold, it calls on artists and creative types to respond directly to themes which push and pull their practices – crucially, in the direction of the public eye. This year, that theme is Alchemy (the shifting of one thing to another; in its most basic interpretation) and it has forced so many artists out of their comfort zone – some restraining their work, and some expanding it; some tweaking their output, and some redefining themselves completely.
Perhaps the most distracting (and I mean that extremely positively) work at The Gallery on launch night was the interactive collaborative piece by Road Studios, which saw streams of brilliant creative minds gawk in confusion at its operations. That, paired with a modelled community, by Wendy Williams, with focal trees to make landscape architects around the country weep with jealousy, set the stage for this festival perfectly. A festival that pushes and squeezes artists into spaces they don’t usually fit.
Having had a chance to venture further into the festival, it is obvious why the work on display here has been brought together as one hub – with a few extra sites at Baltic Creative and 24 Kitchen Street with multiple artists displaying in one place. The artists at The Gallery have responded so spectacularly well to their brief that, regardless of materials and disciplines, the exhibition functions as one exploration into creative alchemy. I suppose in a sense, it’s a summative display of the festival as a whole. With work which uses almost alchemical processes, to artists who have reframed their personal histories in a way that could be described as almost alchemical in approach.
Robyn Woolston’s work provides the personal linear narrative, but uses internationally significant histories to support it. Catherine Harrison seems to have two quite distinct strands of her practice as well, creating work with alchemy as its subject, and with alchemy in its process, using rust as part of her physical approach. And then there’s Wendy Williams and Hollie Donnelly, who breathe new life into forgotten, or insignificant materials; transforming them into something that can find a new value.
Even the branding’s perfect, thanks to co-curator and artist Andy Minnis, whose clever maps use multiple layers of meaning to explain the ideas behind the festival’s theme. Alongside his counter-part-curate, Jazamin Sincalir, who’s offering is a photographic curiosity, allowing the viewer to become the user; taking in new perspectives on the space with a Box Brownie camera. Both providing two of the most successful summaries of this festival with inquisitive and interactive work.
That was Thursday. Just the start. There’s three more days of this, and we’re in the middle of that now. With work on show all over the area, and an energy that’s begun to spill out into the streets, you’d be out of your mind to miss this festival – whether you’re after music, dance, design or visual art. And as an added bonus, even though I’ve had to leave several brilliant artists out of this introduction to the festival, the work on display in this eclectic exhibition will be on show for a little longer than the festival runs, so there’s more of an opportunity to see their work at The Gallery Liverpool.
Friday 1 – Monday 11 April 2016
The Gallery Liverpool
Opening times: Monday – Friday 09.00 – 16.30 and weekends opening 10.00 – 16.00