Tag Archives: Liverpool

Whistler at The Bluecoat

The Bluecoat’s offering for this year’s Biennial is an exhibition celebrating one of the most influential figures in the arts of the 19th century, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). A crammed collection of paintings, sketches, letters and notes. It’s like entering the head space of this outspoken, argumentative and maverick creator.

James McNeill Whistler

Whistler dressed in his black patent shoes and with a white plume of hair coiffured against black waves, cultivated a charismatic public persona who challenged the art community and elicited the mocking attention of the popular press. He had famous spats with Oscar Wilde and his one-time friend and benefactor F.R. Leyland.

His work was hung well-spaced out – on the line – marking a radical change from conventional salon style, which saw pictures cover the walls. He described his works as symphonies, arrangements, harmonies, nocturnes. The deathly marks of industrialisation are captured in his watercolour paintings Nocturne in Grey and Gold, Piccadilly (1881-83). The thick fog – or pea soupers, as they were known – seeps off the canvas.

nocturne

His Venice etchings were presented in 1883 at an exhibition at the Society of British Artists, titled Arrangement in White and Yellow. Whistler wanted the event to be more than just an exhibition; he wanted to give his guests an experience. The walls were decorated in different shades of white with the skirting boards, yellow. The attendants wore yellow clothes to match. A final detail for favoured guests, he designed yellow butterflies to wear at the launch. The press cruelly labelled the spectacle, The Poached Egg. One critic commented on the etchings The Piazetta, The Palaces and The Two Doorways,

He has been content to show us what his eyes can see, and not what his hand can do.

Etchings on paper, fabulous depictions of Speke Hall in Number 1 (1870) and the billiard room indicate his connection to Liverpool. A notable piece in this exhibition is his caricature of F.R. Leyland, The Gold Scab: Eruption in Filthy Lucre (The Creditor) (1879), crafted at the time of his bankruptcy.

The Gold Scab

It is one of three paintings intended as a prank for his creditors to discover when they arrived to make an inventory of his possessions. It depicts Leyland as a rich peacock wearing a favourite frilled shirt sitting on a piano stool that is the White House (the artist’s Chelsea home) which was on the verge of repossession.

It is interesting to see the evolution of his Butterfly trademark. Proof of Six Butterflies is printed on proof paper (1890), loosely based on the initials JW, a butterfly signature often had a sting in its tail, the point directed at his enemies.

Whistler’s involvement with the Aesthetic movement is illustrated throughout this expansive collection. The movement consisted of Rossetti, William Morris and Wilde, a bohemian group of artists, writers and designers who favoured beauty and form over sociopolitical content: art for art’s sake.

The press (like that of today with celebrity culture) were fascinated by the group’s ostentatious style, dress and lavish lifestyles. This exhibition is one of the highlights of the Biennial and I feel that the setting (the historical Bluecoat) really adds to the whole essence of the experience. Whistler would indeed approve!

Recently, the Merseyside Civic Society celebrated the fact that the Heaps Rice Mill, in the Baltic Triangle, has been categorised as a Grade II listed building by the government following an inspection by English Heritage.
Not to be developed into yet another series of apartment blocks to remain empty, owned by an off shore property conglomerate in the Seychelles! We need to see the old buildings re-claimed and used for the people of Liverpool by the people of Liverpool. Projects like Opera for Chinatown by THE SOUND AGENTS and the recent use of the Old Blind School as part of this year’s Biennial are exemplary. Let’s pimp up the old architecture lying barren in this city with similar innovative offerings!

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Changing Times, Changing Lives

The Citizens Advice Bureau celebrated 75 years of giving assistance this September. Not bad for an agency that was originally only established as a temporary measure. This Ministry of Information film from the IWM archive shows how the CAB evolved from its wartime beginnings:

CAB is a charity for the community. Their manifesto is to provide the advice people need for the problems they face and to improve the policies and practices that affect people’s lives. Free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities.

On 8th July 2014 a report detailed that 9 out of 10 CAB’s (92%) are finding it difficult to refer people to the specialist legal advice they need, since cuts to legal aid came into effect last year. In some cases legal aid is now not available for help with getting employers to pay outstanding wages or challenging unfair benefit decisions.

ten minutes hate caught up with Kristian Khan, Deputy Manager of Liverpool Central Citizens Advice Bureau, to discuss his work at the charity, particularly in light of the recent severe cuts to funding that are having a significant impact.

Kristian Khan
10mh: How does he find working in the busy Central office?

Challenging, rewarding, exhausting, satisfying and exhilarating.

The CAB is currently facing particular re-occurring issues such as:
• Impact of the Welfare Reform Act and the changes to welfare benefits.
• Priority and Non Priority debts – last year Liverpool Central CAB alone helped clients deal with £12.8 million worth of debt.
• Payday lending.
• Housing possessions and evictions.
• All aspects of consumer matters.
• Immigration and Asylum queries.

The CAB provides the nation with an invaluable service, as Khan details,

• We provide advice to approximately 2.1 million people nationally every year to help them solve 6.6 million problems.
• We give 22,000 people the chance to volunteer in their local communities and they provide £109 million worth of hours a year between them.
• We campaign on the big issues that are affecting our clients and last year an estimated 8.2 million people benefited positively from our policy work.
• We make people happier and healthier; forty-six per cent of people felt less anxious, less stressed, or had fewer health problems after receiving help from a CAB.
• We take the strain off other local services in many ways, for example by preventing homelessness, avoiding legal action and helping people to fill in official forms correctly
• We contribute to the local economy by helping clients to manage their debts and maximise their incomes.

The general public can help the CAB to continue its invaluable work
by donating what they can – time, money or other resources – and by raising awareness of the fact that they are a registered charity. The CAB is also seeking volunteers,

Don’t worry about your level of formal qualifications – real life experience is also essential for this work. You will get out what you put into it. Your experience here may not change your life but it will certainly give you a unique insight into people and their problems.

I asked the Deputy Manager what has been his proudest moment to date during his career?

Stepping into the role of Acting Chief Executive where I was ultimately responsible for all aspects of the bureau and ensuring that our clients’ experience of us was a positive one – 14 years of CAB experience had brought me to that point.

I wonder what the CAB will be like in another 75 years? Khan has an idea,

I think we will be a more streamlined agency with a greater number of ‘districts’ rather than individual bureau. We will be at the forefront of instant access to advice for clients through a number of channels and we will continue to campaign on the big issues that are affecting citizens.  We will still use volunteers as this is integral to all that we do.

To mark the anniversary, the CAB have released a film called ‘Changing Lives’, showing more of their work:

 

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Liverpool’s Little Eden

A rare thing happened this year in Liverpool: we have actually had a summer! For the first time in years, I have not re-read Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book to cheer me up.  This year it will have to wait till the depths of winter, when everything goes a little Narnia-esque and the spring feels an eternity away.

One of the many great things about the city of Liverpool is its green spaces. I visit Calderstones and Sefton Park regularly on my bike. In the City Centre a lunch hour’s reading in St John’s Gardens is a pleasure, even if on occasion you are besieged by pigeons or vagabonds. I find that when friends visit from around the country they are generally taken aback at the good quality of the parks and gardens on offer. The media has not always been kind to the Pool of Life and so visitors expect to find only concrete, villainy and pollution.

I recently had the fortune of exploring a little piece of Eden in Woolton, the sumptuous grounds of Reynolds Park.

Sunlight in The Beeches, Reynolds Park

As I strolled around, the beeches were showered with sun rays, pushing down through the foliage onto the ground. The paths were flanked by rhododendrons. A composition that could have come straight out of the pages of a Thomas Hardy novel, so it seems appropriate that I was introduced to this space by my good friend – and Hardy aficionado – Giles Winterbourne.

It was quite a shock to find, particularly as I am an indigenous resident of this part of Liverpool. Although I must say Belle Vale is more Last Exit to Brooklyn than the Hardy-esque Woolton! Still, each has its own particular charms. As I heard one snob in a restaurant say, ‘Oh no, dear, it’s Woolton NOT Walton.’

reynolds_park_dovepark

A stroll around the 14 acres of open lawns, formal gardens and woodland is a great way to escape after a day’s toil in front of a computer screen. Far from the sadding crowd! A chance to clear the head space.  Reynolds Park lies within an area that used to be the estate of a series of wealthy local businessmen.  In the late 19th century it came into the possession of the illustrious Reynolds family, who had made their fortune in the cotton trade. James Reynolds was the last owner of the estate, and he generously donated it to the City Corporation in 1929.

In 1975 the mansion was decimated by fire, and was replaced by a housing scheme for the elderly. The grounds have a number of notable features, including: a wildflower meadow, a walled and sunken garden, a topiary (the only one of its kind in the city), a Ha Ha and a quarry (closed to the public but available for biological research).What is a Ha Ha, you ask? Let this picture be your guide.

Ha_ha_wall_diagram

I would urge you to take a little stroll through this little piece of Eden. I am looking forward to re-visiting through all of the forthcoming seasons.  Next summer, I may even take a picnic and read The Summer Book there one wistful mid-summer evening.

the summer book

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The Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome

The architecture impressed even before I’d seen the artwork at the Group Show, part of this year’s Biennial, at the Old Blind School, 24 Hardman Street L1 9AX. I was intrigued to wander around the former Blind School, which was founded in 1791 by Edward Rushton and was the first school of its kind in the country.

I found dis-used rooms textured with peeling paint, rotted walls and cast iron fireplaces. Echoes of its former use as a Trades Union Centre in 1983 are illustrated in a mural on a dome ceiling. A Scouse Diego Rivera creation, perhaps? The building immediately charms in all of its sumptuous decay.

Liverpool Old Blind School mural

One of the walls is entirely taken over. Showing three miners in the atmospheric Quarry (1907) by Marc Bauer.You can practically taste the sooty atmosphere with the effective use of charcoal.

Quarry Marc Bauer

Marc Bauer Quarry detail

Bonnie Camplin’s pencil on paper – Sparkle – is an illustration you will not find in the windows of a Bond Street Jeweller’s. A vacuous face in amongst the items for sale, a metaphor for the shallowness of materialism.

Bonnie Camplin Sparkle

Throughout the show basic mediums of pencil, charcoal and watercolours are displayed and this simple skills-based approach is effective. Peter Wächtler’s two paintings reminded me of work by Hogarth. One particularly looked like an updated version of a snapshot from Nan Goldin’s erotically charged body of work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

Nan Goldin

Other highlights include:

  • Amelie Von Wulffen’s zany caricatures that poke fun at modern attitudes. A banana having stage fright, two glasses of wine lounging on comfy chairs watching television.
  • Nicola L’s room full of white objects, including an inflatable couch in the shape of a hand, looked like the kind of décor that would not be out of place in the Notting Hill apartment of Patsy and Edwina from Absolutely Fabulous.

With all modern art, there are always bound to be pieces that suffer from what I call the emperor’s new clothes syndrome. All pomp and no substance! One such piece is by Norma Jeane (the artist was born the day Marilyn Monroe died and decided to label herself with the legend’s name). A simple ice machine is plonked in the middle of a room, powered by solar energy, with its door open. The ice is made and then spills out onto the floor to dissolve.

Transforming heat into cold, and liquid into solid. The machine keeps working relentlessly, even though its product continually melts away into the wet floor.

I found myself perplexed by this piece. Bamboozled, even! After reading the description, a little sarcastic Scouse internal voice, (like Margie Clarke’s) said to me, ‘No shit, Sherlock!’ One of the highlights of experiencing this ‘objet’ had to be seeing people trying to manoeuvre themselves around the wet floor, in case they accidentally walked onto the art. Taking a little droplet of a souvenir home with them. Art crime! You really could not make it up.

What is fantastic about this group show is to see a robust piece of architectural splendour, the building that is The Old Blind School, being totally re-energised with the lifeblood of new creatives. This aspect of the Biennial is marked by a building as impressive – part Berlin crack den, part faded decadence – as some of the content on display.

The Old Blind School Liverpool staircase

Next stop on the Biennial review will be The Bluecoat!

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Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society

It’s an electric lapis lazuli sky, sitting in The Bluecoat gardens. A classical music score floats out of a window, splattering its notes onto the pavement floor. The sun blushes, batting her eyelashes, flirting with the people sitting in her rays. How many beautiful compositions do we take in on a daily basis? The eye is the ultimate camera, to snap pictures, to capture the moment.

When a collective of creatives come together with a shared interest in a particular discipline; like writing groups, photography clubs and arts associations, the results can be remarkable. A snapshot of a community and an important way to archive, celebrate and document an ever-evolving culture. One such organisation is the Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society.

In the autumn of 2011, a few friends who share an interest in photography agreed that they could develop their photographic interests and skills by exchanging knowledge and ideas. The first meeting was held on 8th November after Nick Liu, Tommy Wong and Wing W Wong invited their friends to Chilli Chilli Restaurant in Liverpool Chinatown. As a result of that initial gathering, Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society was born.

Stranded by Wing W Wong

Stranded by Wing W Wong

ten minutes hate caught up with Pak H Chan and Nick Liu to discuss their work and that of the group.

10mh: What inspires you?

Pak H Chan: Many things inspire me: the weather, nature, architecture, Liverpool’s waterfront, people on the streets, light and shadow.

Nick Lau: Capturing the moment of memory and appreciation.

10mh: Which artists have influenced you?

PHC: The photographers who have influenced me are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bert Hardy and Don McCullin. I also admire the work of the Impressionist painter Renoir, though not sure if he has influenced me in any way.

NL: Bruce Lee (martial art/body movement).

10mh: Describe the work of the group in five words?

NL: Sharing interest, skills and views
PHC: Unique, diverse, personal, eye-catching, passion.

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

10mh: What plans do you have for the future?

NL: The Society is to be open to all with interests in: Chinatowns, photography, Chinese-ness as a feature…

PHC: I just hope to continue to take good photos, perhaps travelling more outside of Merseyside. I plan to photograph York as it has been recommended to me by a few people.

10mh: What advice would you give to people who want to take up photography?

NL: Have a passion for photography.

PHC: Learn the basics, like aperture, shutter speed and just go out there and enjoy photographing anything that looks interesting.

10mh: What most recently impressed you?

NL: Smartphone photography – user friendly, versatile and quality. A lot to be learned by users and more to be developed by the designers. Photography is getting more and more popular and diverse.

PHC: I took some photographs of stick-insects last week which impressed me. I learnt that nature has a lot to offer and maybe I will shoot more subjects from the natural world in future.

Anyone interested in photography is welcome to join the Society, whether amateur or professional, young or old, regardless of experience, knowledge or background. All that is needed is a passion for photography.

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

The LCPS meets once a month in Liverpool Chinatown, with various activities hosted in-between meetings. For more information, please see their ‘contact us’ page.

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Heroine

Heroine Zine is a platform to showcase the talents of creative women in the North-West of England and beyond. The zine originated last summer in Brighton and is now onto its third edition.

heroine mag

There is a current resurgence in this form of expression, originally championed by Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and later H.P Lovecraft and riot grrrl. A zine – an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine – is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier. Generally circulated in editions of less than 100, profit is not the primary intent of publication. They are informed by anarchopunk, raw creativity and DIY ethos. (Let us not forget the Whaaat? zine, which gave rise to this very site.)

ten minutes hate had an audience with Heroine in FACT, Liverpool, to discuss their origins, their missive and future plans.

The zine?

The magazine celebrates women as they are, not constructed. We have a listed manifesto.

heroine manifesto

Inspiration?

Inspired by the 90s zine culture, riot grrrl.

Self-publishing gives a sense of complete control.

Jet the Cat?

The cat, our mascot, is taken from the suffragettes. When jailed for activity, the activists would go on hunger strike, which would make them so weak that they could no longer have the energy to protest and were sent out of the prisons, no longer a threat. They would then re-energise, eat and be ready to campaign again and then land themselves back in prison. A cat and mouse type of game.

jet the cat

Heroines?

People to admire include Caitlin Moran and Laura Bates. And we also have great admiration for Madeline Heneghan, creator of the acclaimed Liverpool writing festival, Writing on the Wall. A business heroine. We admire women in day-to-day life, the ‘real people’.

Ambition?

World domination. We have a busy summer ahead, including a Heroine Fest with an event in Chevasse Park on 27 July, event parties, open-mic poetry events.

Talent?

We are looking all the time for any distinctive poets, artists and photographers.

We are always open for submissions to the zine, no themes, just your ideas. Pitch something to us at heroinemagazine – at – hotmail.com or through the submissions page and we’ll let you know what we think.

Thanks to Becki Currie for the image of Jet the Cat

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Alejandro Monge, ‘Spanish Pavilion’ at Fallout Factory

alejandro

Fallout Factory, 1 June – 31 July | Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm

Alejandro Monge has achieved a brilliant career in a very short time, creating a handful of images that define it: powerful and disturbing faces, inscribed on a black background. The work suggests baroque influences and approaches a hyper-realism that does not exclude the gloomy.
Specially commissioned as part of the International Festival for Business, Fallout Factory is currently playing host to ‘Spanish Pavilion’, a new and exciting collaboration between Fallout Factory and overseas Spanish galleries. ten minutes hate caught up with the maverick Spanish artist on the eve of his Liverpool exhibition.

10mh: Alejandro, what inspires you?

Inspiration comes day by day, but I have better inspirations the bad days than the good ones, makes me feel more, I can go deeper in my creativity.

10mh:  Which artists have influenced you?

I think that Caravaggio is my favourite.

10mh: Describe your work in five words?

Very, very, very, very dark.

10mh: What do you want the viewer to feel about your work?

I’d like that people feel my works as something real, in three dimensions.

10mh: Do you have a favourite piece?

Always it is the last one. Because in there are my last feelings.

10mh: What advice would you give young artists?

Work, work and more work, because the more you work the better paintings you get. But at the same time you have to train your mind as well, because the ability of art is in your mind not in your hand. The good inspiration will come after 999 bad ideas.

Exceptional pieces of art take the everyday, the mundane and forces you to look at it again. It lifts the subject to another plain. We all look at each other, daily in cafés, bars, even at home with reality rubbish on the TV. Alejandro’s canvases make you really appreciate the subtle beauty of the human being. Blonde beard, shadow silhouettes of facial features, always with a warmth and deep affection for the sitter.

alejandro monge
The collection has a distinctive style in the way you can immediately identify it as his work, like Lucien Freud, Tamara De Lempicka and Francis Bacon. When you see the work you know it is the artists’ distinctive style.

I’ve seen quite a few exhibitions in my 36 years, I’ve encountered self-proclaimed artists who do not follow the Stanislavski dictum which is essential for any creative,

One must love art and not the concept of oneself in art.

Alejandro clearly loves his work, passion and authenticity splash right off his canvas.

alejandro euro

I have always loved Spain and her cultural exports, Pedro Almodóvar and tapas. Now I have another thing to admire about this great country. I am exceptionally excited about this artist’s future creative projects, please watch this space, one day Alejandro Monge is going to paint his way into the history sketch book of contemporary art.

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