Tag Archives: Liverpool

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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‘Opera for Chinatown’ by The Sound Agents

The Sound Agents are artists specialising in oral history, funded by Heritage Lottery (HLF) to record the oral history of Liverpool Chinatown.

TheSoundAgents

Liverpool Chinatown is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. It has the largest arch outside of China and is probably the smallest Chinatown in the world. The streets are steeped in history. People from all over the world stayed in boarding houses in Nelson Street on their way to America. Some stayed thinking they had arrived in America when they docked in Liverpool, making Chinatown a unique cosmopolitan area.

The Agents – John Campbell and Moira Kenny – have written a play based on the stories they have been recording about the Blue Funnel Sailors, the forced Chinese repatriation and the Liverpool Chinese children who featured in the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

The piece of theatre is called ‘The Curious Disappearance of Mr Foo’ and will be at the Unity Theatre Liverpool on 21 June. (Starring Tina Malone and Simon Wan. Directed by The Sound Agents.)

Currently the creative collective are exhibiting photographs, audio and artefacts from the oral history in the Open Eye Gallery alongside Bert Hardy, Martin Parr and UK-based photographer Jamie Lau. The exhibition Ebb and Flow is a visual chronicle of Liverpool Chinatown, an audio-visual survey of the history and changes, from 17 May – 22 June.

Sound Agents Sans Cafe

Working with Iliad and Liverpool City council they are also creating a photographic installation on three Georgian Terraces in Duke Street for the end of May.

Opera for Chinatown 3

The terrace’s artwork is called ‘Opera for Chinatown.’ The Sound Agents’ overall aim is to set up a site-specific Chinatown Museum in Liverpool. They have a particular mantra,

We do not believe in failure.

When working in Chinatown the artists employ local people and are keen to provide opportunities and experience to showcase women in roles traditionally reserved for men – thereby promoting the proverb, ‘women hold up half the sky.’

Opera for Chinatown 7

Pictured are Blue Funnel Shanghai sailors, Mr Yue, Mr Lau and Mr Woo.

Opera for Chinatown 10

Their pictures appear on the building.

Opera for Chinatown 13

I asked the Agents, what is the most interesting Chinese phrase that you have picked up? To which they coyly replied,

Better not repeat it. We hang around with retired Chinese sailors.

All pictures by kind permission of the Sound Agents

This post was updated on 6 June as the director of the Unity Theatre play changed

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Shakeshaft

City living has its risks, seven seagulls fly by pooping on my suits in the last year. Concrete paving slabs splashing up rainwater underneath.

shakeshaft_nun_prison

But one of the advantages has to be the cast of characters you can encounter simply walking down the streets. Who needs to pay for a TV licence? Real life is far more entertaining. This ensemble of characters is captured in the work of Liverpool photographer, Stephen Shakeshaft.

Wash house. Photo by Stephen Shakeshaft. First use DP w/c 14/9/09

The photography of Shakeshaft first flashed onto my retinas in Liverpool’s now closed National Conservation Centre. I used to visit this exhibition space and sit with a double espresso underneath the Eros statue in the café. I was stunned by the image-maker’s work and have been a fervent admirer of his art since. He does something which I think is unique in his compositions. Anyone can simply take a picture, point and click and now with the invasion of apps, airbrush, tint to vintage, fade away and radiate.

children_sweep_shakeshaft

This artist captures the resilience of Liverpudlians. The Scouse stoic sense of surety, with a cut to the bone sarcastic humour.

MARGI CLARKE PREPARING TO GO ON STAGE IN PANTO

MARGI CLARKE PREPARING TO GO ON STAGE IN PANTO

With just one look of the eye, his sitters tell their story. Take Lizzie, for example, selling fruit from her market stall, whatever the weather. She glares at the camera with a hard affection and knowingness.

lizzie

It was a treat for the eye to view his collection of images of the Liverpudlian icon Ken Dodd recently at the Liverpool Life Museum.

ken dodd

I absolutely love Ken Dodd, I find he is like a Scouse Surrealist, a genius of madcap humour. Try and explain the Diddy men to anyone, bizarre with a capital B,

Did someone spike that man’s tea?

And what about his tickling stick? Like Magritte’s pipe, it has become a signature. As the joker Dodd puts it,

A lot of people say it’s a sex symbol, but I think that’s a fallacy.

The candid snaps displayed the man on stage and backstage drinking a pint, a cup of tea, lounging on a couch. With close-up images to reveal the attention to detail that is applied to his act. For example, a worn battered make-up kit and arsenal of tricks, to help him on his missive to give the world, ‘a little drop of tickle tonic’.

If Ken Dodd was around in William Shakespeare’s day, he would have been a fool in one of his plays, all, ‘Nuncle’ and mirth-laced, with a subtle dosage of truth. Kenneth Branagh recognised this quality and cast him in his screen version of HAMLET. This celebration of the official lunatic from Knotty Ash, Mr. Ken Dodd, did leave me feeling

full of plumtiousness and gratitude.

 

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All The Year Round

I have begun my latest reading project: to swim my way through the oceans of literature that Mr. Charles Dickens created during his lifetime.

charlie dickens in his syudyI purchased 13 Volumes from Kernaghan Books in Liverpool. I must confess, I started The Pickwick Papers a few weeks ago but struggled a little so decided to try David Copperfield. Instantaneously, the episodic nature had me hooked. I wanted to see how a reader of the day would experience Dickens’ work. So I visited the Liverpool John Moores Special Collections and Archive to take a peep at one of their latest acquisitions, a collection of All The Year Round. (A weekly journal conducted by Charles Dickens, with which is incorporated Household Words. Price 2D)

All the year roundBoldly emblazoned on the cover is a quote from William Shakespeare:

The story of our lives from year to year.

Shakespeare

The periodical has all types of feature for the reader of the day from marital advice:

The earth is full of couples who are made for each other, not only of couples whose destiny it is to love but of those whose destiny it is to hate. For every spider there is created a fly, for every cat a mouse, for every bird a worm, for every innocent bill holder a really innocent bill acceptor and for every picture dealer a picture buyer.

to advertisements for Dickens’ infamous reading performances.

Christmas Carol and Mrs Camp
MR CHARLES DICKENS READINGS
April 18th (1861)
Little Dombey and The Trial from Pickwick
at St. James Hall, Piccadilly

There is a great exposition of social issues of the day:

…sense of the joy and purity of life comes from the children as they dance and sing in the midst of the toiling crowd. But let the millions who toil in England pass before us in one great procession, and we shall find sad companies of eager, undergrown, unwholesome men walking with none but pale, none but pale and weak eyed women and with none but bruised and weary little children, stunted of growth, some even wearing spectacles, all silent as the grave.

CHILDREN OF WORK June 8th 1861.

The celebrated writer’s fiction proved to be an education tool too, a way of informing and instructing the masses. I particularly like the way we can see the development of what are now understood to be classics in the canon of literature:

In No 84 of ATYR to be published on December 1st will be commenced, GREAT EXPECTATIONS A new serial story, to be continued from week to week until completed in about eight months.

In a world where we have access to instantaneous information at our finger tips, it is hard to imagine waiting weekly for the next part of a story in print. The Dickensian reader would not read the tales in one sitting, they evolved over time and were delivered as episodes weekly. To think about in a modern context, take your favourite t.v. programme series, say BREAKING BAD, SHERLOCK (please add appropriate title), now put all of the scripts into one place. That is a hell of a lot of words, copious pages of syntax. The way I am attacking the reading of Charles D is not really how it was intended to be read.

The archive space here in Liverpool is really something special. A place to handle the creative past, to instantaneously transport back to previous literary and cultural times.

LJMU archive is accessible to the general public by appointment 10-4 Monday to Friday. It houses a host of intriguing collections:

  • THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL
  • JOHN MCCREADY ARCHIVE
  • THE ARTHUR DOOLEY ARCHIVE

arthur dooley

  • THE LIDDELL HART COLLECTION OF COSTUME
  • INTERNATIONAL TIMES
  • THE BARRY MILES ARCHIVE
  • ENGLAND’S DREAMING: THE JON SAVAGE ARCHIVE

punk

  • CYBERNETICS, PUNK, FASHION, COUNTERCULTURE, THEATRE, ART, HISTORY.

In keeping with the technological times we live in, there are also a number of resources online. After all, If Charles Dickens were alive today he would be blogging, instructing people from his iPad, laptop or smartphone, for this is the way readership is now acquired. And imagine what Oscar Wilde could do with twitter!

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