SevenStreets loves the fact that we live in a city with as many art galleries as tanning salons. That’s your quality of life balance right there. And, the latest art gallery to open in town, The Gallery Liverpool is a resolutely independent affair.
Billy Wilson and Fiona Dunn (pic r) are the driving force behind The Gallery Liverpool – tucked unassumingly into the warehouses and builders’ merchants of Stanhope Street , a palette knife’s throw from the A Foundation and CUC. It’s located in the new Liverpool art quarter known as the Baltic Triangle District.
As SevenStreets visits, the light filled first floor space is a jumble of canvasses, and a sea of bubble-wrap. Artist in resident Cliff Sayer works on a sombre canvas in one corner as Billy and Fiona scatter around, planning and preparing for this week’s opening night of their June exhibition.
“Every month we host a different art exhibition, but this month due to the huge media interest in our youngest exhibitor, we seem busier than ever. It’s great publicity for The Gallery so we’re not complaining,” Dunn says, as she shows SevenStreets the culprits behind the evident chaos.
Ten year old Hamad Walid al-Humaidhan is causing quite a stir in the art world. His fresh, energetic works – compared to late period Picasso (you know, the one causing quite a stir down at Albert Dock) – light up the gallery’s back wall. Pablo or no, the boy certainly knows a thing or two about composition, and isn’t afraid of colour either. The canvasses are electrically charged, confident and commanding. And they’re commanding a few quid too: his first show sold out before the free Pinot was glugged – and, at around £700 a canvas, for considerably more than your typical paper round.
Today, Hamad’s work changes hands for triple that amount. Which makes tonight’s private show (which features work from a selection of Liverpool artists too) arrive with an added frisson. Not least for his agents.
“Hamad’s agents, James from Kudos Fine Arts and Steve from Turner Fine Arts approached with us with a view to exhibiting his work, as a new Gallery we thought this would be an exciting opportunity and would make a nice counterpoint to the Tate’s show ” says Dunn.
It’s fairly obvious to see that Hamad’s disjointed cubist lines, and geometric meshes of colour nod towards the abstract work of the Spanish child prodigy – although, in Picasso’s case, Cubism followed Realism. Hamad’s jumped straight in at the deep end.
“We were told he had no previous knowledge of Picasso’s work when he first picked up his brush,” Dunn tells SevenStreets.
Really? We’re not so sure whether the accomplished blue geometry of ‘Peace’ (main pic above) could have arrived, unbidden, but we’ll go along with it. The boy’s got talent, that’s for sure.
“For someone so young not to be daunted with large canvasses is really rare,” says Hamad’s smiling agent, Steve Turner, “and the way he mixes colour is quite incredible.”
Incredible enough to grab the attention of that other gallery in the dock…
“The Tate Gallery has invited Hamad to a personal viewing of their Picasso exhibition,” Turner reveals, adding that the ten year old has an even bigger honour to look forward to this evening – a slot on BBC1’s Newsround. Surely every kid’s dream come true?
Oh, and talk of a private showing of his work for the Ambassador of Kuwait…
Not bad for a lad whose contemporaries are still trying to master painting-by-numbers.
“We don’t want him to become a production line,” Turner says. “His education comes first. Hamad will only paint when he wants to.”
“Whenever I get a blank canvas in front of me I just close my eyes, imagine what I want to be on it, then open my eyes and paint it,” Hamad – who’s a Liverpool supporter, living in Bath – says.
“When I’m painting I feel really relaxed, when I’m tired I just pick up a paintbrush. Art’s my favourite subject at school. I think for children my age the trick is to just paint as much as you can.”
Yeah, maybe. But SevenStreets has been dabbling with acrylics for years, and even we don’t know what it is yet.
Private View, The Gallery Liverpool, Stanhope Street.
Friday, 11 June. 7.00pm