Metal and The Liverpool Art Prize: they make a lovely couple. If we were Cilla we’d be buying a hat. The innovation, the ethos, the ground up celebration of creativity – they share so much DNA they were destined for each other.
And so it is with this year’s Liverpool Art Prize exhibition – co-curated with Metal and Artinliverpool.com and the awards ceremony tonight. The perfect intersection of venue and vehicle at Edge Hill junction. But what of the shortlisted candidates? Any train crashes amongst them?
The shortlist – whittled down from a longlist of entrants based in, or born in Liverpool’s orbit – is the strongest yet. As a statement of intent its message is unequivocal: Liverpool’s creative community is continuing to grow, mutate, question and enthrall us all.
In short – it’s something we should be proud of, and that we should nurture and encourage. Which is exactly why events like this are so important, if we’re to continually punch our way into the consciousness of the wider art world. If you’ve not been yet…why not?
To arrive at the shortlist, judges take into consideration an artists’ complete career – but tonight’s award is judged on the work the artists have chosen to exhibit within Metal’s galleries.
So what do we think of the nominations?
Richard Proffitt – (pic second left) an artist based at the energetic and constantly engaging Royal Standard studios – has assembled a tableau of cremated bones, charred detritus and sacrificial skulls. Like the aftermath of some covert Badlands ceremony, this smoky tangle of totems, burned offerings and spent oil cans speaks of something sinister and symbolic, but we’re left to merely rifle through the burned out embers, like a forensic rookie in CSI.
Feels Good To Burn is accompanied by its own soundtrack – a woozy tape loop of the Everly Brothers – adding an ethereal, cinematic depth to this charged and unsettling installation.
Bernadette O’Toole – (pic r above) currently based at the Bluecoat – is fascinated by spacial relationships: of shifting perceptions, visual deceptions and the illusion of depth on a resolutely two dimensional canvas.
Her work is tactile, curvaceous and seductive: but it’s also a construct. We’re presented with the impression of folds, plump cushions of paint, of air-sprung ‘fullness’. But, in reality, O’Toole is wrestling with the impermanence of things, of paint as a playful con-artist, forever tricking us, confusing our senses, and reeling us in.
Mirror, Circle, Fold is taken from a series of explorations on this theme – but, if pressed, we’d have to say we found her exhibition at last year’s Biennial a touch more seductive.
Markus Soukup – another Bluecoat based artist (pic left above) – offers a multimedia installation where narratives are suggested rather than prescribed.
Curiously, while Soukup’s corner of Metal appears to offer the most complexity – a collage of sound, backlit video projections, panels of tiles and blinking TV monitors – it’s also the most stripped back and economic too.
Soukup toys with the notion of interpretation – his pieces offer a ‘join up the dots yourself’ immersion, allowing viewers to construct their own version of events. His video installation projects words, rather than images, onto a screen. It’s up to us to paint the mental pictures of falling women and galloping horses they convey.
It’s a subversion of the medium, for sure, but while its accompanying glitchy soundtrack coats the piece with brooding resonance we’re not sure whether the sheer mechanics of it all obscures the view a little.
Brendan Lyons (pic second right above) takes paint to places it’s seldom been before. The Heston Blumenthal of artists, Lyons coaxes the medium into rigid, plastic forms, strong and pliable enough to stand on their own two feet: out in the world alone. His pieces are often left to do just that: installed directly onto crumbling inner-city walls and smashed window panes.
His site specific pieces upstairs in Metal look like the remnants of some reconstruction project, or a hastily abandoned building. Like O’Toole, Lyons is merrily – and openly – engaged in the business of conjuring and deceit: you think you learned all there is about the states of matter in GCSE Physics? Lyons might have something to say about that – here, liquids are most definitely solid.
It’s clever stuff – and shows that paint still has some tricks up its sleeve.
So who’s the winner? We’ll know later this evening who the judges have chosen as the Liverpool Art Prize. But we’re putting our money on… Richard Proffitt.
Exhibition runs til 11 June
Thanks to Culturepool for the on the spot winner’s announcement!
Artists picture: copyright Minako Jackson
The overall winner and people’s choice winner will be announced at 18.30.