Away from the big tickets, and the bursting lifts, there are quiet wonders too. The Independents Biennial is hosting illuminating and beautiful work from around the globe, featuring everything from wild Arctic seascapes to intimate and iconic photographs. Here, then, is a quick tour of some of our favourites.

ERNESTO MUNIZ: Colourful Darkness

This prolific artist returns to Liverpool from Mexico City for a second Biennial exhibition.

Initially studying Graphic Design in the “Universidad Iberoamericana” in México City, Ernesto left to pursue his true passion, photojournalism. In 2006 he won the silver medal of the ‘Society for News Design’ in New York. He worked for multiple Mexican photographic agencies, newspapers and magazines, before starting to use his current medium of collage as a more personal form of expression after a period of crisis in 2007.

Catholic by birth, he began to use religious images as a form of protest in a city where 80% of the population professes the Catholic faith. Because of the lack of galleries, he started to construct his “‘altares de guerrilla’ (Guerrilla Shrines), deconstructing images of the Virgin and the Saints to form a new and quite extreme form of symbolism and religious messaging.

He also grants iconic status and even haloes to some unlikely recipients, for example in ‘Nosferata’ and ‘Icarus and the Red Minotaur’. But these pictures need to be studied closely to fully appreciate the humour and daring irreverence which motivate this very original artist.

Despite his journey being dramatically delayed by a mugging back home, he has still managed to create 15 brand new, extraordinarily complex works during his briefer-than-expected residency at the Corke gallery. The show also includes pieces loaned to the gallery by collectors, some of which were commissioned: he has a large number of devoted fans.

There have been many exhibitions of his work worldwide, including Arles, France; Madrid, Spain; Colombia; Guangdong, China; and Liverpool and London; as well as his home town of México city

Ernesto Munitz
Corke Art Gallery Studio Pop-up Space
296 – 298 Aigburth Road, Liverpool
Tel: 0151 726 0232.
Gallery opening hours Thu – Sun from 2pm – 5.30pm

ZHAO ZHU: Face to face

The Chinese impressionist artist Zhao Zhu is in residence at the gallery throughout this year’s Biennial. He wanted to come to Liverpool because of the links with Shanghai, and has already formed connectons with the large and long-established Chinese community here. On the day of opening he had just completed a portrait of local Chinatown legend Brian Wong.

Other local celebrities have also already been immortalized, with many more to come.

A teacher in the Art Institute of Guizhou University, Guiyang, capital of the province where he lives, he has already established a reputation as a highly respected painter. Freely admitting his admiration for some modern Western portrait artists, particularly Lucien Freud, he nevertheless imbues his work with a distinctly Eastern atmosphere, for instance including traditional Chinese calligraphy.

The apparently casual style belies an attention to detail which captures a moment in time, a fleeting facial expression, or a small, unintentional disarrangement of clothing. This endows the paintings with an exciting live and participatory feel, and a light and humorous touch..

Studying at China’s Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing from 1983, he began to assimilate some Western influences, particularly Impressionism, into work which derived from his personal and local experience, and to use a medium of oil on canvas which is not traditional in China.

Versions of this exhibition have already successfully shown in Shanghai and at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. Since arriving on Merseyside, Zhao Zhu has completed several ‘lightning’ portraits, including one of the owner of View Two, Ken Martin (in 2 hours 30 mins).

Commissioned portraits will be available by arrangement.

View Two Gallery, 23 Mathew Street, Liverpool
Gallery opening hours Thu – Sat afternoons; other times by special arrangement.

SYLVIA HIKINS: Sea-Scapes – Land Shapes: an exhibition of contemporary paintings

‘As a well-established artist, poet, broadcaster. (radio and television), politician and author, Sylvia Hikins’ reputation precedes her and gives her newer work a lot to live up to. A winner of the Waterstone’s Poetry Prize, Sylvia has appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

This exhibition celebrates her love of things Viking, of Scandinavia and, especially, of Iceland. In March 2010 she was there when Eyjafjallajokull erupted (which caused the disruptive ash cloud) and she actually flew over it in a tiny Cessna airplane. This year she travelled across the Arctic Circle into Norway, into the territory where a thousand years ago the Vikings set sail.

Part of her fascination is the tangible link with once Viking Wirral where Old Norse was once spoken: the same language as that of the Icelandic, who share a common heritage. These paintings capture the cold, empty, dangerous and extra-ordinary landscape which keep drawing her back.

She describes this as ‘huge, wild expanses of ice and fire, mountain and sea’. In oil on canvas, the series of square paintings which include ‘Gathering Storm’ depict, in shades of blue, grey and white, an unforgiving, alienating territory which both forbids and invites further exploration.

They are displayed in the Nordic Church in Liverpool – a beautiful, light infused building with a high vaulted ceiling, blue painted pews, with Scandinavian flags flying outside.

The exhibition also features works by Erica Hamilton, and Jane Hughes.

Nordic Church and Cultural Centre, 138 Park Lane, Liverpool (300 m south from John Lewis)
Opening hours: Sat 11.00 – 14.00, Sun 13.00 – 16.00, Wed 11.00- 15.00, Thurs 18.00-21.00

BILL ZYGMANT: Iconic photographs

Legendary photographer Bill Zygmant, famed for his images of musicians and celebrities including The Beatles, Bee Gees and Jimi Hendrix, comes to Liverpool to showcase a collection of his work.

The images, taken from the sixties onwards, provide some definitive shots of the music industry.

This is no ordinary exhibition of familiar images of ‘the usual suspects’. Bill did not set out to be a celebrity snapper; his interest in photography started at an early age after seeing press photographers on newsreels. He got a job as a paperboy to enable him to purchase his first camera and he spent most of his leisure hours looking for good photo opportunities, before beginning his career at the London Star. He next worked at the New Chronicle in Fleet Street, first on the picture desk and then in the darkroom.

But it was 1962 he joined a Fleet Street picture agency where he soon made lots of contacts; he was ‘in the right place at the right time’, and became a friend to many of his subjects (the pictures of Jimi Hendrix are taken at his house; reportedly Bill was the only photographer ever allowed inside).

Then in 1966 he went freelance, his work being regularly published in the Musical Express, Billboard and Picture Post as well as British national newspapers and magazines.

He took the first pictures of John Lennon and Yoko Ono months before the official announcement of their relationship. At the Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool ‘The Zygmant Suite’ is named in recognition of his many Beatle images. In 2009 his pictures were exhibited in The National Gallery.

Penny Lane Gallery, 38 Penny Lane, Liverpool
Gallery opening hours: Wed-Mon 11am-5.30pm, closed Tues


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