Liverpool Biennial 2016

12 July 2016 § Leave a comment

‘… fictions, stories and histories taking viewers on a series of voyages through time and space, drawing on Liverpool’s past, present and future’ – Liverpool Biennial Guide

Liverpool Biennial 2016 Toxteth

If this summary makes this years Liverpool Biennial sound rather complicated, well, actually it is. And that is not all. When you add on exhibitions at the Tate, the John Moores Prize exhibition, Bloomberg Contemporaries and a whole series of fringe events that run alongside then it all becomes rather bewildering.


The aforementioned Biennial ‘voyages’ actually take the form of six ‘episodes’ namely: Ancient Greece, Chinatown, Children’s Episode, Monuments from the Future and Flashback.


The Tate is a good starting point for all this with a new vision of Ancient Greece. Reflecting on the neoclassical architecture throughout the city contemporary artists have been invited to exhibit alongside exhibits largely taken from the famous Blundell collection of Greek artefacts.

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It is fine, but better is to visit the Tate’s other current exhibitions: the excellent Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms which has been cleverly placed alongside Maria Lassnig – both using the body, often distorted, deformed, ageing or fragile.

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Across town at the impressive redbrick Victorian Cains Brewery is a selection of episodes arranged around the hall and in to Andrea Angelidakis’ spiral Collider installation. In the centre is the film Dogsy Ma Bone from Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, made with local children over recent months and inspired by Betty Boop’s A Song A Day and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. The whole looks rather like a student degree show although there are excellent individual works.

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Around the corner at the Blade Factory is a highlight, a ‘Flashback’ from Mark Leckey. His film Dream English Kid draws on scraps of film, TV archive and ephemera, recreating events from his life between the seventies and nineties in a compelling dream-like sequence.


Another highlight was Lara Favaretto’s Momentary Monument: The Stone (2016) in Rhiwlas Street, Toxteth – a monument to destroyed community.

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Two more ‘ Flashback’ artists are being exhibited at FACT. Lucy Beech’s new film Pharmakon shows downstairs whilst upstairs there are a series of interesting films and installations from Krzysztof Wodiczko, who has been working with the homeless and marginalised.

The Open Eye Gallery at Mann Island has devoted the downstairs gallery to Koki Tanaka’s ‘flashback’ revisiting of an 1985 protest march. It was not particularly gripping, but upstairs were a series of clever, witty and thought-provoking videos by Ramin Heirzadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh & Hesam Rehmanian.

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Up at the historic and important ABC (scandalously being allowed to fall derelict) is a ‘Flashback’ – a rather ponderous film from Giraud & Siboni and a selection of sculptures. Better, and out of the biennial at the adjacent Walker, is the 2016 John Moores Painting Prize exhibition. Won by the likes of Peter Doig, Rose Wylie, Sir Peter Blake and John Hoyland the quality is, as expected, exceptional. Michael Simpson was this years winner of the £25,000 cheque.

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Bloomberg’s New Contemporaries at the Bluecoat was rather disappointing, but at least the courtyard is a great place to relax with a coffee away from the hustle and bustle. Of the associate artists we particularly loved Lindsey Bull at the India Buildings.

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Outside the biennial, as well as the Tate, Walker & Bluecoat why not try going a little farther? There are Sir Peter Blake’s Dazzle Ferry, Crosby Beach for Antony Gormley’s Another Place or the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight

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Whilst the actual biennial ends up as rather a curatorial mess, it really does not matter that much. Ignore the rather muddled theme, just get out and about, explore the city and some great venues – in and out of the biennial. You are sure to find some surprising gems along the way.

Liverpool Biennial is at various venues until  16 October 2016

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy, London

2 July 2016 § Leave a comment

This review is also posted in arts & culture magazine CELLOPHANELAND here

There is probably little point in making any sort of critical analysis of the latest Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It is what it is, which to be honest is rather a mess. Pretty much every gallery is hung by a different curator and whilst it is interesting to see what they have done it is ultimately beside the point.

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

The whole show should rather be taken more at face value – an annual opportunity for the talented, enthusiastic, amateurish and hopeful to apply to have their work on the walls of the academy. Here they can rub shoulders with the latest pieces from the Royal Academicians in a gloriously anarchic jumble.

David Mach Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

David Mach

Marina Abramovic Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Marina Abramovic – Carrying the Skeleton

This years ‘co-ordinator’ is the sculptor Richard Wilson best known for 20:50 – the oil filled installation at the Saatchi. He has invited twenty artistic duos to present their work within this years exhibition. We therefore have Gilbert & George with Beard Aware and Jane & Louise Wilson in the lobby stairwell with Chernobyl. 

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Jane & Louise Wilson

Boyle Family Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Boyle Family – Elemental Study

There are other obvious duos like Jake & Dinos Chapman, Eva & Adele, Allora & Calzadilla, Bernd & Hilla Becher and Tim Noble & Sue Webster. Their presence however serves no real curatorial purpose and they are lost within the show – at best it is simply of interest to see some of their work.

Gilbert & George Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Gilbert & George – Beard Aware

Almost all of the pieces are of course for sale and it is quite a good opportunity to pick some work for your own walls. Prices of course vary considerably from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand, and for the uninitiated it is not always easy to spot the difference!

Anselm Kiefer Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Anselm Kiefer – Bose Blumen

For the first time the works are available to browse and buy online and we would highly recommend taking a look online before the show and before purchasing (link here).

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

George Shaw – Black Magic

For our part we loved a little George Shaw edition (we highly recommend his National Gallery exhibition reviewed here) , Marguerite Horner’s enigmatic painted landscapes and Tom Hunter’s Rose prize-winning photograph Winterville. Harry Hill had one of his witty celebrity-oriented works – a tattooed David Beckham (sold but we hear High House Gallery has work available).

Tom Hunter Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Tom Hunter – Winterville

Marguerite Horner Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

Marguerite Horner – On the Edge

Harry Hill - David Beckham Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

Harry Hill – David Beckham

With rather more to spend Gert & Uwe Tobias’ had two spectacular works and there was a bright Gillian Ayres, which all seemed reasonable value despite the big ticket prices as did Rose Wylie’s Spider, Frog & Bird.

Gert & Uwe Tobias Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

Gert & Uwe Tobias – Untitled

The floor to ceiling ‘salon’ hang – which is the norm at the Summer Exhibition – makes for difficult viewing, but it is not often that so much (varied) talent is on view at the same time. Take it slowly and concentrate on works that catch your eye – we have posted a selection of those that caught ours – and you may just have a very enjoyable visit.

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

David Mach

Gary Lawrence Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Gary Lawrence – Cinque Terre with Runner Beans

The RA Summer Exhibition runs until 16 August 2016

Rose Wylie Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Rose Wylie – Spider Frog & Bird

For more information visit

in dreams at timothy taylor – opening

15 September 2010 § Leave a comment

In Dreams, Timothy Taylor Gallery, 8 September – 2 October 2010. Armen Eloyan, Volker Hueller, Tomasz Kowalski, Norbert Schwontkowski, Kiki Smith, Rose Wylie

 Exhibition review by Sue Hall. 

Remember that scene in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet where the frilly-shirted Dean Stockwell uses a worklight as a microphone and lip-synchs to Roy Orbison’s In Dreams while Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) comes over all peculiar? The title of the new exhibition of works on paper at Timothy Taylor Gallery refers to that scene in Lynch’s dark surreal film, and to the lyrics of Orbison’s song, with its allusions to the sandman of folklore and of E.T.A Hoffmann’s unheimlich tale.   It’s a great image.

The exhibition features the work of six contemporary artists of different nationalities and generations and begins with Norbert Schwontonski’s small-scale, muted works, which evoke faded, out of reach other worlds.  Surreal imagery, such as that in Kaputte Kalebasse, where a calabash gourd is pierced by a winding thorn ending in a lightbulb, provokes lots of questions but, as is the way with the surreal, no answers.

Schwontkowski, who lives and works in Bremen, taught the younger artist Volker Hueller and his influence is apparent in the latter’s restrained use of colour, and sense of inscrutability.  Hueller’s large hand–coloured etchings, Waiting for the moon (2010) hark back to the drawings of George Grosz with a similar use of line and complexity of composition.  Hueller uses collage too, but you have to look quite hard to see it. That’s Ok, because these works repay close examination: there’s so much going on and the violence and sexual tension only reveal themselves when you really look at them. 

Tomasz Kowalski, a young Polish artist who lives and works in Berlin, paints lugubriously coloured portraits and figures that conjure up images of nineteenth century fairground impresarios.  In spite of their macabre qualities they fail to entrance the viewer.  Looking at them again in reproduction they are more arresting so perhaps it’s the medium that doesn’t really work.   I’d like to see Kowalski’s larger oil paintings and sculptures: perhaps we could have a solo exhibition of his work?

Armenian artist Armen Eloyan is known for large impasto canvases and use of cartoon-like figures in human roles.  The works shown here feature a Pinocchio style wooden doll having dreams, painting, feeling sad. The fairy tale quality of the subject matter is emphasized by the bold, graphic outlines and intense watercolour, as if in a children’s storybook. The artist has created a fantastical world; and these studio works allow us glimpses of it but don’t tell us the whole story. ‘A while ago the elephant ordered the ants to make him a burger’ stresses the peculiar logicality of the world of dreams.

Kiki Smith - Home


Changing scale again (and this is one of the reasons the exhibition works) Kiki Smith’s three large collage and ink works on Nepal paper have an ethereal, elegiac quality.  Produced following the death of her mother, the sense of loss is almost palpable.  Who is going to sit in that empty chair now? The window trope, suggesting removal and apartness, is a common one, but is given fresh energy here: a tension is set up between the solidity of the window and the fragility of the Nepal paper hung delicately on the wall.  For all their melancholic language there is little sense of the uncanny in Smith’s works.  That’s not a criticism, it’s just that they lack the weirdness of an ‘other world’. 

Like Armen Eloyan, Rose Wylie is an artist who usually works on a larger scale.  Here her works on paper are, in contrast to all the other works in the show, hung in a seemingly random group, as if to emphasize her separateness. Her painting seems untaught, ‘outsider’ art, and indeed until very recently she was on the outside of the art world. That changed when she was selected for the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC’s recent exhibition Women to Watch featuring “underrepresented and/or emerging women artists”. She’s now 76, so recognition has been a long time coming. She’s not untaught though; she had a conventional art education from which she seems to want to escape.  Her inspirations are wide–ranging, from TV and films to dreams.  The picture of her cleaner on her knees, scrubbing-brush in hand, but with a cream cracker instead of a head made me laugh.  That’s what happens to people in dreams. 

 When I saw Blue Velvet for the first time I came out of the cinema feeling unsettled, disconcerted, or, as my niece would say, ‘creeped out’. I didn’t come out of In Dreams feeling like that but then not all dreams are like David Lynch’s. 

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