Saturday 12th to Friday 25th May 2012
The Gallery on Stanhope Street is a space which is intimate without feeling
cluttered. Artist’s work breathes without the white-wall syndrome
of bigger galleries. They are currently presenting the group who formerly
displayed in Clayton Square, Art in the Square,
featuring paintings, drawings, screen-prints, ceramics, textiles and more.
A common thread of the canvasses was reserved use of paint, and in this
sense Mike Hatjoullis’s acrylic works were the odd one out, an opening
eyesore for those of traditional taste. Constructivist-influenced but
with looser, rawer marks, it was impressive how his architectural scenes
achieved such clear perspective, one looking down on the city and others
at eye level with the buildings, suggesting an illusion of intricacy with
little actual detail. Conversely, Martin Jones was polished and crisp,
his magnum opus priced at £1500 Princess Avenue
suffering none of the surplus gloop of Hatjoullis, liveliness still gestured
via the leaves, sharp contrast and organic palette. Liverpool
Town Hall may be the favourite Jones for those who love painters
that render photographic realism in animate hype. Lightings that cast
fairytale magic upon reality made him consistent with John Pickle’s
watercolours, also boasting mastery of mist, light and shadow.
Other painters were more in the impressionist mould, John Ratcliffe taking
from the continent and Tony Ellis’s crowds of simple, hatted people
placed in surreal settings seeming to comment on duality. Next to him
was Irene Jone’s socially sensitive calligraphy, solemn images of
city life, showing people with faces in hands or blacked out altogether
on the tube, an empty-looking political protestor and a U.S flag among
dank council estate scenery. Beyond this area there was little in the
way of ‘intellectual’ art, and more pretty household art.
There were odd treats tucked unjustly in the corner. This included more
from Jones, his psychedelic Noveau Cat and
a grungy looking man giving us his two fingers, creatively adorned with
monstrous finger puppets, Joanne Boon Thomas also worth the visit for
those interested in Picasso’s blue period. The most avant-garde
painting would come down to Adam Edwards’s not-so-pioneering stretched
figures forming geometric compositions, and Deborah Butler’s square
blocks of oil paint that create an almost mosaic effect, arguably suffering
from dingy colours in the palette. It is safe to say although there are
some reasonable abstract offerings, the exhibition is most rewarding for
fans of elegantly finished figurative and landscape paintings.
The best of the rest included Peter Philips’s large rhino and Ann
Beare’s The Allerton Oak, both muscular,
virtuous pencil drawings. Beare also glorified leaf prints into talisman,
appealing to those of superstitious disposition – in long, thin
frames, they admittedly make slick, brooding wall hangings. Mary Campbell’s
calligraphy plays with perspective, churches crouching in warped scenes.
Her Metamorphosis I and III use cold blues
to depict a strange beast on stilts, the distorted limbs consistent with
her twisting of imagery, the creature having a Marvel comics-esque quality.
Mixed media came from Cathy Turner, who uses textiles and paint. Her colours
were potent, however the felt hangings do feel like they could have been
worked into more incessantly, lacking the layers of elaborate detail that
takes this type of work to a higher star. Sandra Hepworth’s stitched
decorative pieces perhaps had more character, or possibly it was the less
immediately tangible content.
Conclusively, Art in the Square does have
remarkable diversity of media with enough remarkable skill on display
to counter the lack of modern or innovative approaches. The curators should
be praised for their use of the space, though a reshuffle may keep the
fleeting bohemian visitor enthralled rather than contented.