Continues to 4th March 2018
Reviewed by Joe Coventry
Food For Thought
The existential home of the vegetarian and vegan community in Liverpool hosted this joint exhibition, which was not always true to the ethos of the place. On the walls, the artists displayed recent examples of their commitment to portray not only human suffering and injustice but how the animal and insect world is also abused by a less than caring society. So take a seat and get the ambience of the place before a more detailed viewing.
There is no obvious starting point but Holstein’s ‘Trio of Beetles’, the outliers finely drawn in red ink complementing the black paper collage image in the centre, first caught my eye.
Behind the partition Pickavance, on the other hand, gathers contented primates together to emphasise her favoured pencil and pastel sketching technique. Most impressive is ‘Mandrill King’, in various shades of delicate colour; he is at home in the situation, the artist a grateful bystander allowed into his domain, however Pickavance works primarily from photographs, so make your own judgement, call here.
Her life drawing techniques come to the fore benignly in the likes of a 2017 pastel and pencil print of ‘Johan’ (iconic Dutch footballer) Cruyff, but her representations of people under duress are a lot darker. Etoliated sketchy watercolours of ‘Refugee Children’, the caged in minors in ‘Exceptional Cases’, and a portrait of a distraught young girl ‘Displaced in Islamabad’ paint a more harrowing picture.
For Holstein the well-being of animals or insects is central to the concerns of the message she is trying to put across. As part of the ‘Boss Of…’ etching and aquatint series an irascible cat and a bucolic bovine dominate the space. Not so in ‘Dog of Doom’ or ‘Progress was slow’; the canine edgily fronts a backdrop of text with no feel-good factor and is a metaphor referencing mental instability. The latter portrays a snail pulling a container of self destructive salt. Stress at work the extrapolation here: in both issues that can afflict all creatures great and small.
It is not though all despair and gloom on display. Holstein brightens things up with plastic portrayals of Beetles and Butterflies and in mixed media relief ‘Golden Bees’, ‘Camouflage Scorpion’ and ‘Half and Half Lobster’ there is an attempt at humour. The message of ‘Taxidermist’s Armadillo’ or a plaintive arm band black animal pelt leave a totally different taste in the mouth.
There are big issues covered here by both artists, and although it may require a bit of manual dexterity on the part of the viewer to get close enough to view some of the exhibition, perseverance should win the day if you visit.