Independents at Arena

Arena Studios, Duke Street
15th September - 15th December 2006 (Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm)

Reviewed by Adam Ford

One gallerygoer compared the exhibition space at Arena to the scene in The Matrix where Neo learns kung fu in one second, because there's too much to take in during an ordinary twenty-minute visit. There are four floors, and the exhibits take up an astonishing 5,000 square feet. So I'd set aside a couple of hours if you want to see this.

The ground floor is divided into two large displays, plus the reception area. German artist Brigitte Jurack fills an entire room with her 'Ich Sehe Schwarz Weiss' (I See Black White). Twenty scale models are exhibited, and some of the buildings are familiar while some are not. The pavilion on New Brighton seafront (above) is certainly well known to me, and though no eighth wonder of the world is to be found within the collection, there is no doubting Jurack's skill. The whiteness, uniformity and perfection of her sculptures is in stark contrast to the actual condition that some of the structures are in, ravaged as they are by the elements and bored teenagers or other things that aren't part of the plan. Jurack shows us what the designers see, an ordered if characterless world of little boxes - an important consideration in Liverpool at the moment.

Floor one is called ‘Painted Into A Corner’, and is supposed to be a tribute to all the artists who are being forced out of the Arena studios by high rents. I don’t really know how a room with lots of pink things – including fifteen pink balloons – is supposed to do that though. Maybe some of them liked the colour pink.

The second floor is labelled ‘Near Distance’. Paul Luckraft’s ‘Equivalents for the Megaliths’ shows Space Odyssey-style giant stones in various styles and mixed media. Most intriguing (if I could only get it off the wall) is Sean Hawkridge’s ‘Found’, which is a framed twenty pound note he claims to have found. Sean will apparently return it to the rightful owner if you email him at But it’s the Queen’s money anyway; it just suits her purposes to let Sean Hawkridge mind it for a bit.

The third and final floor is enigmatically designated ‘Co*he*sion’. Gemma Harris’ ‘C’ is a room festooned with letters and overhung by envelopes. You can read them if you want, or you can kick them about a bit. But my favourite works on all four floors are Mark Harrison’s ‘Retrospective’ corner, which is decorated with paintings of modern life that are full of character and colour.

Now, where did I put that twenty pound note?

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