Ben Parry - Cammell Lairds Shed)Bracket This( - Going Native

Arena Gallery, Duke Street
2nd - 24th March 2006, 12pm-6pm

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

The team behind Liverpool’s alternative culture fanzine Mercy have a set up a reprise of their 2004 art exhibition of the same name. This time around the show is based around the theme of ‘going native’. An examination of the Liverpool Culture Company’s slogan ‘The World in One City’, it features work by artists from around the world, who are all now living and working in Liverpool.

It’s a well laid-out collection of art in a variety of forms. Moving around the space on entry, one of the first works you are greeted by is Nicole Barton’s ‘Rooted Memories’ - a collection of rectangular plastic blocks moulded around stamps, photographs and writings. It presumably examines how we try to preserve moments in our lives by taking pictures etc, but I’ve been wrong before.

One of the biggest pieces in the show - but one that is subtle rather than dominating - is Laura Pulling’s ‘Untitled Installation’. It shows a series of carefully crafted miniature models of Liverpool’s buildings, sights and scenery; the good the bad and the ugly, from the city centre to the tower blocks on the fringes. These are connected by a network of wires that cuts across the ceiling, linking the models that reside in many of the darkened corners of the old building. This theme is continued with some of her images on the wall - a further three untitled works. My interpretation was of the interconnectedness of the different parts of the city, including the side that they don’t put on the tourist brochures.

Ben Parry’s images of the sheds, cranes and docks of the once mighty Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead - entitled ‘Camells’ - were very evocative for me, having grown up in the town. He manages to capture both the desolation of the massive, abandoned structures but also the details of the decay within this panorama; cracking concrete, rust and the odd items left behind when the machines and people left. Being an awkward sod though, I feel compelled to point out that it was ‘Cammells’ not ‘Camells’ and we always knew the works as ‘Lairds’ anyway. Artistic licence is allowed I suppose.

Other impressive works included Tim Ellis’ ‘Untitled, part 2’, which was an engaging painting looking at the inherent self-destructiveness of man in a simple but smart and funny way (which to explain would give the game away). Meanwhile Jonathan Greenbank’s ‘Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt’ seems to examine the artists influences or even the influences on creation itself, from Darwin to Everton to Donnie Darko.

Despite the theme of ‘going native’, the majority of works have little to do with multiculturalism, at least not a self-conscious sense, though ‘Life on Hold’ by Nahida Yassin is an impressive example of this. It is a massive stitched canvas that examines the effect of the Israel/Palestine conflict on Palestinian children, containing photos, newspaper cuttings and writing by the children formed onto cloth. Both touching and evocative, it manages to tackle an emotive issue in an artistic way, and the emotional sincerity of the artist is obvious.

I spent a long time musing on this review, many of the works defy easy description without going into essay length, and there are many other standout works which I have not mentioned. Suffice to say this is one of the best independent, multi-artist exhibitions I have seen for as long time, with a variety of quality, engaging and entertaining works on a variety of subjects. Get down there.

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