Liverpool John Moores Exhibition 2014

Juliette Losq - ViniculumWalker Art Gallery
Mediums and Messages
5th July - 30th November 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

It's that time again - not quite a bonfire of the vanities, but still, the pruning of 2600 art works down to the fifty on show and from these the top five which will compete for the coveted £25,000 first prize, is a massive exercise. Hung in the light and airy Walker display space, ideal for this prestigious show, it prompted judge Lynette Jiadon-Boakye to enthuse. "It's about what painters are actually trying to achieve that counts".

So who made it through in the end?

The £2,500 prize winners first. Juliette Losq's (watercolour and ink on canvas - see right), Viniculum, is huge in concept, size and reverse telescopic virtuosity as it spirals into a wild and edgy overgrown garden scene, centred on what seems to be a cat but turns out to be a bag of rubbish. 'Brutal' by Mandy Payne is a snapshot of the unloved half of a schizophronic high rise estate in Sheffield, encapsulating the architectural style of the title and presented here in aerosol spray on concrete. So far so good.

The next three are all oil on canvas. The ambivalent 'Sometimes I forget that you are gone', from Rae Hicks is a 'prequel' to the finished article - triangular building blocks in dirty shades of boy scout green, black and yellow that can, (maybe), be juxtaposed at the will of the artist. 'Jessica' portrays a floating static female figure fronting a light background and is unexceptional beyond the black splattered pattern on her jumper; but it gets Allesandro Roho into the winners enclosure.

Finally Rose Wylie with her contrived and self satisfying 'PV Windows and Floorboards' shows glamourised caricatures of some attendees at a private viewing. Spread across two stretched side by side canvases and stylised beyond naivety or childlike representation, this is an in your face piece of work from an painter now clearly finding her second wind.

There is also a Visitors Choice Prize, this year worth £2014. So what else is there to catch the public's eye?

'88 Calories' from Connor Rogers, acrylic on crisp packet, shows a mundane back garden scene which has just been swept clean of possibly the carrier of the finished image. Clever. So too is Tom Hackney's gesso on linen, oak frame, Chess Painting No 21 Duchamp v Kostic, Nice, 1930, which charts, in blocks of white or black paint, the build up of the final pattern arrived at after the pieces have finished traversing the board. Interestingly the exhibit on the wall is not the one shown on posters advertising the show or the exhibition guide.

Mention also goes to 'Freezer'. This acrylic on canvas by Suzi Hamilton hones in on a grotesque image of an old woman appearing to dissolve into a freakish supermarket dystopia of soulless white light loneliness. 'Sister is that you?' by Reuben Murray is a massive oil on canvas showing the distorted face of a brutalised woman in blocks of vivid colour. It is as emotionally potent as anything else on display and leaves the viewer to ponder what prompted the white, blue, brown and bruised red image in the painter's mind.

Inked Prosopon/0813 Silicon paint, Styrofoam and MDF by Neal Rock, clings to the wall resembling an ice-cream from the van outside the gallery and looks just as tasty. Finally, there is also a truncated Show of Five Chinese Prize winners from this year's sister Shanghai Exhibition. The oil on canvas 'Qiu Chen' from Zeng Haozong is head and shoulders above the rest.

The exhibition runs for a few more months as part of this year's Liverpool Art Biennial, so there is plenty of time to go and make your own mind up.

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