Liverpool, 2028:
Six Alternate ‘Futures’

Darren Blenkhorn, End of the Line: When Billy Brown gets His Oats

What will the ‘future’ look like? Specifically what does that future hold for Liverpool? This was the challenge posed by Bido Lito! and dot-art to the city’s artistic community in an open call, to consider the city’s creative future. The resulting exhibition, hosted by Dot Art, offer us visions of a decade hence, which terrify and beguile in equal measure.  

It is perhaps, sadly, all too inevitable that three of the six artists focused on terrifying, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic visions of the city. James Chadderton’s ‘Liver Building’, echoes a tradition of graphic comics in presenting Liverpool’s most iconic architectural landmark laid waste. This intricate fine line monochrome drawing offers a sublime meditation on the nature of ruins and maintains an uncertain, fragile beauty, despite the gravity of the subject. Whilst Tommy Graham’s ‘And They’ll Pick Through the Rubble With a Fine Tooth Comb’, imagines an awakening, Manga-like, monster. The execution is brisk, doodle like, and reminds one of the better graffiti seen within public house lavatory cubicles. Note that this is not to disparage the work, but rather seek to convey the essential ‘rough’ essence of the piece.

Perhaps less successful is Alan Murray’s provocative take on the future. In ‘Little Terror Street’, scenes of urban warfare include Sonic the Hedgehog and giant Care Bears as combatants, alongside attack helicopters, fighter jets, fatigue-wearing soldiers and a member of Isis. Witnessing this is a purple bin whose prosthetic phallus nose seems especially vulnerable to the inevitable ‘collateral damage’. The addition of an Ariana Grande poster may however, be labouring the point somewhat. Alan Murray’s second piece, ‘The Damned Parade’appears to channel both William and Sir Peter Blake’s spirits in a montage of characters, but such nightmarish visions are now rather derivative, post-Chapman brothers and Perry, and seem rather contrived. 

The sole female artist in the show is Hannah Blackman-Kurz and her works offer perhaps the most positive ‘vision’. The high, vibrant, colour palette employed in conjunction with her subjects offer an alternative perspective: her abstract figures appear to quite happily share the same space, seemingly inhabiting the same body in ‘The Opposition’. With cell phone and microphone in hand this seems a portrait of contemporary and future protest? Whilst in ‘Sea of Communication’ the matrix of gazes between the cast of several abstracted heads are all met, perhaps offering an antidote to the curse of Babel.

Michael Lacey also offers new works, as well as some familiar pieces to the exhibition. His new pieces are a continuation of his usual themes of strangely ambiguous post-human ruins, or oddly floating objects above snow-topped mountains. His ‘Masterpiece Foundation’has canonical pieces of Western Art levitating in space, before an uninhabited landscape. Encountering his work is a beguiling, yet disconcerting experience. 

Such sentiments are also palpable when considering the work of Darren Blenkhorn whose large, roughly executed canvases employ an almost industrial approach to painting. The strokes both vigorous and gestural, suggest a tension between fine art and an expressive, almost naïve approach to figuration. Do such dramatic strokes suggest frustration, resentment or perhaps resignation? The use of symbolism is even more apparent in ‘End of the Line: When Riley Brown Gets His Oats’, a work in which sex, S&M, and drug use are referenced. These are powerful works which directly challenge pre-conceptions and presumed ideas, but do they offer a vision of the future, or are they rather, a comment on the contemporary condition?   

Liverpool 2028 offers a multitude of visions, and the works provoke questions but provide no answers.  Perhaps we shall all just have to wait and see… here’s to 2028.

Liverpool 2028 is on display until 6 July, 2019.

Ed Montana-Williams is an Art and Architectural Historian based in Liverpool.

Published 30.05.2019 by Sinead Nunes in Reviews

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