Logic in Leckey?

Felex 009.JPG

Mark Leckey brings the fiction of the virtual works to an oversized reality in three-dimensional form with Zoo Logic.

Mark Leckey, the Birkenhead Boy and one-time Turner Prize winner has brought a colossal, larger than life form of Felix the Cat to the upper level of the Walker Gallery. Although his academic life, the gateway to the Art World was a little chequered his early successes sprung from graduation, then propelled through the Turner Prize. What hoops were jumped, bridges crossed to get this feline form to the Walker Gallery?

Growing up on the Wirral from a working class background both Leckey’ parents worked for Littlewood in the days where brand name retails store’s dominated consumer culture. Finding little stimulation from a Beddington Comprehensive he left with one O-Level in Art, from this he decided to reject possibilities of training schemes and signed on. He became one of the ‘Casuals’ of the early eighties, sporting designer clothing and assembling in gangs of white male youths. His stepfather became disenchanted by Leckey’ lifestyle, penultimately giving him a long talk about direction in life before throwing him out to fend for himself. From this he travelled to London, finding no success in his attempt to sell Jelly Shoes from a bygone era at Portobello market he then began his art scholar direction, leading him to study in Newcastle.

His works for his degree showing felt very little to Leckey, producing a system of strip lights he considered to be a kind of imitation of art rather than work of genuine merit. However this was to be his first plummet to success, the work gaining a place at the sort after New Contemporaries Exhibition and his piece being exhibiting beside a work produced by none other than Damien Hirst. Now free from academia to take his creative practice in directions which he desired, Leckey began to create works around the theme of British Culture. His first major success being ‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’ produced right at the end of the last decade of the twentieth century. In this, he assembles footage from the seventies and eighties underground music scene, accumulating in the rave culture which was to dominate the nineties. This brought him a cult following which an instant audience for his earlier piece around the theme of Felix the Cat. In 2008 he was to give us ‘Industrail Light and Magic’ developing his skills in combing archived footage to great success, ultimately being awarded the Turner Price from Tate Liverpool being staged there for the Capital of Culture celebrations. Nostalgia, the re-experiencing of feelings and the relationship between virtual and real life have dominated his work since the award.

Felix was taken to the Grundy Gallery in Blackpool before his journey to Liverpool. Again, he has been located in an exhibition space which looks to encase the gigantic from, his body being engrossed over an angle and static against a pillar. His eyes peering over the balcony to the lower floor, looking directly at the visitor wish engulf the staircases to explore the Walkers newest installation. Zoo Logic was originally commissioned by the Arts Council to celebrate its seventieth birthday and presents ‘Feel the Cat’ adjacent to the inflatable form. In this, we have a virtual space where original footage of Felix being broadcast mixed together in Leckey’ usual methods of cutting sound and visual motion together. His choices of three-dimensional form and re-cut footage present us with High and Low Art simultaneously, the ability to engage with a family audience combined with the potential for critic thoughts in regards to culture and engagement.

In his early fifties, Leckey has had a constantly developing and growing art career. Although visible in the creative market of the YBA generation he was never sought to become one of those entitled to the term. This has been due to the ever-expanding changes in his work through new media to physical forms, the YBA’s being almost brand like where their work is instantly recognised as being from a particular artist. Although similar themes of British Culture and general nostalgia works vary greatly in presentation. However, we have media installations which look to engage with the virtual world on a level which has not been explored so intensely to date, Leckey can only continue to grow as an artist and bring more to Liverpool, London, the UK and the international Art Market.

Zoo Logic continues on the 26th of February 2017.

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It’s all about Me!

Tracey Emin ‘My Bed’

Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ comes to Tate Liverpool

Tracey Emin, one of Britain’s leading female artists, characterised for making biographical artworks, brought ‘My Bed’ to Tate Liverpool last week. Tension mounted over a year since the announcement was made that it was to come the North of England for the first time; there was a flurry of press attention. However, there were not the cries of the late nineties of ‘The stinking Bed’ and the endless rhetoric of late night comedy shows referring to the installation and Emin as the focus of mock-like humour. ‘But is it Art?’ was being branded around when it was first shown at Tate Britain for the Turner Prize, two decades on this question seemed to have disappeared. What was started by Du Champ in the use of ready-made in the early part of the twentieth Century, developed on by the Italians with the famed ‘Arte Povera’ in the seventies, finishing off with Emin and the YBA movement at the seems the have been accepted as ‘Art’ by the gallery going public of the twenty-first century. Will it create the same stir in Liverpool as it did at Tate Britain almost twenty years ago? Are masses of visitors to trail, to glimpse ‘My Bed’ in the same way they did to the Turner Prize in 1999? Has Emin mellowed into her fifties? How do her exhibits work with Blake collection from the seventeenth and early eighteenth Century?

Selling for just over 2.5 Million at Christies in 2014, Count Christian Dureckheim the new owner loaned ‘My Bed’ to the Tate for the next ten years. Tracey Emin created ‘My Bed’ in her flat in Waterloo in 1998, the actual bed and it’s contents come from her bedroom of the period. The work is a response to a relationship breakdown in which she spent four days in bed crying, in mustering the energy to get out of bed the scene she returned to was re-created in the artwork. The bed itself is the stage for the contents which represent a destructive lifestyle. Men and women’s underwear scattered across the bedding, items of contraception and KY Jelly representing sexual activity. The polaroids indicate pleasure through the time they were taken and the possibility of returning to these times. The heaps of used tissues indicating the days spent crying when she considered herself to be ‘Suicidally depressed’. The passage of time is shown through the cigarette butts, the empty bottles and the excrement present on the bedding. The exhibits in the installation came from Emin’ original bed. Things which are now obsolete, contraception and branded goods which no longer exist in the form presented. Tampons she no longer needs and a belt which no longer fits. The yellowed newspaper adding to the time capsule created two decades ago. The creation of ‘My Bed’ can be seen as a positive drawn from the negative lifestyle which Emin was living in the nineties, a lifestyle which she has left in the Past.

Has the original Bad Girl of British art still got the power to shock, or has she lost her bottle? The vodka bottles which used to nestle beside her bed have now gone, tequila has been exchanged for tea, slippers lined with condoms and have been replaced by those of the organic cotton variety, swimming regularly in her local baths as opposed to swarming in the urine stained sheets of ‘My Bed’. However, the new collection of gouaches are every bit as confrontational as her early mono prints and collections such as ‘There’s something Wrong’. The simple monotone line depictions of herself confront us with the image of a sexually active woman. ‘All for you’ presents us with Emin’ legs sprawled open, her pubic hair on show and her arms held back behind her head, this is the pose of a woman waiting to be penetrated, this is a woman who desires sex and is not constrained with social etiquette, she is letting us know what she wants. In ‘I can feel you’ her body is staged in a sexual way suggestive of female masturbation. In the same way of the polaroids presented in ‘My Bed,’ this shows Emin thinking of the pleasurable times of previous relationships. On the other hand, there are indications that Emin has left her negative lifestyle choices behind, in ‘Stay Up’ we have an image of Emin waking with an arm stretch upwards. In this image and the choice of title, she is suggesting she has moved on from her depressive habits of dwelling in bed for days on end, she is pushing herself to get up and get on with her daily activities. A strong collection of gouaches as ground-breaking as her early works but with the experience of a woman in her fifties.

Tate Liverpool’ use of Reds and Blacks for the walls of the exhibition work well throughout the exhibition. The red which surround ‘My Bed’ draws on the death-like scene Emin creates, originally describing the scene she saw in her Waterloo flat as ‘It looked like someone had been fucked to death’. The Blake’s which surround Emin’ gouaches seem to compliment the monotone nature of the work, which carries through with the paintings of Blake where minimal colour is applied. The parallels between the two artists, born two hundred years apart are shown through their pre-occupations with birth, death dreams and sex. In the same way as Emin, Blake stood against the constrictions of the society of his day, with a liberal approach to sexual freedom shown through the works presented. A brave and possibly ground-breaking exhibition from the Tate through the mixing of Old and New masters.

The Impact of ‘My Bed’ is clearly as strong as it ever was, future months will lead to an influx of visitors to view the installation and the destructive lifestyle which Emin was living in the Nineties. Many of the debris of her life, have dated quickly over two decades, polaroids almost non-existent, the branded contraceptive and sanitary items modernising with the decades, the yellowed newspaper appearing as some kind of museum artefact. The new gouaches complimenting ‘My Bed’ showing Emin to be a sexually confrontational as ever. But in true Emin-style, it was simply, ‘All about Her’. The works of the Old Master, Blake paled in relation to the collection presented by Emin. Although there were interesting comparisons made between the two artists new exhibitions are likely to look towards displaying works of a similar period together, her YBA compatriot Sarah Lucas springing to mind.

A ‘Not to be missed exhibition’ on show at Tate Liverpool until September 2017.

Alison Little


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The Bloomsberries


Who were the Bloomsberries?

The ‘Bloomsberries’ were a group of artists, writers, civil servants and many others who shared similar philosophies and made up what is termed ‘The Bloomsbury Group’. Many of them had met at Cambridge when studying there during the early years of the Twentieth Century. They would meet to discuss ideas around everything from art and literature to politics and economics. First wave feminism was key to the group and differences in sexuality were of prominent concern. Pacifism became a core issue in response to the outbreak of the World War One, many of the members becoming contentious objectors. Key members were to include Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Vanessa and Clive Bell, Roger Fry and not forgetting Duncan Grant.

The Stephen’s family were central to the group, the eldest brother Thoby had been at Cambridge and was a leading force in discussion groups. However, he was to die in his mid-twenties after picking up a serious case of influenza when travelling in Europe. This was to leave the two sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, later to become Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, as the steering fraction of the ‘Bloomsberries’. They were joined by their younger brother Adrian, who like Thoby and Vanessa had also attended Cambridge. The meetings were held weekly at their house which was located in the Bloomsbury area of central London and where the name: ‘The Bloomsbury Group’ was instigated. About a year after Thoby’s death Vanessa married Clive Bell, Virginia and Adrian moving out to let them have the marital home to themselves. At this point, it looked as if the group was to disperse, however Vanessa brought everyone back together, they began to hold regular discussion groups on Thursday evenings once again. Further disruption was caused by the Great War, many of the members registering as conscientious objectors and being sent to work on farms outside of the Capital. The group reformed after the war years, Vanessa and her then family moving out to a large farmhouse: Charleston in Sussex. Nearby the now ‘Wolf’s’: Virginia had married Leonard Wolf, had a holiday home and Roger Fry, w a new wife in tow, relocated to the area. Charleston and Vanessa, had many visitors to stay and this almost commune like dwelling became the spiritual home of the Bloomsbury Group.

Duncan Grant was a core to the group, unlike the others he was penniless, his clothes bedraggled he had met Vanessa around 1910, then he became acquainted with Virginia and Adrian as they like nearby in similar dwellings. He was a painter and his paintings began to acquire a reputation, greatly influenced by the Post-Impressionist exhibition he developed his style from this point. Although he considered himself to be a homosexual he began and affair with Vanessa after she moved out to Charleston, her marriage to Clive has been blighted by infidelity from both parties. Duncan moved into Charleston with Vanessa and he fathered her youngest daughter, Angelina. Although he never gave up his homosexual pursuits, even engaging in a brief affair with Vanessa’s youngest brother; Adrian, he continued to live with her at Charleston for over forty years. Entangled personal lives were common within the group, however, Duncan and Vanessa also had a professional artist working relationship. They often painted the same models and shared source material, a major career highlight being the murals they worked on together at the nearby Berwick Church.

The Post-Impressionist exhibition which had greatly influenced Duncan Grant was brought to London by another member of the group: Roger Fry. He was slightly older than the others, around ten years they’re senior. He was a painter, a prominent art critic and a leading curator. Although he had attended Cambridge, he had been studying science, his parents were Quakers and his upbringing had been strict. After graduating with a First, he decided that he wanted to become an artist, a move which his parents could not understand. However, his success in the Art world were to be great, curating exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, then he brought works of Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh and Picasso to London with the Post-Impressionist exhibition of 1910. This actually damaged his reputation as an art critic as the exhibition received poor reviews and there was a public outcry over the art which had been shown. His next move was to form a company called the Omega Workshop where he was to engage in artist production of everyday objects: fabrics, mural, ceramics, rugs. Many of the other artists in the group were involved within the company, although it went into liquidation the Avant-garde style and the ethos lived on through the decorative work within Charleston. As of the other members of the group his personal affairs were also entangled, having a brief affair with Vanessa herself around 1910, later settling down and marrying, then to engage in another adulterous affair under the roof at Charleston.

What became of the Bloomsbury Group?

The group began to disperse around the 1930’s, Roger Fry dying suddenly from a fall in 1934. Other members of the group were to come to fateful ends: Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey were to die within a month of each other. Lytton, a prominent writer was too loose his battle for life through stomach cancer, although he was a homosexual, Dora had been in love with him for many years, she didn’t see any point in living without him and shot her herself dead. Julian Bell, Vanessa’ eldest son’s life was ended abruptly as an ambulance driver in the Spanish Civil war. Virginia Woolf was to kill herself, famously, by drowning in 1941. Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Leonard Woolf we to live long and full lives but the group had fully disbanded, too many had died, the philosophies and economics of the early twentieth century had changed too much over the course of two World Wars.

Many artefacts and workings of the group remain at Charleston and can still be seen today.



‘Home’ previews on Lark Lane

Arts Hub second Annual Open exhibition opened in South Liverpool last week. Arts Hub is a small independent arts collective based at 47 Lark Lane. Opening as a Community Co-operative almost four years ago it has grown from strength to strength. On the ground level, there is a shop space selling a range of goods: from crochet to hand carvings, from prints to paintings, from poetry to ceramic pots, from cards to music compilations. On the first floor, we have a gallery space which hosts a variety of exhibitions throughout the year. All the co-operatives members are practising artists, writers or musicians and help to run the shop. The latest exhibition is based around the theme of ‘Home’ and there is everything from realism, textile-based media and social statement pieces. The exhibition was hung in the true spirit of Lark Lane, ‘Back in five minutes’ notice being popped on the door while blue-tack was being brought. The Private View was held on the Friday Evening and attended by many, the exhibition opened to the Public from Saturday.

Oscar Yi Hou ‘ Portrait of an Artists Mother takes your attention as you enter the exhibition. His interpretation of ‘Home’ as an emotive subject is well defined:

‘My Mother was my home for nine months of part of which I now consider my home, not a physical place but any place with my Mother.’

This is an intense piece where he has added drama by contrasting blues and oranges, the shadows of the creases made by the fabric have been exacerbated for the purposes of the painting. The use of acrylics and painterly techniques lead us to the Mothers central face, a woman engrossed in her thoughts, not looking to communicate with anyone.

‘Palm House’ from Alison Little brings in some girly pink to the first-floor gallery. Alison explores new methods of combining fabrics and the use of freehand machine embroidery. We are presented with a mixture of patterns to create variations between flowers, cloud forms, foliage and the man-made structure of this iconic Liverpool Building. An almost grid-like form presents the Victorian structure, this is contrasted with the patterned fabrics used for the natural forms, combined with spiralling methods of embroidery she has produced this large-scale wall-based piece. The combination of colour, patterning and hard-edged embroidery techniques bring the white washed walls to life.

Central to the exhibition we have plinth based ‘Home from Home’ created by Susan Hartley. In this she presents us with four traditional Liverpool terraced houses using a variety of Materials and techniques:

Hessian and wire, laminated lace, thick wool blend and hand- made felt.

The four forms combine well as a collection, free standing but with a look of fragility that cannot be paralleled. Beauty has been created from fabrics, such as sack like Hessian, which is often seen as simply a packaging material. Combining the fabrics with wire, embellishments and laminating technique we have traditional terraces intended for mass occupation presented as objects of artistry and clear leaders in the World of High-End Craft.

The textile girls, Alison and Susan, were joined by Kate Ellis and her magnificent ‘Threads of Home’. The painters were joined by the realism of Stephen Mahoney’ ‘Creature Comforts’ and the Oil based ‘A Summers Evening in Sefton Park’ from Keith Fearon. Barbara Hurst presented some well-framed prints and Dusk from Tony Kennedy brought in plenty of colours. Andy Smith’s ‘Smashed Community’ reminded us that things are not always ‘Pretty’ in this statement piece, finishing off with Jan Seers works were she combines painting techniques with mosaic. A ‘Must Pop in Exhibition’ which will run until the 25th of September.

Alison Little