Despite the predictable rainy Northern winter weather, I was happy to make a trip to Liverpool, to visit the Walker Art Gallery, which for me, never disappoints. The current exhibition, REALITY, includes a thoughtfully curated selection of modern and contemporary British paintings, all of which run with the same theme of conveying ‘real life’ in modern day Britain. All the paintings on show demonstrate very distinctive skills and what struck me the most, as I wandered around was the emotion evident in each work. Some of the subject matter was bizarre and some thought-provoking, for example a painting by Alan Macdonald titled Spam Dragon stood out with its tin of SPAM and a large Komodo dragon set into an otherwise romantic landscape.
There were some particularly striking paintings in the show such as a poignant portrait Girl with Beret by Lucian Freud. David Hepher’s Tree, is one of the artists trademark urban landscape paintings that depicts blocks of council flats in East London, a seemingly mundane everyday sight within our British landscape, but it’s only as you get up close that you notice the fine, intense detail captured in the surface; each curtain invites the viewer to question what could be behind it.
REALITY ultimately reminds the viewer of the power of painting as an experience over and above the speed of scanning images on the internet and the seduction of social media.
It’s only painters that seem to be able to create these unusual, unique worlds simply from their imagination. The grouping of work in this exhibition emphasises how combining an eclectic mix of paintings, all connected by the same theme running through them, can create a profound and cohesive world in which the viewer can get lost for even just a short while.
Unlike many of the big galleries in London, such as the RA and Tate Modern, the exhibitions at the Walker Art Gallery are free – Liverpool itself is an extremely accessible city for an art day out with lots of smaller spaces to check out too. If you can spare the time away from the screen, I highly recommend it.