Saturday, 14 March 2009

Ian and Minako and The Liverpool Art Prize and Things

When you attend the plethora of gallery previews and cultural events that every major city seems to spout forth, then it does not take long to realize that the same faces crop up again and again.

These faces can be variously divided into categories, such as “the art student”, “the I am a working artist, you know”, “the socialite”, “the I always-go-for-the-free-wine “person. Sometimes even, “the buyer with a lot of empty wall space to fill”.

The common thread linking each clique is its separateness - this and the fact that no one really seems to be “looking” at whatever is being exhibited, not even the buyer. So it came as a shock to me that after attending a number of openings last year, I repeatedly caught sight of the same wiry man of circa 55 years with his attractive Japanese wife actually perusing the artwork on the walls. Not only that, but they were stealthily communicating with everyone in the room.

And so it was that I discovered Ian Jackson, the force behind Started in 2004 as an independent online resource, this site meticulously covers every facet of Liverpool’s art and cultural scene. So tirelessly does Ian, an ex-IT expert, apply himself to his not insignificant task that now has established itself as offering the most comprehensive listings of independent artists in the UK. Once even, it achieved the accolade of being named the UK’s best art blog by The Times, no less.

Ian is helped by the perennially cheerful Minako, and one is never seen without the another. It is this obvious devotion to each other that led me to do a portrait of them in bed with laptops, intended to be a modern take on the famous 60’s photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in an Amsterdam hotel bed.

Of course it did not work out the way I envisaged and I suppose that is a good thing. Indeed I had not meant to mirror the shot as closely as I nearly did. In my memory, John and Yoko had been naked in bed, but in fact I later discovered that they were wearing pyjamas. So when I asked Ian and Minako to wear pyjamas to make the shot different, I should really have asked them to take their clothes off! I wish I had dared…

… The photo was not working so I kept on coming up with variations, including sticking Minako’s collection of cuddly animals in bed with them. That did not work either so I asked Ian and Minako to throw them out of the shot. As this troop of furry friends hurtled its way haphazardly across the bedroom towards my camera, I saw what had been missing. An accident stumbled upon by the subjects and therefore wholly appropriate.

Anyway, all this is leading me to that other accomplishment of the Jacksons, namely curating The Liverpool Art Prize, which is open to all Liverpool-based professional artists. In a city of numerous galleries dedicated to the international scene, the prize is a long-due breath of fresh wind and should be supported by anyone who cares about the cultural heritage of our city.

For its second year, it is returning to the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre on Greenland Street. With the winner yet to be announced, you are invited to go and vote for your favourite. Entry is free and you can catch it from Friday March 13th to Monday May 4th . Make sure you do.