CONCRETE dipped to the Mersey to inspect the Walker Gallery’s brand new exhibition featuring work by artists from the surrounding area, and shares our favourite works with you.

Borderlines, by Refractive Pool‘s curator Brendon Lyons, 2022.

On a recent trip to The Pool (Liverpool, for the unfamiliar) I saw the brand spanking new Refractive Pool. The exhibition features 21 local artists in an effort to explore the diversity of contemporary art in the surrounding area without claiming a definitive conclusion. The Walker Gallery – all previous transgressions aside – deserves a pat on the back for this one. The calibre of the work is high, and while it’s predominantly pictures, there is something for all the family, and the viewer will find multiple mediums and concerns.

As curators Brendan Lyons and Josie Jenkins implied a subjectivity to their curatorial decisions, CONCRETE presents their favourites from this newly opened and free show as such.

The exhibition begins with a set of sculptures by M.B. O’Toole. While it’s bold of any gallery to stick a collection of utilitarian-ish cuboids on the floor (do you remember ‘the bricks’?) to kick off a free exhibition, O’Toole’s shapes and forms are rich and surprising. Her practice broaches the relationship between the written word and painting through gesture.

Gesture Series III, Installation Two, M. B. O’Toole, 2015-2022.

The Singh Twins make a much deserved appearance in Refractive Pool, too. Their NHS Covid: Fighting On Two Fronts was shown on a large lightbox at Grayson Perry’s Art Club exhibition of last year. At Refractive Pool it is on archival paper and presented in a frame, accompanied by three other works by the sisters. One of which is the same size and intricacy of NHS Covid, called Get Your Knees Off Our Necks. This work sees the Singh Twins take their stylised condemnations of the ruling elite’s failures stateside with a swipe at Trump, depicted here as a tarot card-esque devil rising above great men (Martin Robinson Delany and Muhammad Ali) who advocated for black nationalism and race pride. The Singh Twins can’t go wrong really; every single work is a meticulous masterpiece. After a conversation with a friend the other day about there being no one in the UK making ‘great’ art at the minute, this pair beg to differ.

NHS Covid: Fighting On Two Fronts, the Singh Twins, 2022. This image is property of the artists.

Frances Disley’s video piece is a meaningful contribution. Epic Luxe is a video of a performance made in collaboration with the Fallen Angels Dance Theatre, a group which supports individuals in recovery from addiction. Commissioned by the Turnpike Gallery in Leigh, the video documents a dance performance driven by movement (of both the dancers and fabrics they hold) and accompanied by music, which heightens an already absorbing visual display.

With a name that’s difficult to forget comes a personal favourite: Louis Jeck Prestidge. Refractive Pool opens with a dictionary definition of ‘refraction’ and images of each of the exhibiting artists which have been artistically altered. Prestige’s self portrait features the artist being interviewed by a painterly Michael Parkinson. Eager to see what other work he was showing, I found three well executed works contemplating the relationship between the self and popular culture and how the latter informs the former. Front Cover is particularly witty.

Front Cover, Louise Jeck Prestige, 2021.

Four paintings arranged in a grid also caught my eye. These warm canvases composed of vibrant colours which pulsate almost enough to make you sweat like you’re in the sun are Sumayya Khader’s. Khader’s work includes illustration and she had her first show last year. In the Garden (Her) is especially worthy of mention. The rich blue of the sky and rainforest tones of the greenery renders this painting baking hot. CONCRETE is keen to see what becomes of Khader and her visually stunning works.

A special mention goes to the artist James Quin and his Solaris Suite. This installation features a large timber structure laden with paintings re-presenting images from Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Solaris (the Soviet answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey) and its famous library scene. In the scene Tarkovsky includes engravings by Gustave Dore and paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. These engravings are the basis for the paintings in Solaris Suite. Different paintings line up with each other depending on where you stand, and while I don’t think I entirely grasp the work (it happens to us too, folks) it’s arresting and demands attention.

Detail from Solaris Suite, James Quin, 2021.

Please note that these are mere highlights of the exhibition. It is well worth a visit to experience the show in full. It spans multiple rooms and showcases art by contemporary practitioners. Running until next year, and at free pounds 99, you’d be foolish to miss it.

The exhibition runs until 8 January 2023. You can find out more about the exhibition on the Walker Gallery’s website. Links to artists’ can be found next to images, and you can find out more about the remaining artists here and here.