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New perspective on Liverpool Cityscape

30 May 2008 by Angela

Our roving work experience reporter Isobel paid a visit to see Ben Johnson’s Liverpool Cityscape 2008 and the World Panorama Series, here’s Isobel’s verdict on the Walker’s latest offering:  


I was lucky enough to be able to visit the opening event and preview of the new Ben Johnson painting of Liverpool. It is hanging in the Walker Art Gallery alongside the other completed paintings of the cities of Zurich, Jerusalem and Hong Kong.

The Liverpool painting is not what I expected it to be. I was anticipating a long, narrow panoramic view of the waterfront but I was greeted with a large rectangular view of the city reaching right back to Fiddler’s Ferry. It’s hard to predict what time of day the painting is supposed to be and it is strange to see a waterfront with buildings not yet constructed. However there is a feeling of pride amongst the people of Liverpool at having their city amongst these impressive paintings.

I do have some reservations about the painting though. It is not the Liverpool I know. It does not show the culture and the people and seems a little bit like a computer made image… leading onto the fact that Ben Johnson did not solely create this image of Liverpool! I had notions of an artist stood traditionally drawing out an image, pencil in hand. That was not the creation process however, behind the scenes lay a team of people working to create stencils (yes, stencils!) for the artist to use.

The sheer detail of the painting is very astonishing though – from the hands of the clock to the lettering of the Radio City tower. A lot of thought and consideration has evidently been put into this painting. It is the main focus of the room, commanding a whole wall, as well as being the largest. The glossy book that partners it tells an impressive story too.

The Jerusalem painting was a favourite of mine with its dusty dusk light. Unlike the image of Liverpool it does have an element of life, a historic settlement with a story to tell. Hong Kong was also eye-catching. The vibrancy of the trees caught in the corner shows something deep within the painting, the light shining from an individual window of a tower block deep in the hillside of a mountain is something special. The final painting is of a city I have never laid eyes on, so in some ways the painting holds a responsibility to show it off, and that it certainly does. The painting gives a glimpse of a romantic city bordering a river – it entices me.

I think the painting of Liverpool is special in its own right and commands attention to finite detail. It is definitely worth a visit, even to just see what it looks like. Take some time out to seek where you live, or find a place only you know then walk away knowing this archive will remain for generations to come to see the place you lived and the Liverpool before the city undergoes another era of transformation.

Jerusalem by Ben Johnson

Next stop Jerusalem for Isobel …

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