of New York - Times Square Stars and Stripes|
is one of the rising stars of the British contemporary arts scene, renowned for
his vivid portrayals of the urban landscape around Manchester.
follows his progress as he prepares for a major exhibition of his paintings in
Manchester, and speaks to the fans who've been snapping up his work.
this exclusive web interview, we ask Liam Spencer about his latest exhibition
and his work.
Sue Wilkinson asks the questions:
you want to become an artist - and how young were you when you first picked up
a paint brush and palette?
I can't remember when I first picked up
a paint brush - I was probably too young.
I became an artist by a process
of eliminating all the things I didn't want to do, and the things I did want to
do but couldn't i.e. be a North American Indian (in Burnley), footballer (not
good enough), full time fisherman (poor career prospects).
you to painting landscapes?
I quickly discovered that I wasn't
really interested in making non representational art, and I couldn't work easily
from memory and imagination, so I turned quite naturally to the subject matter
that was under my nose, the urban landscape where I lived, studied and worked.
Which artists have been an influence on your work?
life - New York painting by Liam Spencer|
I've been influenced
by many artists at different times and for different reasons.
A short list
would have to include Frank Auerbach, Ivon Hitchens, Gwen John, Winifred Nicholson,
Monet, Marquet, Matisse, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Bomberg, Morandi and,
most of all, Vermeer.
I've surprised myself by how many English artists
are in that list.
How would you describe your style of painting?
suppose that I think of myself as being closest to the Impressionist artists,
especially early in the movement when artists like Monet were dealing with the
rapidly changing modern world.
I paint fairly broadly, with big brushes,
and I'm trying to convey how we might see the world at a glance - the big impressions
- not how we see the world when we stare at it and count the number of trees,
or register the minutiae of the scene.
How do you feel about having an
exhibition at the Manchester City Art Gallery?
I'm delighted to
be showing at the Manchester Art Gallery.
Fog - detail of Liam Spencer's painting|
I've always seen exhibitions
as my main concern, and to do so in a major gallery in a major city is as good
as it gets.
There's free admission, loads of visitors, school kids galore,
and lots of great education work going on behind the scenes.
I've been visiting
Manchester Art Gallery for 20 odd years.
I didn't really think I'd be exhibiting
How did you choose the paintings?
The paintings were
selected in conjunction with Clare Gannaway and Sandra Martin from MAG.
wanted to have a retrospective element to the show. The earliest paintings are
from about 15 years ago, and come right up to the present.
It's very difficult
task to select from the hundreds that exist, and we couldn't cover every subject.
With the space we had available, we wanted to demonstrate how the paintings
had evolved over the years, and represent the main subject areas.
course, we all wanted to include our particular favourites.
your favourite painting and why?
- Liam Spencer's Madonna and Child|
If I was forced to choose
one, it would probably be the painting of Times Square - Stars and Stripes.
was a bit reluctant to sell it, but appreciate being able to borrow it back and
put it on public display.
Also I'm very sentimentally attached to the painting
of my wife and son - Madonna, Child and Television.
Can you describe
the New York paintings and how they compare to Manchester?
and Manchester are both great cities.
They are very different in scale,
but there are some visual comparisons.
I took the rain with me to make
me feel at home!
New York is an exciting place - every street corner provides
a dramatic vista.
Manchester is what I know best, so I have no inferiority
complex about continuing with Manchester landscapes.
What can you tell
us about the Chinese work?
The trip to China was very brief. I visited
three cities, Honk Kong, Beijing and Shanghai in 10 days!
I barely scratched
the surface, but it provided plenty of materiel to work with.
at night is pretty special.
Your new exhibition at Philips Gallery
is a joint one with photographer Jan Chlebik - is this the first time you've come
scene - a view from the artist's studio|
No. I exhibited with
Jan once before some years ago.
I am looking forward to being reunited with
an artist whose work I admire and has been an influence on my own work.
Why do you find urban landscapes so fascinating? What visual images excite you
I suppose the fact that most of us live and work in the urban
landscape leads me to believe that it should be the subject for painting.
might be tempting to think that landscape painting should take place in the countryside.
I suppose I get added satisfaction from finding beauty in unexpected places.
also the landscape that I know best, and see on a continuous basis.
I'm always drawn to light and colour, wherever I find it.
What do you
make of comparisons with LS Lowry?
I think the comparisons with Lowry
are inevitable really, as I suppose he pioneered art about the industrial north,
and in some ways I've picked up on that.
My work is perhaps closer to Impressionism
in that I'm responding to what's there and to light, colour and weather conditions.
would you respond to anyone who called you a 'Mancunian artist'?
seem to have become an honorary Mancunian by adoption or association, but I'm
not a Mancunian, just a long stay visitor.
What inspires you about your
home town of Burnley?
Moor, Burnley - detail from Liam Spencer painting|
take much notice of my surroundings when I grew up in Burnley.
I go back there, I'm struck by how quickly you can be in the beautiful landscapes
which surround it.
I like the moors and the ever changing light, and I've
also made paintings of Turf Moor, the home of Burnley Football Club - I particularly
like night matches.
How easy or hard is it for an artist with international
aspirations to be based in Manchester?
I don't think being in Manchester
is a handicap.
I think it's seen as a pretty vibrant place by people outside
of this country.
I don't know whether it would be easier being based in
a major city like London or New York, I've never tried it!
Visit the online
photo gallery of Liam Spencer's work.
Where to see the paintings:
Skyline (detail) - Liam Spencer goes international |
paintings can be seen at the following galleries:
* Philips Contemporary
Art Gallery - a joint exhibition with photographer Jan Chlebik.
runs from 12th-30th September, with a preview on Saturday 9th.
Contemporary Art, 10a Little Lever Street, Manchester M1 1HR.
Tel: 07968 047224
* Manchester Art Gallery - the exhibition Manchester to Shanghai continues
until 24th September.
All photographs and images
by kind permission and copyright of Liam Spencer.
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