Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Liam Spencer at Salford

Chip Shop Artist Or Lancashire Impressionist?

AS we sat in the Stalybridge Buffet Bar, holding a NV editorial meeting earlier this year, a couple of retired journalists on the next table were discussing northern art and artists and we happened to mentioned Liam Spencer, with a studio at Waterfoot near Bacup, who is interviewed in the current Northern Voices 12. 'Oh, he's very collectible', said one 'and he has a painting in the Manchester Art Gallery'. Later, in March, I spotted some of his work in the Revolve Gallery on Castle Street in Clitheroe and an assistant there said: 'He's very collectible but not very affordable'. At a starting price of £2,000 for his paintings at the current Salford Art Gallery exhibition on The Crescent, I know what she means. But when, last year, in an aside to the interview for Northern Voices, I discussed the relative rising prices of such artists as Lowry and Augustus John - Lowry now commands the higher price - he told me that he was not interested in such things as prices in the art market.

With his paintings of chip shops, car parks and garages, Liam is a reassuringly unpretentious northern artist who at one time used the same Manchester printer's shop as Northern Voices. When, at the time of the preview of his Rochdale exhibition at Touchstones, last December, I told him we'd entitled his interview in NV 'There's Nowt Worse than Bad Fish & Chips' he said: 'Oh, you've made me out to be a right Oik, have you?' Originally, I was going to entitle the interview with Liam 'The Lancashire Impressionist' but someone ridiculed this saying 'that's just what folk up here are wanting; a Lancashire impressionist' so I spotlighted his passion for fish and chips. But he does claim to be inspired by the French Impressionists and Adolphe Vallette, the early 20th Century Manchester Impressionist. A picture of his of the gothic style Rochdale Town Hall and the Esplanade is on the back cover of our current NV12.

Liam Spencer's exhibition at Salford Art Gallery - 'Paintings from Life: 20 years & counting' - opened on the 26th March at Peel Park on The Crescent, near Salford University and will run to the 3rd July 2011. Most of the paintings from the original Rochdale's Touchstones exhibition are on show plus some dedicated to the Salford area itself of Worsley, Eccles and Chapel Street. At Salford they are showing a DVD of a 30 min documentary about Liam Spencer's work, 'A Picture of Manchester' that was broadcast a couple of years ago on BBC North West.

Over the years Liam Spencer has shifted the focus of his art from the countryside to the town and from the rural to the urban landscape. When at University and living in Manchester, he took the train to Hebden Bridge and other spots in the West Yorkshire countryside to paint, but now based in the semi-rural time-warp of Waterfoot he will paint a car-wash or a burger bar as well as a Chip Shop at Hollinworth Lake in Littleborough. Perhaps it is the contrast that he strives to embrace. He now says that he prefers to paint the Lancashire landscape because: 'In Lancashire, its darker and the weather's more inconvenient but there's more interesting contrast.' Of his time in Southern Spain, he says 'I had the constant light but rather too much consistent brightness' and he concludes: 'Coming back up here from places like Spain, makes you appreciate this.'

26th March to 3rd July 2011
Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Peel Park, The Crescent, Salford M5 4WU
Monday to Friday 10am-4.45pm
Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm
tel: 0161 778 0800

Revolve Gallery,
30 Castle Street
Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 2BX
07800 590 262

Open Tue-Sat 11am-5:30pm

The publication Northern Voices is on sale at both the Salford Art Gallery shop and the shop at Rochdale's Touchstones Gallery & Museum. Postal subscriptions may also be taken out by sending a cheque for £4.20 payable to 'Northern Voices' for two issues (post included)to 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire, BB10 4AH.

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