By Ade Blackburn
Liverpool has long been an innovative force in the visual arts, from film and street-art to book covers and naïve painting. We’ve listed a selection of artists that highlight the depth and variety of the city’s art.
1. Kiara Mohamed
A Queer, multidisciplinary artist, and one of Liverpool’s most outstanding filmmakers. Kiara Mohamed’s work deals with race, gender, sexuality and self-care.
She created the powerful and poetic 2020 film, Home, using spectacular drone footage shot above the artist’s L8 Toxteth neighbourhood.
The film examines notions of home, vulnerability and care during the coronavirus pandemic.
2. Gladys Cooper
Artist Gladys Cooper’s work went unrecognised until the age of 52. A naïve painter, she worked in oil paint, starting with a picture in a sketch book. She never had a drawing lesson and knew little about perspective and shading.
All her paintings, including 1964’s The Gate, are shot through with what she called ‘our sinister times’. She exhibited at London’s Grosvenor Gallery and Portal Gallery.
3. Paul Curtis
Paul Curtis is a Liverpool-based artist specialising in street-art and large murals. In his first 3 years as an artist, he has created more than 150 public pieces, largely in Liverpool and Wirral.
Paul came to prominence with his very first piece of street-art, For All Liverpool’s Liver Birds (2017). The piece was an instant success with queues of people eager to have the picture taken with the wings, forcing the council to temporarily close the road. In 2018, the mural was the nineteenth most geotagged place in the UK.
4. Sumuyya Khader
Sumuyya Khader is an illustrator and artist whose work explores place and identity. She recently set up Granby Press, a community-based organisation with a focus on printed material and design. Summuya has also developed an archive of Black culture and history in the L8 area.
A recent residency and acclaimed exhibition at Bluecoat, Always Black Never Blue (2021/22), helped bring her work to a wider audience.
5. Josh Kirby
Born in Waterloo, Josh Kirby attended Liverpool’s School of Art in the 1940s, developing his drawing skills and an eye for detail. He became a sought-after commercial artist with a career lasting more than 60 years.
His paintings have adorned book covers by authors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Terry Pratchett, as well as being featured on film posters including Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
6. George Stubbs
Stubbs, born the son of a Leatherseller, was brought up in Ormond Street, Liverpool, and worked as a painter in Knowsley. He began painting portraits and rural scenes from a young age but made his name painting horses.
The record price for a Stubbs painting was set by the sale at auction of Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, a Stable-Lad, and a Jockey (1765) at Christie’s in London in July 2011 for £22.4 million.
7. Adrian Henri
Although best known as a 1960s Mersey poet, Adrian Henri was primarily a painter, his work has been the subject of retrospectives at Walker Art Gallery and Tate Liverpool.
He was influenced by the abstract expressionists and pop artists but Henri’s work also had a strong personal signature – an affection for the urban landscapes and popular culture of Liverpool.
His most renowned painting, The Entry of Christ Into Liverpool (1962), depicts a host of cultural icons marching down Liverpool’s Hope Street, including The Beatles and jazz-singer George Melly.