Refractive Pool: Contemporary Painting in Liverpool

Situated upstairs in Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, an institution perhaps best known for its permanent collection of Renaissance, Baroque, pre-Raphaelite, and Impressionist works, Refractive Pool is an exhibition striking in its contemporary edge. Exploring painting in all its forms, it is unified by medium and locale (its artists based in and around Liverpool). Drawing from the well of the city’s artistic talent, curators Brendan Lyons and Josie Jenkins are clear about their ethos. They have opened up a non-hierarchical space that provides a glimpse into up-to-date practice, compelling us to stop looking back into painting’s history (rich as it is), and instead into its future.

Refractive Pool Artists’ Talks at the Walker Art Gallery

Refractive Pool: Meet the Artists 

Join Refractive Pool exhibiting artists at the Walker Art Gallery to hear more about their practice and the work featured in the Refractive Pool Contemporary Painting in Liverpool exhibition. The talks take place on the gallery and run from 1pm, for 30 – 40 minutes. All welcome, free to attend and no booking required. Dates for our first run of talks are below and more to be announced soon.

1st October – Zahra 
19th November – Brian Mountford
26th November – Fran Disley 
10th December – M.B O’Toole 

Refractive Pool News Update!

Refractive Pool: Contemporary Painting in Liverpool at The Walker Art Gallery, 29th April 2022 – 8th January 2023

We are excited to announce that Refractive Pool will be holding an exhibition at The Walker Art Gallery, opening in Spring 2022. Refractive Pool: Contemporary Painting in Liverpool will showcase the diverse work of Liverpool based artists, including many of those featured in the Refractive Pool book. Josie Jenkins and Brendan Lyons have selected and curated the exhibition, which will feature 21 local artists to give an overview of the community of painters based in the city.

Find out more about the exhibition HERE 

The Refractive Pool Book!

Refractive Pool has published a book containing portraits of 38 artists currently based in and around Liverpool. These unique, layered images were produced by combining new paintings with photographic portraits of each of the individual artists. These striking images are accompanied by the thoughts and words of the painters themselves. The book features the newly commissioned poem The Studio, written by Paul Farley and themed around his memories of the city and the practice of painting.

Find out more about and BUY the Refractive Pool book HERE

“How do you put yourself in a painting? It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and not known how.” A conversation with Richard Meaghan.

 WARNING: Contains adult themes and imagery.

Richard Meaghan is an artist based in Liverpool, with a studio in a biscuit factory where he paints and draws every day. Richard studied Fine Art at Staffordshire University and Wirral Metropolitan College and on graduating was awarded a travel grant to study Renaissance Art in Italy where he was taught how to make oil paint in a Monasterial retreat just north of Lake Garda. Richard has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and recent exhibitions have included ‘The Sense of Things’ at Durden and Ray, Los Angeles 2017, ‘Art & Christianity Now’ at Southwell Minster, Nottingham 2018,  ‘My Artists Telescope’ at Jerwood gallery, 2019, (online exhibition curated by Nigel Cooke) and ‘The Undersides of Leaves’, a solo installation of works on paper, at Paper gallery, 2020. Richard also runs Paint Club, a small art school, usually held in his studio, but currently running via Zoom. Students pop by any time and are free to paint, draw, read, chat, drink tea and eat biscuits.

Brendan and I met with Richard in his studio in summer 2020, after the first lockdown began to ease.  We spoke about how recent events in Richard’s life have impacted his work as an artist.

“If somebody had said at the time, that’s exactly what you want Gary, you want that response, you want to be able to do anything you like. But nobody says that and nobody says, if you know what you want to do, do it. They only say, go to college.” A conversation with Gary Sollars

Gary Sollars is an artist based in Liverpool, whose achievements include exhibiting in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and in the John Moores Painting Prize. As well as making paintings, Gary is creator of Dollman Disco performance events, he writes poems, makes videos, performs stand up comedy and has recently been working on a children’s book called The Imagination License Bureau. Gary loves dancing, ice cream and men. Ideally, just one.

“I’m not at all saying that it’s bad to make work about race, far from it. But I do think that it’s expected of you as an artist of colour.” A conversation with Millie Toyin Olateju

Millie Toyin Olateju is originally from Liverpool but went to London to study Fine Art at Westminster College of Art, returning again to her home town after a short stint in Peterborough. Since returning to Liverpool Millie has worked with artist Jessica Stanley on mural commissions and actively shown work on her Instagram profile. She was recently part of a project at Bluecoat, organised by Sumuyya Khader, titled Celebrating Liverpool’s Black Artists, featuring billboard style pastings along Bluecoat’s façade.

We met with Millie at The Bridewell Studios in September 2020, after the first lockdown restrictions eased. At this time, Millie had been making small works on paper, some of which she brought to our meeting.

“I am apprehensive to put titles on the work, because I feel like once you take away someone else’s experience of seeing a piece, it loses the possibility to be anything.” A conversation with Zahra Parwez.

Originally from Greater Manchester, Zahra Parwez has been based in Liverpool since graduating from Liverpool Hope University in 2019. Zahra was presented with The Corke Exhibition Award on completing her degree course and subsequently exhibited with The Corke Art Gallery in Liverpool. After graduating, Zahra spent time working as an intern on a Liverpool based TV drama until the pandemic hit, while also continuing her artistic practice from home.

We met with Zahra in the summer, as lockdown restrictions were easing, and chatted while looking at a recent sketchbook that she had been working on during lockdown. Zahra told us a bit about working on a TV set and her decision to come to Liverpool to study Fine Art.

“May a brush mark be compared to a word, a sound – a note vibrating in space?” A conversation with Bernadette O’Toole.

Bernadette O’Toole is a UK based artist/researcher and Associate Lecturer in Art and Design at Sheffield Hallam University. In 2020 she completed a practice-based PhD at Sheffield Hallam University. Her research, Beyond the Space of Painting and Poetry: Mallarmé and the Embodied Gesture re-imagines the space of painting through the space of poetry – through a network of reciprocal relations manifest in Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard, (A throw of the Dice will never abolish Chance). She writes, ‘Mallarmé’s generative poem, distinguished by its capacity for multiple and simultaneous readings weaves together word, image and sound. It is through this lens that I approach painting, through an expanded understanding and re-evaluation of the relation between the space of painting and poetry, and discourses that underpin spatial and temporal readings of the text. In other words, I work across disciplines, across languages, differentiating between disciplinary codes and conventions and between modes of reading, writing, speaking and painting’.

“The act of painting is for myself, but the paintings are not for me, they are for whoever is curious to know more about them, have them, look at them.” A conversation with Joana de Oliveira Guerreiro

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, Joana de Oliveira Guerreiro has lived and worked in Liverpool since 2015. Before pursuing a career in art, she studied Military Strategy and worked for NATO in Brussels. In 2019 Joana undertook a residency with CreArt in Valladolid, Spain and exhibited the work she made there at Output Gallery in Liverpool. In February 2019 she participated in Refractive Pool’s Contemporary Painting in Liverpool Symposium at Liverpool Hope University’s Capstone Theatre. Joana and Josie recently had a correspondence conversation about her work, how she came to be a painter and how her ideas are realised through painting.