Messy Lines’ Top 5 of 2018

Putting this together is both a challenge and a joy.

I’m not sure 2018 has been my most prolific year, but it’s certainly been a brilliant one. Sharing my love of art has become more than just a hobby, and something altogether different. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s completely changed my life. But at the heart of it all is still this site: the essence that I love art, and I love writing. And I thank every one of you who reads, and shares, and talks about art with me for helping me to build a new world for myself.

This list has become a fun personal challenge. Back in 2016 I limited my choices to the Top 5 for convenience. Now I keep the limit as a way of focusing. I keep with most of the same headings for ease. Both decisions which mean that I’ve had to miss some really excellent things off this list – I can’t believe some of the people and places I haven’t mentioned! The downside, I suppose of being spoiled for choice.

There’s no “best outside Liverpool” category this year, for the simple reason that I haven’t seen enough. Whilst getting out and about more is definitely on my 2019 resolutions list, I can’t honestly say I’ve felt like I’ve been missing out this year. As I write more widely, I increasingly find myself questioning if there’s a gap between being a professional and provincial writer – whether limiting myself to the city is a ‘good’ move. I probably won’t really find out until after my MA is complete and I actually have the time to work on some of the bigger ideas I have, but whenever I ask the question I find myself believing it should be nonsense. I hope this list can be a reminder of just how much fantastic art can be found in Liverpool.

Best Event: Giant Spectacular

There were a few excellent events this year, but nothing that could beat the impact of the final visit of the Giants to Liverpool. My initial cynicism about whether bringing them back was a lazy move was entirely dispelled that sunny Saturday on the Strand, when the appearance of the three puppets gave absolute joy to every single one of the thousands of spectators. To see a public cultural event mean this much to people was a spectacular of its own.


Best in Biennial: Aslan Gaisumov

Film art

Speaking of big art events, it’d be wrong to ignore this particular juggernaut. Liverpool Biennial 2018 was a mixed bag, but there were some real jewels to be found. Tempting as it was to go for Agn├Ęs Varda’s Ulysse, the two films by Aslan Gaisumov edged it. Keicheyuhea in particular (in St George’s Hall) uncovered little-known truths with honesty and emotional punch.


Best “small” show: One Zero Zero

I loved this tiny show from back in February at CBS. Consisting of just two artworks – one each by Alexandra Gribaudi and Theodore Plytas – which were so in sync in terms of both ideas and aesthetics. Its order and harmony was so satisfying, its perfection in its fractured simplicity.


Best “big” show: Wake Up Together

The one I can tell you least about because my thoughts are in the pages of a magazine (still available!). Just know that this exhibition of works by both Ren Hang and Robin Hammond at Open Eye Gallery is a gorgeous, open call to freedom in defiance of the tragic realities of injustice. If you haven’t caught it yet make it top of your 2019 priorities.


My overall favourite: Independents Biennial, George Henry Lee’s

Is it really fair select what an entire programme of events as my favourite? But the beauty of Independents Biennial – George Henry Lee’s in particular – was the scope of what it covered. It was a hub for finding a constantly changing, constantly diverse range of art. It had the space to let ideas come to full fruition, and to bring together artists and ideas that told stories. George Henry Lee’s is being turned into a hotel, of course: whatever happens with the next Independents, it won’t be quite like this. But wherever it finds its next home, the seeds of a promising new tradition are well and truly sown.


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