Preview: The Liverpool Art Prize

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Founded in 2008 when Liverpool was European Capital of Culture, the Liverpool Art Prize was created to help draw attention to local artists while the world’s spotlight was on the city and has since become a regular fixture on the city’s annual arts calendar.

Fifty-two local artists entered this year, their submissions whittled down by a panel of judges including Liverpool Biennial director Sally Tallant, artist Tim Etchells and Liverpool Post arts editor Laura Davis, as well as last year’s Liverpool Art Prize winner Robyn Woolston. The shortlisted nominees then go on to show their work at the Liverpool Art Prize Exhibition before an overall winner is chosen by the judges and another is awarded a people’s choice award.

French-born, Liverpool-based artist Laurence Payot is one of the exhibiting artists. Whether through her public sculptures or her larger collective performances, Payot blurs the line between work and audience, encouraging viewers to become active participants in her art.

“In Switzerland in 2010,” the artist explains as an example, “I created a performance with 23 local men who were all dressed the same, and all became the same character, The Man Who Was Everywhere. The work was about double-take and about transforming something banal into something unexpected, disturbing and out of the everyday.”

Payot hopes that a win in one of the prizes would prove a useful career aid.

“It would raise my profile and allow me to carry on doing more work. If I won the public choice prize I’d be particularly chuffed because, even though this is an overused statement, I make art for everyone, and with everyone.”

Leading up to the exhibition Payot could most likely be found in her studio at the Royal Standard, an artist-led gallery, studios and social workspace in the city where fellow exhibitor Kevin Hunt is also based. Hunt constructs sculpture from found and redundant objects, reconfiguring them into linear, minimal structures. By experimenting with form, Hunt’s work reveals an inherent beauty in the unnoticed and complexities within the simplest of actions.

Shortlisted alongside the pair is Liverpool-born Tabitha Moses, who uses fabric and stitch in her practice. Her work does, however, take many forms and all of it concerns the tangible expression of human experience. Her subjects have ranged from murders and skin to Blackpool. The artist describes her practice as making beautiful objects that might make you feel uncomfortable.

“I do many other things in order to make a living – TV costume, lecturing, community workshops in art, craft, gardening and cooking. While I enjoy these other occupations, I would love to have more time to spend making things.”

The winner receives £2,000 and will be offered a show at the Walker Art Gallery. The people’s choice award winner will receive £1,000.

The final shortlisted nominee, Juliann O’Malley, uses her body as her primary material in her live art pieces, testing its limits through sensory deprivation and different states of consciousness. Her current work Open Heart Surgery, looks at memory and the interplay between fact, fiction and technology.

For the last three years the prize has been organised by Edge Hill-based Metal Culture. Jenny Porter, Metal project manager, says: “Through this exhibition we champion the artistic excellence found in Liverpool and connect this work to a wider audience.”

O’Malley says: “We’re lucky here in Liverpool that the museums and art galleries are mostly free entry. I find many of these places great for inspiration. I must admit though that I have a weakness for the World Museum, especially the aquarium, for its tranquility.”

For Hunt, it’s the junk shops, markets and charity shops. “Liverpool is crammed full of interesting things that influence me on a daily basis, and that’s what keeps me here.”

The Liverpool Art Prize exhibition is at the Grand Hall on Albert Dock, until 25 June

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