Blog: Sunny Cheung

The curator of Liverpool's Art in Motion on brightening up January

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January is a bastion of contradictions. It feels like the longest month, though its days are short and often lacking much daylight. The rush to embark on a healthy, more pared back lifestyle after the indulgence of December can actually prove just as costly, especially as the weeks stretch unhurriedly on and on. There are contradictions inherent even in the etymology of the word “January”. The name is derived from Janus, a Roman figure with two faces, who looks both forward and back.

The first iteration of Art in Motion, a new project that brings art to Liverpool’s commercial district, landed in this month. Part antidote to the greyness of this month, part statement of intent from Liverpool Biennial and Liverpool BID Company, which are working together to incorporate art into public life across multiple channels in 2020.

Like Janus, the project simultaneously looks forward and back. For 2020, three different artists are producing works that respond to Liverpool’s historic coat of arms. Gordon Cheung is the first of these. The London-based artist has a soft spot for Liverpool, having been involved in one of his first group shows in the city after his graduation, and later showing in the John Moores Painting Prize. Known internationally for working with algorithms to produce glitch-based painterly images, Cheung’s work for Art in Motion finds inspiration in the cormorant and broom flower that feature on different re-imaginings of the Liverpool coat of arms. Taking classical images and distorting them is Cheung’s modus operandi, so it feels like a natural fit to have his work feature in unexpected places across the city for the first phase of the project. For a limited time, you can find Cheung’s works inside select Arriva electric buses (on routes 26 and 27), on their tickets and on takeaway coffee cups across local businesses.

Art can be hosted within the fabric of the everyday, adding colour to places where you least expect it

The thinking behind Art in Motion is to democratise art and use it as a way to improve our experience of the city. Art doesn’t have to be validated by sitting on a gallery wall. It can be hosted within the fabric of the everyday, adding colour to places where you least expect it, sparking off thought and conversation. Equally, collecting art doesn’t have to be exclusive to those with hoards of wealth – it can simply be something you do as you go about your daily routine, hopping on the bus into town and landing an exclusive artwork in your pocket. Neat.

We want art to exist in public and we want it to be energising. Partnering with Liverpool BID Company means we can exchange knowledge about where to position art in the city, engaging groups of people we may not otherwise reach. We’re conscious of our social and environmental footprint, which is why the paper used to make the coffee cups is FSC-certified and 100 per cent recyclable, and why the artworks appear only on greener, electric buses. In working together to print limited edition artworks on the cups we hope that people will want to reuse them and think twice about throwing them away.

Art in Motion will commission two more artists this year, including one based in the North West. Right now, we’re in the planning stages for phase two – but we can say for certain that we’re looking forward to unveiling other thought-provoking formats, outlets and locations over the course of 2020. Watch this space.

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