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Art review: Clifford Sayer - Literalism

Gayna Rose Madder discovers that what you see is what you get. And what you see is good

Published on February 22nd 2010.

Art review: Clifford Sayer - Literalism

THIS wonderful exhibition at The Gallery, Stanhope St, Liverpool (by Cains Brewery!) is unmissable in every way but the address - yet this lovely gallery is well worth seeking out.

Toxteth born and bred, Clifford Sayer paints in what could be called a traditional or even classical style, if only he didn’t add a strange and contemporary angle to everything - but he does.

'Literal' in the sense of w.y.s.i.w.y.g, these paintings cause mixed emotions - admire the immaculate painterly skills, or smirk quietly about the content or title?

After completing an art degree at LJMU, Clifford painted and exhibited for seven years from a studio in Seel St. He then studied animation (including traditional stop-frame) and incorporated this into music videos.

This current collection of mainly two-dimensional work (he also sculpts) uses acrylics or charcoal to portray images of which 90% were produced recently. His Parisian street scenes, painted from line drawings he made some years ago, are of ordinary buildings which could be anywhere, yet they are clearly of Montmartre, and full of a foreboding light which draws the observer into the mysteries within.

'Lamb in bananas', not a dish by Heston Blumenthal but Cliff's own take on the local mini-statue phenomenon, has already been sold, as have many other works here - a good sign.

And one of the larger paintings, 'Dante and Vigil', is humorously updated into modern dress and taken from his own earlier sketches, some of which are also shown here.

'Adam, Eve and the Egg Dog' is executed in the style of religious iconography. This and another piece here are part of a group which has led to the formation of a theoretical religious group, the 'Sons of Adam' (perhaps a splinter group from Bosch's 'Adamites?') which Cliff claims now has actual members.

Another painting executed in a traditional style is 'Satan tempting Eve', but it's not one to show off to the churchgoing relatives. Continuing the theme are a set of charcoal drawings including 'Angel and Mortal' - interestingly these figures all have closed eyes, another religious metaphor?

Finally there are some portraits of figures from contemporary culture; artist, musician and multi-talent Mike Badger; musician Mick Head of Shack; and actor Bernard Hill as the Blackstuff's 'Yosser'.

Clifford says that after this period he will be moving back to painting in oils. This prolific, versatile artist seems unstoppable.

Catch him while you can - exhibition continues until Feb 27th. The Gallery, 41 Stanhope St, Liverpool, 0151 709 2442.

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