"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do!"Art Here we are then the final destination for my TARDIS in the official Biennial at the Walker, the final venue for so many of these projects. As ever the main contribution is the John Moores Painting Prize and as ever I spent a lot of time shaking my head, rolling my eyes, sighing and wondering what the judges were thinking. After the generous selection of portraits and landscapes and illustrative paintings, in 2016, we're back to swathes of abstraction interspersed with dashes of melancholia and nihilism. Having come to terms with the fact that I'll never be entirely happy with the selections in these biannual exhibitions and least of all with the chosen winner, let's excavate what I didn't find unattractive.
-- The Doctor, "Survival"
One of the key connections between many of the works is control and attention to detail. Gemma Cassey's Halves II (Continuum), the painting I chose for the people's vote, has minutely rendered wavy lines in acrylic so close together that it's almost impossible to see how they might be kept separate. Not just horizontal; by cross hatching them with vertical lines, she'll able to create two tones intersected in the middle. It's fascinating. On a much larger scale but with similar restraint is Alex Rennie's Totem, in which splodges of black paint against a salmon coloured background somehow create a three dimensional space filled with columns with perspective, the seemingly haphazard stroke choices being nothing of the kind.
There are some landscapes. John Stark's Beasts of England II shows pigs being reared in a wet, muddy field offering an apocalyptic farming vision. The always good Nicholas Middleton is back with Figures in an Arch, a much smaller, simpler work than usual depicting a group of shabbily dressed people and a chest of drawers on the edge of a darkened tunnel looking into the unknown. Mandy Payne returns too with another of her paintings of a derelict tower block, No Ball Games Here, an austere image of a concrete balcony over looking more concrete balcony albeit painted in pastel colours. The overall impression you gain from this collection is far from optimistic. Gathered together it's entirely apocalyptic. Thank goodness the Doctor will always be there to save us.