Eight Days A Week 2000 : Colloboration : A Project by Pete Clarke & Georg Gartz
Two Artists in Two European Cities
Liichthof Gallery. Köln
Huyton Gallery, Liverpool , Merseyside.

In many ways the painting collaboration between Pete Clarke and Georg Gartz reflects the context from which their project sprang. Two artists from two cities, Liverpool and Cologne.Over the past half century, both cities have witnessed processes of profound transformation: Cologne’s postwar reconstruction, prosperity and development as an important regional centre, Liverpool’s pop music explosion, its economic decline and current regeneration.

TALES OF TWO CITIES By PETE CLARKE

Both are also characterised by the shaping of particularly distinct cultural identities. And just as the way in which such changes have happened has differed greatly in each place, the two artists on the surface at least could not be more of a contrast: Clarke the gritty urbanist playing with the politics of representation; Gartz, the lyrical abstractionist whose approach to colour and form finds expression equally through installations as conventional painting. Yet, like the rivers that historically have provided the lifeblood of both Cologne and Liverpool, the two artists found in the practice of painting a common thread, a discipline that has brought them together.

 

TALES OF TWO CITIES PETE CLARKE
It is difficult to imagine what spirit of generosity sense of reconciliation and renewal enabled the civic leaders in Liverpool and Cologne to establish the twinning partnership in 1952. The two cities had suffered disproportionately during the war with the systematic targeting and resulting destruction. Both cities had geographic and economic importance and were strategic arteries for two countries in opposition. When we now see those grainy black and white photographs of the waterfronts, the Rhinepanorama of 1946 where the Dom stands witness to the razed city below, or the image of the Mersey surveying the dockland destruction, it is interesting to see how far the two cities have travelled and what an act of forgetting and forgiveness the twinning partnership represents.

Cologne and Liverpool are two great European cities with international voices, proudly regional, politically independent and outward looking. The two cities share many things in common: the city skylines are both dominated by the rivers Mersey and Rhine, and overlooked by the imposing cathedrals, testimony to the spirit of travel and exchange of ideas, conflicts and resolutions, that creates and defines local identities. The cities are historically also meeting and trading places, exchanging and dealing in commerce, sugars and spices, cultural and artistic ventures, rock and roll and all that stuff.
Structural change is now the air we breathe, that process of renewal, revival and reinvention. This is the social landscape of the two cities, the constant change and uninterrupted disturbance that generates contemporary feelings of dislocation. It probably is "a far, far better thing... the best of times and the worst of times, the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness etc..." that makes living in these modern cities crazy, energetic and vibrant. This is the contradiction, the language that characterises modern life and modern sensibility, fearful, insecure and yet full of promise, possibility and adventure.
My first experience of Cologne was in 1986 when I participated in Kunst aus Liverpool, a group show of Liverpool artists at the BBK, arranged by the Bluecoat. The beautiful gallery space was then in a converted historic castle gate, and the six 'local' artists representing Liverpool were born Lancastrian, Geordie, Irish, one from Chester and two from the suburbs. Nevertheless, we certainly felt from Liverpool. This paradoxically characterises a culture that might be summarised as a sense of belonging and difference at the same time, with ideas of adopted loyalties and identities that personify the history of the contemporary city.

As stated in the catalogue from Art in Koln (Tate Gallery Liverpool 1989), "One could say the history of Cologne as an artistic city is, in fact, the history of many different groups that have come to it from elsewhere". It is apparent that the culture of our German twin city is similarly constructed.
My second twinning experience was probably more personally stressful though curatorially important. I was asked to speak and somehow represent Liverpool at the Tate Gallery Liverpool conference Art in Cologne/Liverpool, the Architecture of Art in Two Cities in May 1989. This one-day event arranged in conjunction with Art from Koln was curiously scheduled on FA Cup Final day when Liverpool played Everton at Wembley.

The Scouse contingent of politicians, gallery directors and an artist talked miserably about what we had not got, and the Cologne representatives talked confidently about possibilities and the importance of culture and artistic life as economic development and social infrastructure. By the time artist Walter Dahn spoke amusingly and ironically in the afternoon, John Aldridge had already scored at Wembley.
This was made even more poignant given the context of the Cup Final, being played between the two great halves of a city living under the shadow of grief and sadness of the Hillsborough disaster (when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the previous semi final match in Sheffield). The Cup Final itself raised many questions about responsibility, loyalty, appropriateness and the need for social progress, and this in itself diminished the discussions on the Tate waterfront, that somehow represented how far Liverpool as a cultural city lagged behind Europe, and Cologne in particular.

However the Cologne and Liverpool cultural links have continued and gone from strength to strength. The BBK and the Bluecoat initially arranged many exciting and thought provoking exhibitions and discussions that continued the critical engagement.
This culminated in the arrival of writer Jurgen Kisters on the scene at a public forum at the Bluecoat in 1995 entitled Local/International Exchange, involving Liverpool and Cologne artists. This charming, persistent and single-minded individual, a sort of artistic Franz Beckenbauer, has become the partnership playmaker and a cultural libero. His grass roots collaboration with Cologne artist Georg Gartz has facilitated the Liverpool/Cologne experience in stepping up a gear with the development of Eight Days A Week.

They made things happen, creating this exciting venture and artist success, and since then many friendships and artisitic projects have developed and prospered.
Eight Days A Week was the first independent Liverpool/Cologne arts festival in 1998, a great success when over thirty Liverpool artists descended on Cologne to participate in events ranging from visual arts, poetry, music, conferences and meetings, to a rerun of 2n old European football match between Liverpool FC and FC Cologne at the British Council. The group exhibition Engagement at the old Jewish hat factory at the Lichthof der VHS Koln-Sulz enabled me to see my Letters to Language paintings in a beautifully lit space.

One tangible Eight Days A Week project was the idea for Georg and I to make a series of paintings together called Collaboration. The idea of being collaborators is in itself interesting given the English and German context. We have been painting together in both Liverpool and Cologne like two jazz musicians for nearly two years now. The project looks at our art historical legacy and ideas about modern life, with the obvious notions of the city as a representation in a European context. Our respective education and histories come from different ends of the painting spectrum, Georg's work being rooted in abstraction and ideas from Klee and Kandinsky, and my work stemming from a more academic tradition repositioned in relation to art in a social context.

Eight Days A Week was the first independent Liverpool/Cologne arts festival in 1998, a great success when over thirty Liverpool artists descended on Cologne to participate in events ranging from visual arts, poetry, music, conferences and meetings, to a rerun of 2n old European football match between Liverpool FC and FC Cologne at the British Council. The group exhibition Engagement at the old Jewish hat factory at the Lichthof der VHS Koln-Sulz enabled me to see my Letters to Language paintings in a beautifully lit space.


One tangible Eight Days A Week project was the idea for Georg and I to make a series of paintings together called Collaboration. The idea of being collaborators is in itself interesting given the English and German context. We have been painting together in both Liverpool and Cologne like two jazz musicians for nearly two years now. The project looks at our art historical legacy and ideas about modern life, with the obvious notions of the city as a representation in a European context. Our respective education and histories come from different ends of the painting spectrum, Georg's work being rooted in abstraction and ideas from Klee and Kandinsky, and my work stemming from a more academic tradition repositioned in relation to art in a social context. The Collaboration project in a strange sense revisits some of those earlier debates in the fifties concerning the role of meaning, abstraction and figuration in contemporary art.

These idiosyncratic conventions and contingencies in many ways seem strange bedfellows, but since Eight Days A Week the differences between us have established a creative dialogue and distinctive practice exploring ideas about authorship and authenticity in contemporary painting.


When it was exhibited at the Galerie Lichthof in June this year the work generated considerable interest in how two painters in two cities across two countries can share creative activity. We hope our working relationship metaphorically represents a positive dialogue in relation to the inevitable social and cultural developments that will happen as we move ever closer to understanding our mutual interdependence in a more tolerant and unified Europe.

Liverpool July 2000

 

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web site: Tony Knox