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2008 Liverpool Cityscape: New Commission by Ben Johnson at the Walker Art Gallery

LIVERPOOL.- A vast painting of Liverpool is on display from 24 May to 2 November 2008 at the Walker Art Gallery. The exhibition, Ben Johnson’s Liverpool Cityscape 2008 and the World Panorama Series, will form part of the city’s celebrations as European Capital of Culture.

The monumental painting, by internationally-renowned artist Ben Johnson, has been commissioned by National Museums Liverpool, with the Liverpool Culture Company and Professor Phil Redmond CBE and Alexis Redmond. The 8ft by 16ft cityscape is the largest and most complex painting ever undertaken by the artist.

When it goes on display the Liverpool Cityscape will be joined by Johnson’s other world cities series of paintings, including panoramas of Jerusalem, Zürich and Hong Kong and paintings representing Chicago and Paris. These are part of an ongoing project started in 1994 and represent the equivalent of 44 years work, as Johnson creates these paintings in a Renaissance-like studio using highly specialist assistants. This will be the first time that these works are exhibited together.

Ben Johnson says: “I’m very excited that the painting will soon be finished and to see the Liverpool cityscape alongside other world cities I have painted, such as Jerusalem, Hong Kong and Zurich, will be thrilling.”

As well as Johnson’s work, the exhibition will include a selection of historic views of Liverpool, demonstrating the long-standing tradition into which the new cityscape fits.
The Liverpool Cityscape has been three years in the making and takes in Liverpool’s famous skyline from a vantage point high above the River Mersey. It encompasses several thousand individual buildings and has taken Johnson and up to 11 assistants 24,000 person hours to get this far.

The left-hand boundary of the picture will include Chapel Street and Tithebarn Street, reaching back to Everton and, uniquely, visually uniting the city’s two football grounds; the right hand extreme takes in the Albert Dock up to the Anglican Cathedral and will reveal the extent of the Liverpool’s redevelopment as it enters 2008. This view comprises 170 hectares of the city, a near bird’s-eye perspective.

Johnson’s cityscapes involve a painstaking process. In making The Liverpool Cityscape he explored the city taking over 3000 reference photographs, considered alternative viewpoints, consulted with architects and historians, as well as the people of Liverpool, and absorbed the city’s distinctive atmosphere. Thousands of detailed drawings were produced before the execution of the painting in minute detail.

The painting will be a lasting legacy of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year and will move to a permanent home in the Museum of Liverpool when it opens in 2010/11.

Ben Johnson was born in Llandudno in 1946 and studied at the Royal College of Art. At a time when perspective, proportion and representation were distinctly unfashionable, Johnson went against the trend and developed a deep fascination for architecture.

He was made an honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1990, the only contemporary painter to be so honoured, for his contribution to the public understanding of contemporary architecture. He has exhibited internationally and his works are in private and public collections worldwide.

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