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Issue #1727      April 20, 2016

Subversion in the suburbs

BRITAIN: Aigburth Road in Liverpool is perhaps the last place you’d expect to find an eye-catching exhibition of posters and art works, including some iconic images of the Russian revolution and Lenin.

But the Corke Gallery, located in the middle of a shopping precinct with upwardly mobile pretensions on the outskirts of the city centre, is exactly where some extraordinary examples of original art and prints are on show in this free exhibition which runs until the end of this month.

The works in Life on the Left, dating from 1954 to last year, were collected by the late John and Veronica Gibson.

Staunch communists, well-known in the city and beyond for their support for the peace movement, progressive causes and friendship with the Soviet Union, they moved to Liverpool in 1962 and set up home in Ampthill Road just around the corner from the gallery.

As well as being a family home for the couple and their four children, their house was a hotbed for political meetings and it was a port of call for visitors from all over the world.

The art and prints they collected over the decades reflect their wide-ranging political and global interests.

The couple had a keen eye for the visually striking and the exhibition has outstanding examples of graphic design from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries which rub shoulders with art work by local art legends like Arthur Dooley and Brian Burgess, who they bought work from early on in their careers when money was tight.

There’s a strong Liverpool connection too in the prints of local scenes by Doug Kewley and Peter Shaw and a painting of the Russian ship Yuzhny Bug, which has an intriguing provenance.

It was painted by the ship’s electrician and presented to John Gibson before the vessel set sail after being stuck at the city’s Garston Old Dock for two months during the 1972 dockers’ strike.

There are some hard-hitting posters exposing the treacherous Labour Party defections to the SDP which were partly responsible for the election of Margaret Thatcher and the Sogat print union’s campaign against the Common Market, the precursor of the EU.

They’re a reminder that issues of the past continue to have a contemporary resonance and the same can be said for some of the dynamic graphics on display, an object lesson in getting a message across visually which still pack a political punch.

Life on the Left details:

Morning Star

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