Contemporary Urban Centre, Greenland Street (20th - 30th August 2009)
If ever there was a theme designed to get the best out of artists, it is surely how they respond to their immediate environment. After all, this is part of their essential task - to interact with their surroundings and bring ideas and feelings together to create something new for the appreciation of others. Unfortunately, some members of the Soup collective - which is comprised of Tate Liverpool employees - failed to do precisely this, focusing far too much on subtleties of form and technique to truly engage with the concept or the gallerygoer. Matters certainly weren't helped by Anna Hamilton's 'A Life Of Their Own' video, which blasted a twelve bar loop of 1920s-style jazz through the space, and which made concentration annoyingly difficult.
Nevertheless, there was enough good stuff on show to make a visit to the Contemporary Urban Centre a rewarding experience. Roz Vallejo's collages 'Untitled, 2007' and 'Woman In Doorway' are interesting, but her laserprint 'Unintended' is something else, as spectral figures suggest romance and yet distortion.
Rachel Harding's creations deal with the subject matter of environment in a highly symbolic way, with extremely impressive results. 'Escape' is an oil on canvas painting or a bird, which is itself placed in a cage. This raises notions of isolation and repression, repression that seems to preclude the possibility of interaction, except through song - the caged bird's own 'art'. 'Lady Haversham's Bouquet' is another oil on canvas piece, this time of a bunch of flowers, which seems to be shedding petals on the floor (aren't we all?). The character of Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations is brought to mind, with all her atrophy.
Jacqueline F Kerr's acrylic work shows an inspirational amount of vivacity and imagination, bringing the potentially dry area of map-making to glorious life. Mixing real life city plans with fantastical ones and pleasing colours, Kerr suggests that another world truly is possible.
Finally, Ruth Edwards' 'Duke Street' is an effective look at her environment - specifically during her walk to work each morning. Having noticed the "peeling paintworks", graffiti and "dilapidated fixtures" of the street, she brings it to artistic life by applying acrylic paint to polystyrene and mixed media. The rendering of this - a street that mixes decaying industrial Liverpool with its shiny 'regenerated' façade - says more in a few square metres than many entire exhibitions.