Mention The War At The University Of Liverpool

By David Prudames | 04 March 2003
Shows May Blitz - a painting of a bombing raid - by Tom Titherington.

Left: May Blitz, Tom Titherington.

Recalling many a grandparent's story, David Prudames ventured into a city with many of its own war tales to tell to have a look at this powerful show.

Mention the War, at the University of Liverpool's Senate House until March 21, offers an unusual yet vivid experience of life during the Second World War.

A series of lino-cuts and paintings by artist Tom Titherington gather his recollections of the devastating conflict, together with those of others who lived in Liverpool at the time.

Shows a detail of The Western Desert - a collage painting depicting the geographic position of El Alamein in relation to Britain - by Tom Titherington.

Right: The Western Desert (Detail), Tom Titherington.

The result is an informative and moving collection of collage-style works in which scattered images of everyday life are punctured by distinctive symbols of war. The effect created is one of distant, yet clear memories unexpectedly popping up.

“It's been said that you cannot buy tickets to the past,” the artist explains in the exhibition notes.

“Nevertheless, with all its confusions, the past keeps breaking in on us whether we like it or not; whether we know it or not.”

Shows Direct Hit - a painting of an air raid on Liverpool, clearing showing the Royal Liver building - by Tom Titherington.

Left: Direct Hit, Tom Titherington.

A child during the war, Titherington's response to it combines an at times playful, at times confused child's eye view with a more considered and serious reflection on its consequences.

This is seemingly echoed in the artist's method as primary colours are applied with the immediacy of a child desperate to tell you something, but over painted by images more likely to be understood by an adult.

A Day at the Seaside is an otherwise frantically fun holiday with sea, sand and gulls, but add the scrawled date of 1939 and Neville Chamberlain strolling along the promenade and Titherington hints at an altogether darker subject.

Shows A Day At The Seaside - a painting of a day trip to New Brighton, 1939 depicting Neville Chamberlain - by Tom Titherington.

Right: A Day At The Seaside, Tom Titherington.

Most of the works operate on this dual basis. When Daddy Came Marching Home is a child's response to the return of a barely recognisable soldier father, while in Dear Mammy an evacuated six-year-old girl's care for her younger brother calls for an adult's response to the bravery of infant.

The work is also inextricably linked to the city of Liverpool. In Direct Hit's chaotic air raid the Royal Liver Building stands firm amidst scores of bombers and transcribed Beatles lyrics are interwoven with ships, planes and flags in All These Places.

Bold and visually stimulating, this is a powerful exhibition that gets to grips with an already hugely explored subject and offers a new and easy to understand perspective on it.

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