Cityscapes By Cecilia Matson At The University of Liverpool

By David Prudames | 20 March 2003
Shows a black and white view across the River Thames of Southwark Bridge with St Paul's Cathedral in the background.

Left: Southwark Bridge, Cecilia Matson.

David Prudames whizzed through countless cityscapes on his way to checking out this show in Liverpool.

Sweeping bridges, lofty buildings and murky rivers unite the cities of Liverpool, London and New York in an exhibition of work by Cecilia Matson, at the University of Liverpool Art Gallery until April 17.

Created in black ink, strong lines scratch the familiar sights of three world cities into a series of dark, yet somehow enchanting works.

Shows a black and white image of Brooklyn Bridge.

Right: Brooklyn Bridge II, Cecilia Matson.

Winner of the 2001 Young Artist Award at the Singer & Freidlanders/Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, Cecilia Matson grew up close to London and has clearly drawn on her experiences.

“My heart as an artist lies in the city, for the city is where people are and where there are people there will be creativity,” explains Matson in the exhibition notes.

“So although my paintings contain no human beings they are, essentially, a portrait of man.”

This lack of visible humanity is at times disturbing and a little reminiscent of disaster or horror films in which the population has been suddenly and mysteriously wiped out.

Shows a black and white image of Huskisson Dock at the end of a working day.

Left: The end of the day at Huskisson Dock, Cecilia Matson.

However, it is perhaps this lack of people that allows Matson to draw out a very particular sense of human activity. Technology, great and famous buildings and landmarks inextricably linked with everyday usage fill each work.

Of all the notable and glamorous locations New York has to offer, the artist has chosen the means to an end splendour of Brooklyn Bridge as representative of the city. So too the panorama of Liverpool from Seacombe packs in the docks and three graces, the strongest symbols of that city's industrial past.

In fact, Matson's cities are very much places of work in which the buildings themselves seem to be participants.

Shows a black and white image of Tower Bridge with cranes in the backround.

Right: Tower Bridge FT, Cecilia Matson.

The looming presence of St Paul's Cathedral in Southwark Bridge is closely guarded by a multitude of cranes, while The End of the Day at Huskisson Dock is heavy with the previous day's industry. Even in the otherwise domestic scene of At Home on Penny Lane thick grey telephone lines steal the eye from the bay-fronted terrace.

With such a leaning towards the industrial and an ever-present ethereal and swirling sky, the works could easily come across as overbearing and austere, offering a view of the city as a grimy, lonely place.

But they don't; the artist manages to conjure an allure in her subjects. Looking down the line of Brooklyn Bridge I want to know what is going on in that crowded backdrop. Likewise I am keen to see the end result of the cranes' feverish work in London.

What could so easily have turned out as postcard views of famous cities work on the viewer's imagination, providing enticing slices of everyday life and evoking an almost cinematic romance.

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