Anna Poholoka - Freeborn and Freedom

Once again Southport Contemporary Arts’ gallery, the ArtHouse in Eastbank Street in Southport town centre, will be showcasing a wide spectrum of creative and captivating works of artwork during its 10th Anniversary Spring Open Exhibition in 2023.

Profiling not only SCA members, the SCA Spring Open traditionally also offers the wider artistic community the opportunity to display their work in the gallery.

SCA already has a reputation for bringing together a range of high quality contemporary art and craft from both emerging and established artists throughout the year and this celebratory exhibition will demonstrate the scope of creativity and artistic talent across the region.

Co-Director of SCA, Norrie Bewick-Calvert explains this year’s theme, ‘Wonderous World’, will “encourage participants to consider the incredible wonders of nature that they have seen or would love to see”.

She adds: “Everyone benefits from engaging with the natural world, and with so much negative energy coming at us from other areas of our lives at the moment, we hope that this exhibition will inspire and uplift everyone. As always with our Open Exhibitions, but especially in our 10th year of the ArtHouse Gallery, we are excited once again to offer this opportunity to an inclusive collection of local artists and display the diverse range of creative practice that will make up this year’s special exhibition”.

Language, storytelling and found materials underpin Serah Stringer Grech’s work. An MA Fine Art graduate from Liverpool JMU, Serah’s practice originates in the habitual collection of objects and a desire to intervene in and build with, organic forms: “My work sits in the space where the natural world meets the man-made so when thinking of what I find ‘wondrous’ in this world, all I had to do was look through my studio to find some of my favourite natural elements like snake skin, insects and bones.”

A self-confessed magpie, Serah habitually collects all sorts of specifically chosen natural elements and at times is given natural treasures by people who know her practice.

“Using these elements with man made materials like resin, ceramic or glass allows me to tell stories. With this show I wanted to look at the world in its maximalist form – the universe and beyond, micro – the world as we see it and macro – the world invisible to the naked eye.”

By creating “an infinite opportunity for the exploration of the unfamiliar”, Serah is “able to speak without censorship”.

Freelance artist and printmaker, Mike Goodwin from Litherland, who works mainly in pen and ink to bring his detailed humorous graphic illustrations to life, offers his own personal take on this year’s theme.

Mike, who likes to jumble text with image, uses his idiosyncratic draughtsmanship to exploit popular culture references when imaginatively depicting his various characters in unusual habitats: “I have taken the definition of ‘wonderous’ – something ‘unexpected’ or ‘extraordinary’ – to provide a slightly offbeat take on the ‘natural world’ exhibition brief”.

Mike Goodwin - Doris!! and Teddy Again!!

Mike Goodwin – Doris!! and Teddy Again!!

Describing his work as a mixture of realism and stylised caricature, Mike’s earliest artistic influences were the great comic artists of ‘The Dandy’ and ‘The Beano’, notably Dudley D Watkins, Leo Baxendale and David Law, which is reflected in the illustrations currently on show in the ArtHouse.

“Text remains an important element in my work. Often the first step is for me to think of a title that sounds good or I might be inspired by a line from a song. I like my images to look amusing, quirky or enigmatic so that they work visually without the text, but more often than not, I will add some text to the image, or maybe a caption, in addition to the title”.

Despite no formal training, Mike was a past winner of the Sefton Open Arts competition and continues to exhibit locally: “My pen and ink drawings often take weeks to complete. I’m not a fast worker and tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I have to be quite patient in order to get it right (in my eyes)”.

Both ‘Doris!!’ and ‘Teddy Again!!’ feature Teddy Boyle, Mike’s 87 year-old rock ‘n’ roller, who recurs throughout the series, coiffured with or without his giant wig.  Leaning from his bedroom window, Teddy spontaneously bursts into song as he marvels at the ‘wonderous world’ outside.  Incorporating direct references to Elvis, Old Mother Riley and James Cagney, ‘Tango’ takes its title from the pointillist styled orange background and the dance that the unlikely couple are performing. 

After being employed for a few years as a graphic designer, graduate of Liepāja University in Western Latvia, independent artist Anna Poholoka soon realised that art was her first passion and eagerly became a professional painter.

Now based in Bootle since 2014, although Anna still enjoys exploring a wide variety of media, her favourite technique is painting in oils: “I found myself truly willing to express myself through painting at a young age. Inspired by old masters, I started to learn classic painting and explore the ways to present and share their art skills.”

Anna’s current process is driven by her interest in “conceptualizing the intricate layers of self-understanding and the position of mankind within the natural world”.

Her atmospheric painting, “Freeborn and Freedom” is a symbolic reminder of the paradox that continues to probe the values of liberty and freewill: “While working on this picture, I was thinking about the question inherent in us, I believe, by nature itself. I think every person at least once in his life has wondered if real freedom is achievable. Does freedom always have to be lonely? Should it require sacrifice? Looking at nature, we can easily see that her creatures are already free in their own existence. Remaining inseparable from the world, they are already free, by just being themselves.”

This year’s Spring Open will run from 15th March until 8th April 2023 at ArtHouse, 65 Eastbank Street, Southport PR8 1EJ.  Opening times: Tuesday – Friday: 10am-3pm & Saturday: 11am-4pm. 


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