Looking ‘On the Bright Side’ at Birkenhead’s Convenience Gallery

Convenience Gallery is a community and contemporary arts gallery and organisation based at the Bloom building on the Priory Industrial Estate in Birkenhead. It has been creating and bringing a free programme of art, exhibitions, talks, and arts education to the community over the last two years.

The gallery is about to embark on its 2021/22 programme, ‘In Cahoots’, bringing in over 20 local, national and international artists to the area. Today at 6:30pm the gallery will launch its latest exhibition; “On the Bright Side”, by Leasowe born artist, Jon Edgley.

birkenhead.news popped in for a coffee and a chat with Ryan Gauge and Andrew Shaw, the co-directors of Convenience Gallery, to find out what’s what.

Andrew told us a little of the history and of the founding of Convenience Gallery, “We were doing a few events first, just pop-ups around Liverpool and Manchester and we wanted a more focussed base for the arts to exist.” And in a nutshell that was that. They were given the opportunity to open a stall at Birkenhead Market for six weeks where they held a pop-up gallery.

“We just wanted to create a space to support artists in.”, Andrew continued. “We wanted a space where the community could come in and meet the artist and get to know them a bit.”

Ryan added, “We wanted to remove it from the traditional landscape of the art world – not that we have a problem with that – we just wanted it to exist in an established community space.”

Andrew said that this proved to be good market research, “We used this period to speak to people and understand what the community around us wanted.”

So, why choose Birkenhead for a contemporary arts space? “I felt that just being from Birkenhead, and growing up here sort of gives you an affinity with the area. The original opportunity to come in was really exciting!”, said Andrew. The idea of setting up an arts space in Liverpool’s famed Baltic Triangle didn’t cross their minds.

Ryan continued, “Coming to Birkenhead, nothing like this existed, and when you take the history of art in this area, with the Williamson Art Gallery and the Laird School of Art, which was the first art school in the country outside of London, it felt like a good space and a good time.”

One of the Convenience Gallery’s projects is a youth programme called ‘Horizons’ and of it, Andrew said, “It is a really good example of the cross-section of the work we do. When we first plan a project, we hold, say, eight workshops and bring artists in and do some training with them and help them top create workshops. Then we bring in a bunch of 14-18-year-olds in from around the area that are interested and they learn and develop through that process.”

Ryan pointed out the numerous canvases around the room and said, “All the work that’s here in this room has been created by these young local people. Starting from day one, not having any experience to go on and create something on this scale, to what you can see, all created by 14- 18-year-olds is incredible!”

Ryan went on to say that the results we can see are what both him and Andrew had been hoping for but what the artists had accomplished had “blown their minds.” An added bonus is that friendships form within the workshop sessions between like-minded people and they can discuss their works and encourage each other along the way.

On the Bright Side by Jon Edgley

A detail of one of the panels in Jon Edgley’s On the Bright Side

Jon Edgley’s ‘On the Bright Side’ exhibition launches tonight at Convenience Gallery at the Bloom Building and runs for two weeks until 27 August 2021.

“I’m Jon Edgley and I live in Liverpool, but I’m originally from Leasowe and I’m an artist.” With the introductions done and dusted, we talked about his exhibition and his life as an artist. “I got into it as a child, drawing away like every child does and I always did well at it in school and everything.” he explained.

Jon went to Mosslands School in Wallasey and he got great grades (A*) and then found himself at Wirral Met at Twelve Quays and then completed a Fine Art course at Liverpool John Moores and earned himself a First. “Education-wise, I smashed it!” he said proudly.

Jon became aware of the Convenience Gallery through Liscard’s ‘Open Door Centre’ who said that the gallery had an open call for artists. Jon pitched his idea to the gallery and that lead to his current exhibition.

Utilising a giant five-sided lightbox, Jon’s art uses light and dark both literally and figuratively. “The name [of the exhibition] comes from looking at the idea of positivity, really. It being sincere positive vibes and happiness. So it’s more toxic-positivity, where people are using to dismiss, or blame people for not being always positive. Sometimes people try and force 24/7 positivity all the time.”

The artwork is made up of five panels that are brim-full with surrealist cartoon characters that all display humour and a slightly disturbing dark side. This jarring juxtaposition can be unnerving – first you see the Beatlesque Yellow Submarine humour and you might let out a little giggle, but then it hits you and you kinda realise that there’s this undercurrent of Pepperland’s Blue Meanies marching through your thoughts. If you want to be challenged by art, this is the exhibition for you.

On the Bright Side runs from 13 August 2021 until 27 August 2021 at the Convenience Gallery, Bloom Building, Abbey Close, Priory Industrial Estate, Birkenhead. CH41 5FQ.

If you are a young aspiring artist and want some guidance or just want to keep up to date with the latest news from Convenience Gallery, please see their website , Instagram , Facebook , and Twitter

Main Image: (L-R) Ryan Gauge and Andrew Shaw, Co-directors of Convenience Gallery in front of some of the artwork created by local 14- 18-year-olds. Credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

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