Is the Wirral’s creative process different from Liverpool’s?
We may never know, but Ryan Garry’s film The Creative Process may hold the answer.
The 21-year-old filmmaker has created the 40-minute documentary covering 14 of Merseyside’s leading professional and amateur artists, in collaboration with the Rathbone Studio Gallery and supported by Arts Council England.
Ryan’s film follows artists including Frank Lund – famous for his Black Pearl driftwood pirate ship at New Brighton beach – and Susan Lee Brown in a who’s who of the North West art scene.
“It started in December 2014 at the Rathbone Studio Gallery which is a ceramics studio and gallery in Birkenhead. They invited people to come down to the studio to be famous for 15 minutes and it evolved from there, really,” Ryan explains.
“I didn’t know it was going to go into a 40-minute film as it is now. I had access to all these artists from different disciplines and different backgrounds, so I thought I’d interview them and create a film out of that.
“That’s what happened over the next year, I interviewed them off and on and put together this thing that, hopefully, gives people a greater understanding of people’s creative process when they watch it.”
We’re in Heswall’s Costa Coffee with Ryan and are surprised when he declines our offer of a tea or a coffee, saying he’s lived so far without trying either and can’t miss what he’s never had.
We, on the other hand, bloody live on the stuff and slap a fiver on the counter before sitting down for the interview. It’s clear to us that Ryan’s a particular sort of chap – in a good way, of course. He loves the project and has obviously worked very hard on trying getting so many different individual creative stories into the open.
“There are 14 artists in the film, each of which gets two or three minutes to speak about their creative process.
“I didn’t go into it with the intention of revealing anything, but the core message came out of it as we went along.
“The thing that I got from it is how it humanises creativity and art. When you go into an art gallery you see a painting and that’s all it says to you. It’s quite abstract and opaque, but these people are speaking to you. You can see their art and can see them as a person, and how they’re trying to speak to you.”
Anyone who’s ever tried creating anything artistic will know what a hugely personal thing it is, and that no one story is ever the same; something which Ryan has managed to highlight from just over a year spending time with some of the Wirral’s most creative individuals.
“It was useful having such a diversity of artists such as Frank Lund. There’s also Susan Lee Brown and Sophie Lees, who has received a national award in regard raising awareness for her condition, ME, and she used art to try and recover from that, in a way.
“Susan Lee Brown is probably the most interesting story because everyone comes from Liverpool, the Wirral, or around Merseyside as a whole and can take the scene for granted. Susan comes from California and comes with a different eye. She’s lived here for 30 years and was saying about the art scene of the Wirral and was referencing things like the Wirral Open Studio Tour and others.”
Something not scene before
We move onto the Wirral art scene, which we don’t think gets anywhere near enough credit when compared against Liverpool’s. It’s here Ryan underlines how the area’s growing for the local art crowd, and that – especially during the Capital of Culture celebrations – local artists grew in confidence and realised they didn’t have to go to London to try and make it big.
“I’d say the art scene on the Wirral’s healthy. The Festival of Firsts in Hoylake is an open submission and people can put all their paintings on the promenade. It’s easier to go to Liverpool because it’s so compact in the centre, but Wirral has a lot of artistic spaces such as the Williamson Gallery, the Rathbone, Shore Cottage Studio by the beach in Thurstaston…”
Indeed, Shore Cottage Studio was featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel 4 in 2013 and can rightly be called a work of art in itself. Clarke called it “the perfect place to teach art classes” and its views are possibly some of the most inspirational on the Wirral.
“There is a big scene here. Perhaps a lot more of it is focused on the amateur side; galleries and studios run a lot of classes for people and there are a lot of galleries that exhibit locals, it’s healthy to bring people up like that. It’s interesting to me that Liverpool has a lot of bigger galleries that exhibit existing art and not necessarily newer talent.”
Back to the film itself and Ryan directs us to a press release on the Rathbone website detailing how this all started, with the gallery offering a ‘Warhol moment’, specifically 15 minutes of video fame. It was something Ryan was only too happy to help with.
“I’ve been doing photography for a few years and I’m interested in the visual side of things. That was useful going into the project; I’ve written stuff previously too, like short stories and poems, so I find the writing side of artistry very interesting, I love hearing opinions about expression. I’d like to explore dance, graffiti, and other forms in the future.
“Having the Rathbone event helped me set up the interviews, it was just a matter of finding the time to interview them all and edit it together. They were completely random, and I had no bias in who was picked; there’s a real diversity in their stories.
“I’d love to pursue something in film, that’s where the passion lies. To explore different stories – I’m just interesting in telling stories and capturing people’s imaginations through film.”
Ryan’s on his way – he’s even working shifts at Vue Cinema in Cheshire Oaks, such is the pull of cinema. One of the things a filmmaker has to inevitably put up with is criticism but so far, he says, The Creative Process has been well received.
“The film will be showing around Merseyside over 2016. I want to look into showing the film in different forms, to not only show the whole 40-minute film but maybe split it up by artists and show it in a gallery, so people can push a button and hear what each one has to say instead of attending a formal screening, or an installation piece so it becomes a piece of art itself.
“It’s had two screenings on the Wirral and two in Liverpool so far. The Wirral ones were at Wirral Met and the Rathbone; it was well received at Wirral Met and was shown to BA Fine Art students and illustration students. It’s good to be there and hear their responses, not just from the people watching it but the people that have been in it.
“Some of the artists have said they looked at themselves and their art differently since they’ve seen themselves in the film. It’s interesting seeing those people evolve and seeing them grow from what we saw when we filmed it. It’s a very human story; it doesn’t stop, it’s real life.”