It was the John Moores that first inspired Ben Johnson to be an artist – and this year the creator the Liverpool Cityscape has a work in the prestigious painting prize.
The artist’s painting, The Space Between Revisited, is one of 60 shortlisted works on display in the 2018 exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery.
As a 15-year-old in 1961, Johnson came on a day trip to Liverpool with fellow students from Chester Art College. And had what he dubs a 'eureka!' moment.
He recalls: “All of us wanted to go to the Cavern, but we thought we ought to come and look at some art too. I rounded a corner at the Walker – and there was a painting of Peter Blake wearing badges. (the painting won a junior prize in the 1961 John Moores competition)
Read more about the 2018 John Moores Painting Prize
“I got back on the coach that evening and said 'I thought the Cavern was great, but I’ve decided what I want to be. I’m going to be a painter. And one day I’m going to have a painting at the Walker'.”
Not only has he achieved that ambition ‘a couple of times’ with entries in the John Moores, but ironically Johnson now also shares a studio in London with Sir Peter Blake himself.
Liverpool Cityscape © Ben Johnson 2008. All Rights Reserved. DACS.
Meanwhile 10 years ago, Johnson set up a working studio at the Walker to complete his intricate waterfront panorama as part of Capital of Culture.
He laughs: “The Walker said: ‘we’ve got 40 volunteers to help explain what’s going on with the painting’. Well, I thought no one would come along. We had 1,100 people a day! They were very respectful, and if I was away from the work they would ask me questions.
“I’d also do a talk every lunchtime I was there.
“I made friends that are still my friends today.”
You can see Ben Johnson’s work as part of the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition at the Walker until November 18. Liverpool Cityscape is in the Museum of Liverpool.