I like painting... in fact, in my own dorky-white-middle-class way, I'll admit privileging it over most other art forms. The simple equation art = painting may be wrong, but it feels so right.
With this off my chest, you can imagine I was quite excited about the John Moores Painting Prize. 45 paintings picked by artists and curators with impeachable credentials, a prize with prodigious reputation in the staidly resplendently-Victorian Walker Art Gallery. Delicious!
However - fetch your torches and pitchforks - the exhibition left me feeling underwhelmed. Where I expected 45 of the best paintings that Britain has to offer - hoping for the bleeding edge of practice and thinking - instead it felt like a gazeteer of contemporary painting. One of every flavour. Each may be a technically brilliant painting with feet firmly in their own artistic and intellectual precedence, but this doesn't seem to be enough.
I'm not bothered that all the winners were white and male, I am bothered that the first prize winning prize painting, Spectrum Jesus by Keith Coventry, is deadly dull. There is something too dreary about it for words.
The other prizewinners, at least, are much more interesting and vital paintings. Bottom line, they make you feel something! Nick Fox's Metatopia, a resounding riff on Neoclassicism and Victorian visual culture, is a brooding, and yet delightful, work. For me, it feels like more than just trek down an established painting path.
As much as it might lack a certain vibrancy, the exhibition is a comfortable essay through contemporary painting, impeccably curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal. I'd call for the John Moores Painting Prize to be more adventurous, but I really have no idea where these adventures in paint are to be had. Have all the old bastions of painting been breached?
Perhaps it is contemporary painting in Britain that lacks vitality? Or perhaps, more likely, once again I find myself out of step with contemporary taste and artistic practice...