Archive for June, 2016|Monthly archive page

Brexit

Euro_flag_yellow_lowThis is my letter of 26 June 2016 to my Member of Parliament, Amber Rudd.

 

 

26 June 2016

Dear Ms Rudd,

My reading of the referendum result is that the country is now experiencing a constitutional crisis. It is clear that there was no contingency on either side of the debate – though I dispute that it was ever binary – as to what would happen afterwards. Indeed, it was remiss of me not ask this question of anyone prior to the vote. Maybe that reflects our collective complacency regarding the result.

We are told this is the will of the people. First of all, it is an advisory referendum. The people have spoken, for sure, but it is evidently clear that they have not spoken about the EU, rather the liberal elite’s many years of neglect. It is not surprising when, given a “meaningful” vote, it is used to give that very same elite a kicking. I can understand that.

Second, this was all about party management, not British interests. It should never have been called. And it should never have been decided on a simple majority. On this I want to know how this was ever allowed. For example, what was the input from the civil service and state lawyers? Why was it a only a simple majority? What is the Monarch’s role in this? What risk assessment was done? And is the sovereign Parliament going to talk about this before the nuclear button is pressed? Are there any lessons from Democrats in the USA trying to get gun control debated?

Third, there is a vacuum now at a time when leadership is required. Just looking at the newspapers this morning the issues do not seem to be about what we are going to do. Rather Conservative and Labour Party politics. So, who will succeed Mr Cameron (we cannot wait until October!)? And Mr Benn’s challenge to Mr Corbyn. These are side shows.

Please tell me who the “states-people” are. Is there anyone I can trust in the political class? Who are the people who are going to lead us? What are the Parliamentary options? Which street should I protest on?

Most disturbingly, the campaign has legitimised racism, xenophobia and no doubt other phobias – gender, sexuality, etc. History tells us that this is dangerous for the country and the continent. This is no longer a party matter. How can I help you stop this madness?

Kind regards,

Dr Andrew Grantham

 

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University of Brighton Graduate Show, 2016: Part 1, paintings and graphic art

This year’s show is an absolute cracker. Well done to all. Here are my observations and personal highlights under the following themes: anger, self, beauty, environment and miscellaneous.

Anger

DSCF1389I was listening earlier to the veteran American documentary maker, Michael Moore, discussing the current political situation in his own country and also in Europe. He echoed what I have been saying to my students in recent times. He said that he’s surprised that younger people are not more angry with their parents when it comes to the state of things. There is a lot to be angry about. I felt this in this year’s show. There are a few exceptions such as the work of Sadie Leigh Hudson – Frustrations of an Art Student (left), but even then, maybe just a little easy to brush aside? I like the sentiment, however.

Somewhat more effective in the angry theme was Omelle Palmer’s piece Right Move. Palmer’s anger is focused on homelessness in Brighton.DSCF1392 Cleverly, Palmer has imaged the spaces occupied by rough sleepers as houses for sale in the window of estate agents. It’s effective and takes a welcome swipe at estate agents and the concept of ownership and privilege. It made me feel uncomfortable.

DSCF1404Next on my angry list is the work of Izdehar Afyouni (left). The portfolio is mixed paintings and sculpture – all with that menace that comes with the depiction of the mess that humans can sometimes make. The accompanying statement by Afyouni  is presented as an angry letter (to James) whose failure to understand and respect ‘others’ leads to exclusion, discrimination and repression. Angry it is!

 Self

Choosing a subject for a portfolio is never easy. I struggle sometimes with this blog to decide what to write and when.DSCF1412 So artists are forgiven for resting on the familiar; namely, family. There are two exceptional examples of family in this year’s show. First, the work of Sophie Williams (right). Sisters, a nonchalant brother, Matthew (with better things to do) and a meal make up her striking troika painted over a single weekend.

DSCF1414Second, is a reflection on childhood and home in Cyprus by Eleni Papageorgiou. This series of paintings reproduced from photographs represents what is familiar to all whose childhoods were protected and nurturing. Papageourgiou here presents an affectionate portrait of her father washing the dishes. Ah yes; food, home and sunshine. Compelling.

Another fabulous set of autobiographical images are presented by Michaela Yearwood-Dan (right)DSCF1418. Set in South London against the backdrop of parental immigration from the West Indies, the sense of community huddled into a kebab shop is familiar and wonderfully reassuring. A far cry from tropical Barbados, but humanity frequently congregates, temperate urban or otherwise.

By way of contrast, the work of self-described millennial, Sam Creasy, depicts what for my generation may appear DSCF1420rather dystopian, bright, garish, kitsch “waste imagery assembled from internet content”. Creasy cites as influences SciFi novels (in particular Phillip K Dick), films (Ex Machina and District 9) as well as current science (cybernetics, information technologies) and hints at a breakdown of social order.

 

Beauty

Very much in the eye of the beholder, here. First, Megan Martin’s work (right) seems to have beeDSCF1416n a conscious attempt to avoid the danger of missing the point of painting if one reproduces from photographs (something that is common this year). Martin’s work has that lovely touch of unreality whilst capturing a the partial reality of our own engagement with otherness, in this case a dog and wonderfully shaped horse. The translucent nature of the human figure makes this picture for me. Martin’s key influence, Sidney Nolan, is on my list of further investigation.

DSCF1402A number of years ago I discovered the work of Paul Nash in the process of my absorbing the work of European surrealists. Nash was never officially part of the group but his work, influenced by his WW1 experience, led to some memorable pieces, a copy of one of them, Landscape from a dream still sits over my bed (the original is in the Tate for others to see). Not surprisingly when seeing the picture on the left, Sea Foam, I thought of Paul Nash. The palette has a similar washed-out appearance. The birds seem to be a hybrid of organic and non-organic flying objects. And, for me at least, there is an uncertainty between land and sea.

Nature also is at the heart of two more contrasting beautiful pictures. DSCF1400 Ellen Balcomb fuses nature and landscape with eastern traditions of painting and representation and the National Geographic. Balcomb states that her work is aesthetically driven in pursuit of beauty. In those terms, the job is done; which brings me on to the work of Jake Grewal.

Environment

Jake Grewal has starkly imagined a dystopian future. On a trip to Borneo, he writes, he has seen the ancient forest and its inhabitants being absorbed by the modern mega city with its technology, culture and ideology. He discovered that the jungle dwellers are not like the indigenous people of DSCF1399the past. These people wear western clothes, have mobile phones, burn plastic waste. Much of this seems to be possible by their complicity in the palm oil industry (we western consumers drive the demand for palm oil) – clearing the forests to enable mono-culture rather than exploit nature’s diverse bounty in some sort of harmony. Grewal’s canvasses are large, bright and disconcerting (for example, left). They have a lot to say, and they stay in the memory.DSCF1409

The picture with the most interesting and telling title is Alice Trull’s piece, Jake the Dog and Finn the Human (right). This is fantastic at a number of levels. The dog does take centre stage. His look is one of gratitude to Finn. They clearly are fond of one another as the escape some sort of flood. The monocrome amongst some peripheral colour is wonderfully juxtaposed.

Miscellaneous

DSCF1410I am not quite sure what to make of Terese Jönsson’s work (left). There is an element of surrealism – familiar environments and situations (in this case the office) – with disconcerting components (animal sculls rather than human heads). Now these are stock images – we are probably familiar with many of them used on Powerpoint presentations or in newspapers. Here is the originality. And it is effective.DSCF1395

Jessica Forest’s piece (right), Breakfast, is eminently edible. This could have gone into my self category, above. There is nothing more self than one’s food. This is a massive canvass for a banana!

DSCF1387And finally, Liorah Tchiprout. The puppets as figures and then represented on a canvass is curious. The puppets are both beautiful and ugly. They are equally creepy and faithful to the human form and fashion. This is where we started at the top of the building. I think it is a fitting summary to my review of this year’s art show.

Part 2, however, will review crafts. Please come back soon.

Any errors to names, etc. please let me know. I am not intending to mis-represent any artists.