Friday, 26 October 2012

A time for change

Change is the only constant. It is a cliché, yet as far as I can tell is nonetheless true. Certainly it is a true constant in my work, in as much as it is in my life and over the past few years, the changes in one have often been reflected in the other. In this respect my work has to an extent been quite inwards-looking. I believe there is nothing wrong with this, in many ways it can be seen as the starting point for any good work. Knowledge of self and the self portrait are both fine and long-standing traditions in many forms of art.

Here and no further
Mixed media on paper, 24x16cm
There comes a time, however, when looking inwards is not enough on its own and it becomes important to engage with the outside world. While I have done my best to always allow for the influence of the outside world in my abstract work, I have not as yet engaged with it directly. In recent weeks this has changed.

I have been working on a series of small paper paintings, that follow on from my recent panel paintings. Conceived, like all my small paper works, as both a means of building and conserving momentum and at the same time to create affordable pieces, these paintings went somewhere unexpected.

I realised, as I was working, that I was no longer simply commenting on and interpreting myself and my place in the world, I was also commenting on and interpreting my opinions and ideas about the world at large. There is a very good reason for this and it returns to the idea of change.

In the past I have touched on my political beliefs about the world at large and the need for change in our society, with particular regard to politics and the hoarding or power by a small percentile of our population. In Scotland, currently, there is real potential to begin to effect some of that change. This potential for change lies in the independence movement.

In two years time, a referendum will be held in Scotland to determine our future status. I believe the result of that referendum will see Scotland leave the United Kingdom and return to being an independent sovereign state for the first time in more than three hundred years.

As a smaller nation, without such cultural baggage of imperialistic world domination, or an entrenched, mendacious and jaundiced ruling elite and with a population that has repeatedly, over decades, demonstrated an overriding belief in social democracy, I believe we have a chance to create a just and fair society.

Send her victorious
Mixed media, 16x24cm
My interpretations of and reactions to the campaigns leading up to this uniquely and historically important referendum, are the opinions that have come to inform my recent work. While I passionately believe in independence for Scotland, I am equally, if oppositely, passionate about these campaigns. In particular, I am appalled by almost the entirety of the mainstream media, that has been utterly partial towards the unionist movement.

Not a day passes without publication of either a groundless scare story about a particular aspect of an independent Scotland, or a smear story against the independence movement and in particular the Scottish National Party or Alex Salmond. (For the record, I am not an SNP voter and no fan of Salmond.) First Minister Salmond is painted as the sole figure behind the 'separatist' movement and, among other things, has been likened to a host of mass-murdering dictators (even once by a respected BBC journalist). It is poisonous and despicable behaviour, whose only intent is to distill fear in a populace that might otherwise think for itself and not stand by its betters.

Being someone who in the past has been involved in the media, as well as someone who spends a lot of time reading and thinking, it really should have come as no surprise that the independence debate leached into my work. Nonetheless it was an unexpected event, although one that I have to admit that I am pleased by. It feels to me that there is a satisfyingly full weight in the debate as a source of material for my paintings.

There is of course a potential in making such work for alienating those who are disinterested and also creating divisions in those who are. It is a risk that I believe is work taking.

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