‘New Hadrian’s Wall’, oil on panel, 2017, 76cm x 60cm
Walls, barriers and partitions are a central preoccupation in my work. Those who work within and around institutions or live in gated communities may be familiar with feelings of being both trapped and safe. Perhaps we are all increasingly willing prisoners happy to trade off freedom, diversity and creativity for safety and conformity. For many years, I have been embroiled in debates on admissions and access to higher education, widen participation and flexible learning. I feel the injustices within our systems very deeply; I spent two years living and working in Oxford where the University communities are actively a gated community away from its indigenous inhabitants. And that is the way they want it to stay.
‘New Hadrian’s Wall’ centres around a glib and stereotypical idea that Scotland has become a haven for progressive ideals in this era of ‘Brexit’ intensified only this week with the snap election call at Westminster. The wall in the picture is built out of a series of stacked shipping containers open to reveal what is inside; I have included a final frame from a ‘The Broons’ strip by my childhood comic artist idol Dudley D Watkins and an iconic scene from Danny Boyles’ Trainspotting. The guards along the wall are various characters from BBC 70s scifi ‘Blakes 7’ and ‘Braveheart’. While the rhetoric around the current Scottish nationalism focuses on its on openness and tolerance, I am deeply saddened that there is an increasing appetite hard national borders across Europe and beyond.
The painting, of course is just that. But making it and exploring these themes has become an important visual therapy for me.
Please contact the Open Eye Gallery to enquire about this and other works in the show.
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