My heroes appear in museums and galleries
The title of this series was taken from a line in the Public Enemy song Fight the Power, "Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps". The concept originated with my identification of the importance representation in generating esteem for public figures. I began looking at figures from history that have at different times represented the nation. Post second world war these figures have diversified but I focussed on military "heroes" particularly of the 19th and 16th centuries. During the period of this investigation my work involved a greater relationship with artistic concept of identity politics, in so much as this investigation drew on my experience of growing up the natural embodiment of my state: white, heterosexual, cis-male Englishman. With this identity I had from an early age idolised figures such as Drake and Wellington however, now more aware of their the respective roles in imperialism, colonialism, and slavery I created these pieces showing my reassessment of them as figures worth veneration through idolatry.
Both the act of supporting this national narrative and the moral confusion of this act, are represented visually in these pieces. Through the choice to reconstruct the lower parts of these interrupted images and the expressive chaos of the figure's surroundings. The pieces were started through printing images of the likenesses of Admiral Nelson, Lord Wellington and Sir Francis Drake continuously on the same piece of paper, representative of the continual reproduction of these individuals likeness. An act that both manifests reverence, while simultaneously saturating it. Once satisfied with the layered image I worked into the pieces using graphite stick, a range of shades of pencil and on occasion charcoal. The construction of the backgrounds included not just abstract line and shade, done so as to illicit a recognition of the compromise I felt at my relationship to the subject. But I also began to feature images, subtle at first with Corinthian Columns, Union Jacks and toy soldiers included in the backgrounds, the additions became more blatant in later works. Eventually in later pieces, featuring Nelson then Drake, I used Charcoal more extensively, drawing loosely over the images. The prime example of success in this approach was the image of Drake where a "swashbuckling" swordsman lunges over the printed image, encapsulating the perception of Drake as a cavalier nation saving hero.
This series was exhibited in one of Camberwell College of Arts' student galleries and secured my place on the Richard Ford Award residency program.