Elements of Darkness

I was talking to a student at the weekend, discussing some of the work she had created for her final DP art exhibition.

She was eloquent and  articulate.

She spoke of repression and fear.

She talked about the insidious reach of the government of her home country:  she had lived in the UK for many years but still her parents warned her about the repercussions of her IBDP art exhibition.
Don’t make overt statements about our government: if it gets out that you are criticising them, we will be made to pay.
She spoke openly and with anger about the regime of her home country, but in her art she had conceded to the fears, and the wishes, of her parents and, although still powerful, her exhibition tuned in to other elements of human darkness.

In 1995 the artist Marcus Harvey created ‘Myra’: Harvey is primarily known for this large (9 x 11 feet) monochrome portrayal of Moors murderer Myra Hindley, created from the handprints of children. It was shown in the “Sensation” exhibition in 1997 and, predictably, created a huge public outcry.

The student I interviewed had first of all painted her own self-portrait on Perspex, using her fingertips,  in a monochrome of black and white, and then, on a larger scale and, using the same technique, painted the face of ‘Baby P’.

Her painting was a clear and chilling reference to murdered children.

Her exhibition contained a number of other  stark and thought-provoking paintings and artifacts, but this reworking of a technique associated – through Marcus Harvey – with murders that happened 45 years ago (the murders occurred between 1963 and 1965) has stayed with me.

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