Well it is crazy. And getting crazier and more dangerous every day. But I want to tell you about an art exhibition that’s on at the moment. Black and white paintings – mostly large – scenes of mass protests taken from newspapers or the internet, images of dense crowds viewed from above, from tall buildings or from police helicopters, perhaps.
The Arab Spring, “Black Lives Matter”, Anti-Trump demonstrations – all part of our recent history – but then I wondered: what does she think of all this? Is she ‘for’ or ‘against’ or is she simply observing?
Someone else might say that it doesn’t matter, it’s just art – but it matters to me! I knew a fella once, he’d make art videos of all the marches – but he never took part. I used to see him standing up on plinth with his camera as we marched by. Where did he really stand, I wondered?
But I’m talking about the wonderful paintings by Joy Gerrard in Shot Crowd at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin at the moment. I was very taken by them. And when I think about it, how they deliberately choose the ‘helicopter view’, I imagine she wanted to portray that sinister feeling of being under constant surveillance.
The paintings are Japanese black ink on linen. See the detail above, the water based ink mixed to different consistencies from transparent washes to solid black, her brushwork quite free and loose, perhaps to emphasise the humanity of the scene and to subvert the threatening atmosphere in some way.
And there’s also a video and this is what really caught my attention. Hard to describe, it’s like a model of an empty city and then thousands of ball bearings start pouring in from one side until the ‘city’ is completely taken over by them. (Actually, they’re not ball bearings, Joy tells me, they are shot or shot gun pellets, collected by emptying shot gun cartridges). The pellets finally come to a halt and there’s silence for a moment before the pellets start running again, away to the other side, until the city is deserted again.
And so it continues endlessly. I imagine the creator tilting the ‘city’ from side to side to make the pellets roll, some hidden hand controlling the situation, allowing the ‘people’ to run wild for a while but containing them within certain limits and ultimately, maintaining absolute power over them. Scary thought.
Scary times. But could an art video change anything? I believe it can. It can raise awareness; it can move an audience and make them think. And that’s crucial in today’s world. What do you think?