New Sensations’ winner Jonny Briggs is feeling surprisingly equanimous about the passing of the Britain’s most controversial Prime Minister; speaking ahead Thatcheristic, an exhibition exploring artists’ responses to the former PM, Briggs reflects: “There have been passionate comments passing back and forth about Margaret Thatcher, from those who loved and those who hated her, yet more than a politician she was a human being, and like all of us she had insecurities. She has been infamously described as ‘The Iron Lady’, as lacking in emotion, yet this is an image that’s a portal in to a more fragile side of her that was rarely seen, and one that I feel we can all relate to, regardless of our political stance.”
Opening on the day of Thatcher’s funeral in London, the exhibition at London’s Gallery Different has been curated by Art Below and will feature ten artists depictions of ‘The Iron Lady’ and run for ten days – a play on the number of the Prime Minister’s residence. The organisers state: “Similar to Thatcher’s government, there is only one lady in the artist line up who include Peter Kennard, Nasser Azam, Gordon Beswick & Harry Pye, Carne Griffiths, Matt Small, Eleanor Lindsay Fynn and Oliver Malin.” Selected works from the exhibition are due to feature at Westminster tube station from 22 April, including Jonny Briggs’ piece, a large pixellated close-up of Margaret Thatcher’s tearful eye as departed Downing Street. Graduating from Chelsea in 2007, Jonny Briggs was selected to exhibit in Xhibit at UAL in 2010 and won the Saatchi New Sensations Prize in 2011.
Peter Kennard, whose photomontage from the Tate collection Maggie Regina will be on show, is a UAL tutor who has been a politically involved artist since late 1960s-early 1970s, creating works that engage politically with both the viewer and the environment. An artist-activist since the time of the Vietnam war, he has been recognized by Art in America as “one of the very few artists – the only one it might be said – who has had a direct effect on recent British politics”. One of his latest projects is the book @earth, a story without words of global destruction and resistance told through the language of photomontage. Fellow alumni Johan Andersson, who graduated from CSM, and Harry Pye, an alumnus of Camberwell, are also exhibiting.
“All the artists in the show have one thing in common, we all grew up as Thatcher’s children” remarks Ben Moore, Director of Art Below. “Some of the artists like Peter Kennard whose depiction of Thatcher is in the Tate Collection already have work at hand, however some artists are creating work specially for the show like Carne Griffiths and Matt Small. Thatcher’s recent death has highlighted the divide in people’s thoughts and feelings towards her, I hope this exhibition reflects this in a visual way.”
Since the news broke, the UK’s art correspondents have been reflecting on Thatcher’s time in power and how it affected the arts; in his article considering whether she was an inspiration to artists, the BBC’s Will Gompertz described her as the grit in artists’ oysters, while The Guardian asks whether she gave “the arts a shot in the arm?” in their piece Margaret Thatcher: Acceptable in the 80s?.
Thatcheristic opens at Gallery Different, 14 Percy St London, W1T 1DR on 17 April.
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