London Burning’ triptych
The triptych ‘London’s Burning’ offers a “spiritual” vision of the recent riots in England. Inspired by the Landmarks stained glass windows the work has a mosaic-like quality with their rich and almost transparent, luminous colours. In this work, random and inexplicable acts of mindless craziness become the expression of the downtrodden revolting against what they perceive as their exclusion from society. This triptych offers a visual interpretation of these events and provides a visual form of interpretation for the people within society/the church. As such they can be compared to the pictures depicting the ‘lives of saints’ where the narrative is intended for the edification of the faithful and has moral and instructional purposes and in an oblique and social way they have their place among popular Christian imagery.
The medium of digital can be an excellent one for social commentary. A collection of composited images, manipulated on the computer could be seen as a contemporary method of what used to be history, religious or mythological paintings, depicting an artist’s interpretation of events either fictional or ones subjected to artistic license. In one particular piece from the series, Altes offers the viewer a chiaroscuro-esque experience with the light source being the burning of buildings, cars and businesses. Operating within realms of ‘street art’ and contemporary graffiti design, Altes presents landscape images of urban schemes of decay and destruction. Foreground detritus against recognizable London landmarks, the black smoke reminiscent of London smog is now transposed into the burning of petrol cans and other weapons of civil and social revolt.
The public are still coming to terms with what happened in the summer of 2011, commentators and youth groups are still coming up with reasons why this happened. Perpetrators are interviewed behind black hoods and caps and politicians behind red boxes and white papers promising prosecution, reform and solutions to all social ills. Artists and gallery’s a like therefore need to respond to these events that have shocked and bemused us. This venue, an original place of sanctity and now a viewing platform of visual communication and commentary, is a perfect one to reflect and discuss in.
Ben Kidger – Landmark Art Gallery Curator