As mentioned in my last post, the triptych which I have been working on for the last two years is finally complete. Of course, I am aware that technically it is not a triptych, as the paintings are individual and unattached. However, I feel justified in using the description as the meaning of the three works shown individually is developed by their proximity – thus they become more than the sum of their parts. Together they form a collective reference to the Tricolour, underlining the fact that all three pieces deal with an aspect of the founding principles of the french revolution and modern democracy. The title, …ou la mort – ‘or death‘ is the completion of the better known first part of the saying – Liberte, egalite, fraternite – or ‘Freedom, equality, brotherhood’ which forms the national motto of France (and Haiti) and which can be regarded as the founding ideals of Rousseau’s democracy. The full motto appeared in a May 1791 proposition by the Club de Cordeliers, and is held to have originated in a speech by the Marquis de Guichardin, though sadly the detail of this is lacking.
All three paintings point to the opposite of the concept they represent, to underline the failures of modern democracy to deliver on the hopes of the revolutionaries who ensured its establishment in Europe and America. The first painting in the group ‘Identity in suppression‘ highlights the extent to which people are chained to the banking system; ‘You won’t get me‘ emphasises the inequality of labour in the face of the interests of capital; and ‘We’re all in this together‘ references the forced divisions in society which allow the wealthy to carry on regardless. Personally, I feel that democracy showed its failure when the needs of the banks and their share and bond holders outweighed the economic needs of the populations of the countries that have introduced heavy austerity packages whilst spending billions on bailing out the financial sector and on fighting wars largely to the benefit of big corporations. Whilst the resources of the world are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, austerity encourages people to hate and fear each other, as a dwindling pool of resource is ‘shared’ between an expanding global population. The recent surge in calls for self-determinism in Scotland, the development of social nationalism in Iceland and the rise of extreme nationalism in England, Ukraine, Hungary, Greece are all responses to the economic conditions and political zeitgeist resulting from the failed excesses of finance capital. In themselves, these responses highlight the success of a deliberate strategy of encouraging division and confusion and in the face of rising income inequality the poor are turned against each other while the super rich make hay. The group is the second in a series of paintings I have planned on the theme of flags, which I am hoping to show in a mini exhibition focusing on the themes of nationalism and social collapse.
I hope that the works encourage you to think about the kind of world we have created for ourselves and our children, and ask whether beautiful moments for shareholders are really the legacy you wish to play a part in delivering.