Artists on Brexit

The Courtauld’s Research Forum is pleased to announce a lecture series for the 2018-19 academic year, Artists on Brexit.

With Brexit negotiations reaching the crunch point, four celebrated and influential artists from Britain and Northern Ireland will speak about the ways in which their art both gives image to and radically re-imagines our political moment. The series has been organised by Dr Edwin Coomasaru (Postdoctoral Fellow, The Courtauld Institute of Art) as part of his research project, ‘Taking Back Control?’: Gendering Brexit’s Visual Culture.

This event series was organised by Dr Edwin Coomasaru (The Courtauld)

Feminism, Brexit and the Irish Border

18th October 2018 

Rita Duffy – Independent

What might a feminist approach to Brexit and the Irish border look like? In 2017 Northern Irish artist Rita Duffy created an artwork across the Blacklion-Belcoo Bridge, which straddles the Irish-Northern Irish border. Soften the Border (2017) brought together women’s groups from either side to knit brightly-coloured dolls and cushions and installed them on site. How might the work testify to the ties between those living over or between national boundaries? What does it mean for Northern Irish and Irish women to weave and stitch together such a display of collectivity amidst a climate of right-wing political rhetoric demanding the UK ‘take back control’ and seal its borders? At a time when Brexiteers have been publicly denouncing the 1998 Good Friday Agreement for fear it undermines their desire for a ‘clean break’ from the EU, what are the stakes for the Northern Irish peace process? How much are our historical ideas of ‘sovereignty’ interwoven with concepts of (military) masculinity – and could Soften the Border offer an urgent and vital opportunity to rethink both?

Rita Duffy is one of Northern Ireland’s foremost artists, renown for her feminist work on the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’ (1968-98) and Irish history. She received her BA and MA in Fine Art from the University of Ulster. In 1990 she was awarded the Gold Medal at the Royal Ulster Academy, in 2005 she was an Associate Reader at Goldsmiths, and between 2009-10 she held a Leverhulme Fellowship with the Transitional Justice Institute (Ulster University), researching the role of visual art in post-conflict societies. Her work has been exhibited internationally, from the Belfast’s Ulster Museum and Dublin’s Hugh Lane, to London’s Flowers Gallery and Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Brexit’s Political Imagination

21st March 2019

Martin Rowson – The Guardian

What does Brexit look like? Political cartoons are at the very forefront of crafting Brexit’s political imagination: giving shape and form to the fears and anxieties that colour a fast-moving and turbulent political landscape. Martin Rowson, political cartoonist for The Guardian newspaper, has chronicled British political life for over thirty years – from the days of Margaret Thatcher to Theresa May. Rowson has also been incredibly important in picturing Brexit as it unfolds: from depictions of May as a transparent ghost, Britain as a post-apocalyptic barren landscape, the government as a sinking ship, the cabinet falling off a cliff edge. These metaphors are at the heart of how the press, politicians and public conceptualise the Brexit process – alongside the images of slime, horror and abject mess that also characterise Rowson’s nightmarish visions. Eight days before Britain leaves the EU, Rowson will speak about capturing the spirit of our historical moment, to reflect on what it means to give an image to such turbulent times.

Martin Rowson is a political cartoonist for The Guardian. He read English Literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he first began publishing cartoons and illustrations. After graduating he produced a cartoon series, Scenes from the Lives of the Great Socialists, for the New Statesman between 1982-83. He contributed to Financial Weekly from 1984-89 and Sunday Today from 1986-93. Rowson has also contributed to The Guardian since 1987, Time Out since 1990, Independent on Sunday from 1991-94, Independent Magazine from 1993-94, Daily Mirror since 1996, Daily Express since 1998, The Scotsman since 1998, and the Times Educational Supplement since 1998. In 2001 the Mayor of London appointed him Cartoonist Laureate for London. He has written a number of novels and graphic adaptations, including The Waste Land (1990) and Gulliver’s Travels (2012).

Brexit and the Apocalypse

2nd May 2019 

Professor Jon Thomson – Slade School of Fine Art, UCL and Alison Craighead – Goldsmiths / University of Westminster

In 2016 artists Thomson & Craighead made a perfume-artwork called Apocalypse: re-creating the olfactory description of the end of the world from the King James Bible’s Book of Revelation. A work as timely as it was prophetic, Apocalypse was made the same year as the EU referendum – a historical event that shattered the way many in Britain conceptualised the future. Ever since, the language of the apocalypse has increasingly been used to articulate (or refute) life after Brexit in the press, political discourse, newspaper cartoons, and on social media. MP David Davis’ claims that there would not be a ‘Mad Max-style Brexit’ in February 2018 certainly didn’t help dispel the idea – nor did The Sunday Times’ report about the UK government’s ‘Doomsday’ plan for Brexit a few months later. What are the politics of invoking the apocalypse as a metaphor to describe the Brexit process? Thomson & Craighead will speak about Apocalypse alongside more recent work made in response to Brexit, to consider how their practice probes the anxiety and uncertainty that marks our turbulent times.

Jon Thomson is a Professor of Fine Art at UCL’s the Slade School of Fine Art, and Alison Craighead is a Lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths and a Reader in contemporary art and visual culture at the University of Westminster. Both studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, University of Dundee. In 2004 they were awarded Fellowships at The MacDowell Colony, in 2012 were shortlisted for the Samsung Art Prize and in 2014 for the Nam June Paik Award. Their work has been exhibited across the world: from Tate Britain, to Berkley Art Museum in San Francisco, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Centre International d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, and Haus der Kunst in Munich.