The Underclass, Underculture  & History From Below

Themes & Ideas.

History is the focal point of my work, particularly history from below - the life of pirates, slaves, peasants, vagrants, bandits, heretics, and their radical ideas.

My fascination with this below perspective grew out of an interest in the Black Death (1347 -51), and the societal upheaval its death toll caused for everyday people and everyday life, and in turn the gradual domino effect which occurred, literally 'turning the world upside down'. This death toll brought on a massive shortage of human labour, where a lucrative opportunity opened up for the few surviving peasants to charge a higher rate wage for their much sought after labour, and for some to even own their own land. Fearful of the consequences this economic prosperity may lead to, authorities gradually put in place oppressive legislations such as capping wages at pre-Black Death rates. This angered many labourers and tradesmen across the country and culminated in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 led by Wat Tyler.

With this continuous body of work, I attempt to visualize these areas of interest with a hint of humour and irony using various media including painting, drawing, collage and assemblage sculpture. Initially due to cost restraints, these materials are either inexpensive, free, re-purposed or found, but have now become a staple aspect of the work and, in some way, perhaps by coincidence, reflect the self-sufficiency of the peasant, pirate, slave and vagrant. The pirate's life, for example, would more or less consist of 'zero production' due to everything being reappropriated, from the ship they sailed in, the clothes on their back, the iconic symbolism they sailed under (the skull & crossbones) to the food they ate, usually prepared by slaves previously captured from a slave ship.

The work is unframed when curated. As with the materials this was initially due to cost, but has now become a preferred method of display and only lends itself to the raw makeshift aesthetic. The somewhat dirty, untidy appearance of the work stems from, and perhaps is in reaction to, the frustration and thankless task of pristine and clean-cut portraits and architectural drawings I used to create. In saying that, elements of frustration and the pristine evidently still exist within the body of work. The practicality of rolling up drawings, transporting them on foot to a space and unscrolling them to display, gives a subtle nod to both the vagabond and the seafarer's map.