Against the Tide: Paintings inspired by the Old Masters that highlight the issue of mass migration

Tora Baker, Creative Boom, October 28, 2019

In his new body of work, Against the Tide, Darren Coffield takes inspiration from the Old Master paintings in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and adds a distorted twist that hints at the current issue of mass migration.


"I became interested in how these images of this humanitarian crisis are represented in the media," Coffield says. "My works take classical images and combines them with the digital glitches you get from a bad signal, breaking up the composition with coloured stripes that evoke the banality of the British seaside: bright stripy deck chairs and sticks of rock." 


With these colourful stripes, Coffield creates an eerie juxtaposition, using the beach as a cultural reference to explore its uses as a place of leisure as well as death.

The people depicted become anonymous with these digital glitches, resembling the barcodes associated with relentless mass production, vast consumerism and scale, reinforcing the sheer quantity of people directly affected by mass migration. 

Coffield’s paintings evoke the duality of anonymity and individualism of migration and travel: bringing this wave of humanity to the forefront of the viewer’s mind and exposing its unrelenting reality. Desperate, overfilling ships and boats ebb and wane in the beating sun, while the bodies of Coffield’s figurative works are left hopelessly beached. The detail in the paintings forces the viewer to confront that this is not happening in some faraway land to beings, unlike ourselves. Visible to all and ignored by many, this is an ongoing, urgent and often fatal situation. 


Against the Tide is on show at the Dellasposa Gallery in London until 8 November.