A homage to the British maritime tradition, the threat of nationalism, the mediatic distortion on images and the manipulation of people’s minds through fear: these some of the themes in Darren Coffield’s solo exhibition in Dellasposa Gallery, central London.
The exhibition, titled Against the Tide, is open to the public until November 8th.
“If you are against the tide, you’re going against what’s happening in society or life, you’re trying to fight against something inevitable,” said Mr Coffield.
On Saturday 26th October, the artist was present in the gallery for a welcoming vernissage. The visitors were introduced to Mr Coffield by the gallery Director Jessica McBride. Every visitor could benefit from a very welcoming and interactive tour and talk directed by the artist himself.
Mr Coffield welcomes every question with interest and explains in detail the theme of every painting, exploring the process and the techniques, as well as the general aim of the project.
“The idea of the show is to look at the British identity and Brexit and the refugee problem, which has been used as a reason why we shouldn’t be part of Europe.”
Refugees are portrait in overloaded boats, painted as a homage to the British naval tradition. Coffield also refers to the theme of oversea colonialism in traditional art, such as J.M.W. Turner’s The Slave Ship and The Fighting Temeraire and Theodore Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa.
“I’ve taken historical images of ships and I’ve mixed them with images of people trying to escape their world and come to our word, to escape as refugees”.
In another series of smaller paintings, Coffield leaves the boats to focus on humans. In the same room, using the same technique is painted a woman sunbathing and the Syrian three-years-old dead body washed on the beach, which upset the whole word. Both of the subjects look dead.
These horrifying scenes are painted in bright colours, which are often associated with happiness and calm. According to the artist, this makes the viewer perceive the scene as even cruder.
Another series of paintings are painted in black and white, India ink on paper. They look almost like prints, those published in newspapers for examples.
The background of his paintings is the sea, the immense entity which, for centuries, has been associated with the unknown.
“How we use the notion of the sea, the endless sea, where the sea never seems to finish, superstitions, to generate fear in the public. The media are controlling people through fear” explains the artist.
This control the media has on the people is represented by the stripes in the middle of every painting, which are the most impactful feature of the whole project.
They represent the news’ distortion, the digital glitch. The blurring boundaries between truth and lies in our age, in which fake news are so easy to produce.
Mr Coffield shows in this project his great interest in the idea of nationalism which led to the Brexit issue as well as his political commitment and his concern for the issue of misinformation. He feels nationalism as a fast-growing emotion in every European country. “We are thinking less about what we have in common, which is a great deal, and more about what divides us, which is very small”.
“To call Darren Coffield a political artist would be reductive. He is, certainly, concerned with the issue of the day but, above all, he is a painter. One who plumbers art history, whilst having his fingers firmly on the pulse of contemporary art practice”. Wrote the award-winning art critic Sue Hubbard in her exhibition’s review.