Enthused by the by the general election campaign that took place in June 2017, artist Beth Barlow found herself becoming increasingly politically engaged and activated.
Alongside this sudden immersion in politics, the artist had been considering deeply the connectivity of everything on and within our planet. How each person, each animal, each action, each mineral or vegetable are deeply connected. Though we see ourselves as a definitively separate 'I' and 'You', 'We' and 'They', it could reasonably be said that we are all connected.
Beth began to create works inspired by the rolling news and the ongoing debates and discussions of parliament whilst further exploring how these stories and those embroiled in them were connected.
After some initial experiments using paint and wood, the artist decided that the notion of connectivity was better expressed by the loops and knots created in the art of crotchet. Crotchet also allowed for the easy creation of circles (a key emblem in Beth's current works). Circles create spaces which can be bridged by different kinds of connecting methods, which the artist exploits and demonstrates within this particular work. Some are robust and bind the circles together tightly whilst other seem more fragile and tentative.
The artist describes each individual circle as a 'body'. The definition of body in this context is; 'A collection of things held together by one structure'. This structure could be a set of circumstances people find themselves sharing or an organisation which holds individuals to common interest. The application and use of the word body is abundant in our every day language; A body of work, A governing body or a body of water to name but a few.
So whilst each circle within the work could represent one individual, it might also be used to represent a collection of things or ideas held together by a commonality.
On the morning that the artist sat down to begin working, the news was awash with images of the tragedy that had befallen Grenfell Tower. One large circle was then crotched in the colours of the cladding and burnt in the centre. 72 black stitches were then added to denote the number of people first thought missing. Watching the news unfold brought tears of connection, empathy, sadness and anger. “How must that feel?” “What must they be going through?” The task taken on meant that the news must stay on even if it felt wrong to be so constantly immersed in the tragedy of others. The news grew in what the artist felt was a scary and curious way over the next few weeks.
This one location with 600 residents became the epicentre of further fears. Each day the artist sat to crotchet, further tower blocks with cladding failing safety tests continued to grow, first it was 11, then 27, 32, and then 60. The artist crotched for twelve hours at a time to try and keep up with the numbers. What was anticipated as being one small segment of news and one small segment of work, grew and grew. Then it seemed that a response to the growing political debate was needed.
The second piece created which alludes to the above displays boil like protrusions representing financial markets and those who's choices and decisions are grounded in money rather than welfare and those who's only responsibility is to their shareholders. Stitched into this are representations of law and government. These are in-fact stitched so closely that they become one body. This one body (which may be tolerable if it stayed within it's own box), has tentacles which spread, sprawl and extend uneasily across the work and as they do so, dragging in the third news story; The ongoing refugee crisis and those displaced by war.
The blue, grey and black which littered our thoughts of Grenfell, the tastefully beige yet blood stained fiscal markets, the jumbled colours of the refugees as they perilously set off across land and sea and finally the bleached and charred buildings of Mosul, Damascus and other war torn lands.
The afore mentioned are presented to us via the rolling media as distinct and separate stories, Like it. Lump It. We are all connected. attempts to visually demonstrate how in reality all things, either at a gross or imperceptibly subtle level are in one way or another connected.
Through an ACE grant Beth will be continuing to grow the work in 2018. At each stage there will be chance to get involved through artists talks, practical skills sessions and creating circles for the piece. During the first Exhibition at Hope University Beth will be exploring the theme of hope in a changing world.