Monday, 29 April 2013

The Relentless Rise of the Rent

The rising rental market in London is something I addressed previously in my work, in my painting 'Shoebox'. Five years on the situation is far worse - with the disparity between average salaries and the cost of renting escalating.

In this new series: 'The Relentless Rise of the Rent' I am responding to the issues and problems connected to housing and the private rental market in London.

I started by collecting images of real adverts I’d seen in Estate Agent windows, quick snapshots taken on my phone of rotten looking properties advertized for phenomenal weekly rents.  This collecting process of the Estate Agent adverts is ongoing and has provided the starting point for these paintings.

£327 per week for this Stunning Two Bedroom Apartment
Oil on Board

£319 per week for this Gorgeous One Bed Flat
Oil on Canvas

  £330 per week for this Bright and Airy Two Bedroom Flat
Oil on Canvas

Although my work has moved on and the autobiographical anecdotes and statements do not feature in these pieces the personal narrative is still very much present.  I personally find it really difficult to survive in London with the financial pressure of high rent to pay, and amongst social circles it is a subject often being discussed.  

Comparative to other European cities or towns in the UK the London rent prices are phenomenal and are rising fast.  In other countries regulations are different, with five or ten year tenancys being the norm, meaning that people can feel that their rental property is ‘home’ without living in fear of the landlord raising the rent on a yearly basis.  Tenants can make significant changes to their rental properties which helps to create the feeling of ‘home’, tenants in London often feel that their accommodation is temporary and tenancy agreements often specify that only minimal changes can be made to properties.

I wanted to create some paintings in response to this situation, being something that I am directly affected by I wanted to create a series which was an honest and heartfelt response.  I was also interested in the element of documentation, recording and describing a very current issue that in time would capture and illustrate something specific to our generation.  No doubt in five years time the rent prices I am currently recording will have increased, what will the situation be like?  Will it become too difficult to live in London without an executive pay packet?

Adequate housing is a human right, outlined in the Universal Declaration of human rights.  How is it then that our homes have become consumerist commodities just like anything else?  With estate agents and landlords responding to the demand and using our 'homes' to generate the highest revenue they can.

Our exhibition in Vienna ‘Affluence & Avarice’ is about greed, and although my paintings about the housing prices might not be overtly referencing this, I think the issues are directly linked.   The reasons for the current housing crisis are complex, it is connected to the on-going global economic problems, the root of this being the negative effects of capitalism.  It’s about the increasing wealth divide.  Are landlords greedy?  It's more complex than that...The over population and demand for properties means that the landlords increase the rents to stay inline with the market…Do we need regulations in place to protect our homes?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

One week in! - The campaign to get our paintings to Vienna for the 'Affluence and Avarice' exhibition

Just recently we officially announced that myself and art partner in crime Twinkle Troughton have been invited to exhibit at Galerie Michaela Stock in Vienna this June.  This is a very exciting opportunity, and it's the first time we have been officially invited as a duo to exhibit our works abroad in a professional gallery setting. 

Our exhibition is titled 'Affluence and Avarice', all of the info about the show is on our facebook event page:
We will be exhibiting brand new paintings, which together will be presented as a collection of work with the theme of greed as its pivotal starting point.

LEFT: 'A Gannet's Stomach is Never full' by Twinkle 

RIGHT: '9 Years and 89 days, ongoing. Civilian deaths 34,240, 
Military deaths 2,208' by Tinsel (why did I choose such a long title?!)
Even as far back as last Autumn, we were busy working away on researching and submitting funding applications, there are lots of costs involved with putting on this exhibition, including shipping our work from London to Austria and paying for the printing and design of the accompanying show catalogue.  Unfortunately several funding applications later, disappointingly we didn't get the funds...With massive cuts to the arts in the UK, we now have first hand experience that funding is definitely harder to come by! and this is why we really need your help.
Therefore we decided we would set up a crowdfunding page using the Indiegogo platform, and this is it!:

One week in we now have just 23 days to raise our goal of $4700 or £3000 in English pound terms!  In return for ANY donation large or small - there are a wide variety of perks, we have been super busy creating signed photos, mugs, button badges, bespoke hand-made jackets and signed catalogues.   

The handmade Tinsel & Twinkle jacket, each one is unique and made by ourselves, only 5 available ever! (we will also be wearing these as our banker uniforms at the exhibition and when we do the bank)

The 'Don't Get Mugged Mug'

We may not be raising funds for a charity or running a marathon - but your donation will be absolutely instrumental in helping two passionate London artists to create a professional art exhibition, bring attention to the UK art scene and make their mark on Vienna.  If lots of people can donate just $5 dollars, together we can make this happen!
We would really appreciate it if you can take the time to have a look at the fundraising page, any donation large or small will make a difference, or please do share the page on facebook or twitter and help us to spread the word.
Some info about the gallery, the exhibition and the Bank of Twinkle & Tinsel:
The gallery is based just around the corner from the lively Museum Quarter in central Vienna, it is one of a series of well regarded contemporary art galleries on  Schleifmühlgasse.  Abit like the Time Out First Thursdays that all Londoners will be aware of, galleries in Vienna all coincide their private view openings four times per year on specific dates, to create a late night arts festival for the city.  The good news is that they liked mine and Twinkle's work enough to give us one of these prominent dates! 
Have a look at the Gallery one their site here:

We will also be taking the ‘Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle’ to Vienna, scheduled to appear at various times and locations in the city throughout our two week residency.  It is a bank that trades in thoughts rather than currency, and aims to create an arena for an alternative style debate and discussion on the global economic crisis.  Here is the blog we have set up which will be the place to find all of the updates and news about the progress of our bank!
We have created our own banknotes and the idea is that people write their thoughts on the economy on these notes, creating an ongoing forum for debate whilst creating a visual display.

Thankyou so much for taking the time to read this, and thankyou in advance for any support you may be able to give.
Best wishes,
Tinsel x

Monday, 8 April 2013

Big Fish Eat Little Fish - 'The Rich get richer while the poor get poorer'

Engraving dated 1557 by Pieter van der Heyden after a drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Latin text at the bottom reads ‘Big Fish eat Little Fish’ and ‘the rich oppress you with their power’

I stumbled across this when I started looking into medieval engravings and woodcuts.  Engravings and woodcuts often illustrated political commentary, for example statements of dissent toward the church, and were distributed widely to communicate messages to a largely illiterate audience. 

The ‘Big Fish Eat Little Fish’ engraving is after a drawing by Breugel, which illustrates an ancient proverb and known saying: ‘the rich get richer while the poor get poorer’.  The drawing alludes to greed, a gruesome image of the big fish being sliced open to reveal that it has gorged itself on the other smaller fishes. The fishes pouring from its mouth and insides, themselves also eating smaller fishes.  Emperors and kings live at the expense of their subjects, merchants abuse their positions of wealth and power to oppress the weak.  One interesting detail about this drawing is that there is a symbol of the imperial orb on the sword, referring to the monarchy or state.

The fact that the big fish lies beached and gutted illustrates the moral of the story, that the accumulated wealth at the expense of others is now useless and that greed does not pay.

Greed, the increasing wealth divide, and the negative impact of capitalism have been themes central to my artistic practice for the last year or so, and greed will be the focus of mine and Twinkle Troughton's forthcoming duo exhibition at Galerie Michaela Stock in Vienna, titled  'Affluence and Avarice'.  Research naturally led me to 16th century Flemish painter Pieter Breugel whose subversive images contain strong messages of social protest.  A painting I made last year ‘But why does the Wealth Divide just keep getting bigger?’ uses Breugel’s ‘The Triumph of Death’ as a starting point.

What fascinated me about ‘Big Fish Eat Little Fish’ is the resonance it has today.  Increasingly the concentration of wealth is ending up in the pockets of the fewest, in effect reducing the spending power of the majority and having negative implications for our economy in general.  Bankers bonuses and high executive pay packets have been a discussion point in the media for months, interestingly in Switzerland recently voters overwhelmingly backed proposals to curb executive pay. (link)

 With current welfare reforms and cuts to public services it seems that the people in power are contributing to the increasing wealth divide and helping to tip the balance in favour of the people with the most.  For example the government expenditure on targeting and demonizing the ‘Benefit thief’ is far greater than the allocation of funds to target corporate tax evasion.  Yet, the money the government loses from benefit fraud is a miniscule fraction of the amount lost to tax evasion.  So basically they are looking after the rich and targeting the poor. (interesting article on this here) 

I decided to use the 16th century engraving as a starting point for a series of paintings about this issue.

Admittedly I’m naturally quite neurotic about how I approach my painting!  Usually questioning everything and wanting there to be a reason for every decision I make…  After thinking on it for a while I decided to step back from all of those thought processes, and decided simply to revive the original and create my interpretation of the image in paint.  See below some iphone snapshots of as yet untitled studies so far.

It is my intention to use paint in an intuitive and experimental way, trying out different techniques and brush marks, to make the physical process of my art making as much an explorative endeavor as the rational thinking behind my work.

When I first came across Gerhardt Richters’ Baader Meinhof series years ago I was in awe of their intensity and powerful political presence.  Simply by translating those images into paint, he creates a new perspective on the subject and different arena for reflection.  I hope that my ‘Big Fish Eat Little Fish’ paintings might attempt to simply revive an ancient engraving and proverb to comment on a contemporary issue.

 'Hanged' by Gerhardt Richter, 1988
 'Dead' by Gerhardt Richter, 1988
 'Man shot Down' by Gerhardt Richter, 1988