I am writing this in advance as, like a lot of people in the uk who are classed as disabled, vulnerable, whatever, if the election goes the way of the conservatives then my life is pretty much over. I have been hanging on by a thread for a while now, and that will be it, gone, my final safety net gone and I will be too distraught to form words.
When I conceived this set of four (and a half) drawings, inspired by the original series by William Hogarth produced in 1755, it was mostly as a means to keep my mind occupied whilst the election process went on and, as always happens, all the idiots come out of the woodwork and everyone starts being vile to each other.
This election series is in part intended as a reprise to some work from a few years ago, when I was in a much different place in my life, although, in its own way, just as vulnerable. Where as that was about the inevitable decline brought about by vanity, this is pretty much a comment on that rare point in culture where the privaledge are made vulnerable, if only nominally, to the whims of the masses that they mostly hold little but contempt for.
In the first drawing, An election entertainment, the scene is of a party thrown by one of the parties to encourage (bribe) voters to choose their candidate come polling day. The scene show the potential candidates having to deal with some of the general public they would rather avoid whilst the band plays on in the background. A party member counts out bribes whilst another local dignitary comes a cropper of a bass guitar. The figure representing the mayor, who in the original falls ill to eating far too many oysters, has overdosed on ‘sherbet’and an attempted resuscitation is in progress. It’s interesting to note that a group of local lefties were witnesses up to this the other day. Whilst you expect the right wing to be utterly evil, it always comes as such a profound shame when people who claim to be on the side of the people manage to overlook the misery and repression that comes as a result of their nasty little habits. In the far right of the picture you can see a man being coerced by his family to take a bribe in exchange for his vote as his son needs some new trainers. Through the window you can see the start of a riot taking place. In the original, an effigy of a Jewish person was being strung up, in this it is a vegetarian. It’s a reference to those who attack Jeremy Corbyn for such spurious reasons as his choice of diet. It is important to note that at the time of its creation, some two hundred and sixty years ago, the world was a very different place and racism and antisemitism were rife, Hogarth was regarded at very progressive for the times and was one of the founders of the foundling institute, providing care and education for the orphaned and desperately poor children. I brick flies through the the window and strikes down the election agent and to his left a child frills up a large container (in this case a paddling pool) with booze. As is usually the case in real life you can see me making an early exit stage left.
For the second drawing, Canvassing for Votes, I kept the three building scenario of the original. The pub on the left has been renamed The General Belgrano after the dubious British navel ‘victory’ of the Falklands war that rescued Margaret Thatcher from the doldrums in the early eighties. There are still two old soldiers outside, only now they are homeless ones rather than on a secure pension. A film crew utterly fails to notice the real story of the building being attacked by an angry mob as it prepares to do an interview with one of the candidates. Centre front is a farmer in the process of being bribed for his support while about him a derogatory poster has been hung over the pubs sign in reference to both the classic tv sitcom Father Ted and also the rather childish and negative poster campaign by a group local to where I live. A candidate is standing on a soapbox and being worshipped by some party followers whilst and impromptu halo dangles able his head. To the right, in front of the pub door, the original drawing depicted a lion eating a lily as a reference to England’s supremacy over France, it has been replaced here by a panda eating a teddy bear to demonstrate China’s economic supremacy over the United Kingdom. As ever a pub landlady counts her profits from hosting the day’s events, the only real winner of the day.
I had to think long and hard about how to approach the polling day drawing as the original drawing has a series of the disabled and the dying whole gave been dragged from their sick beds, something that rings horrific bells with the current regime’s poor treatment of wobbly folk. The poster behind the counter displays my feelings about the purpose of elections, that it’s a poor do that the only real involvement any of us really have in the democratic process is stick an x on a piece of paper every five years. Sure we can protest, sure we can pester people in power, but do they listen? I personally feel the whole pantomime is there to make us feel better about how little power we truly have. But that’s just my opinion. In line behind a one legged and one armed man having trouble with his ballot paper is professor Stephen hawking, I wanted to show a definite statement in regards to the abilities of the severely physically disabled. Behind the professor’s minders waits a poor chap undergoing chemotherapy and behind him another one who has fell up the stairs and who’s head is turned to a very unnatural angle that doesn’t bode well. Beneath the stairs lurks the Trollidarity, attacking from the dark and shadows in secret as they do. To the rear a rather disheveled Britania lies, propped up against her broken ‘chariot’ as the driver waits for the breakdown truck, representing a country that is falling apart, just as it was two hundred and sixty years ago.
When I drew the last panel it was with a heavy heart as although where I live is regard as severely deprived, it is surrounded by small and picturesque towns and villages that are populated by the extremely wealthy and privileged who inevitably vote for the conservation party. It was with that in mind that I set about to produce the final drawing, The Chairing of the Member with current Home Secret Amber Rudd as the star. This was, however before a series of catastrophic disasters both by her and the Conservative party had slightly altered the chances of labour mp Peter Chowney becoming elected instead. This meant that it neccesatated me providing a second version of the drawing in true Orwellian fashion, doctoring the original image to a level that only usually happens in North Korea or Moaist China
In the Amber version, the mp is being sprayed by a child with a water pistol, a vague nod to the child pissing from the same spot onto the procession below in the 1755 version. In the original a bird hovers overhead, mocking napoleon’s use of an eagle as a symbol of triumph, this version features a chip stealing eagle, common where I live, the chip being a reference to a briefnewspaper feature about prime minister Theresa May lacking the common touch whilst trying to eat food from a fish and chip shop. Rather than the mp crashing to their doom from a dropped chair, she is immantely in danger of being electrocuted by a sabotaged power line. In front of the procession is a drummer rather than the original fiddler, a cameo by my friend kitty. The protestor is the same chap who was at the front of the voting line in the previous picture. A family of foxes run from the mp as a reference to current rumours that fox hunting might be made legal once more. The building to the right shows the unhappy members of the opposition party, suffering for their defeat. For the parallel universe version with Chowney as the local mp, I have played on the way that that some of their candidates have been almost diefide by those on the left and so chose to give him the full ‘chosen by God’ treatment, comparative with the hand of God marking him out and cherubs declaring him as our saviour.
Whatever happens tomorrow (today when you read this) will dictate which four drawings make the final folio of prints. They have been printed on dead posh Germany art paper using fade proof, archival quality, ink and will be signed and numbered to a strictly limited edition of thirty of each print and you can buy them here. They took a solid three week’s work to produce and as ever I am spectacularly skint so your support is much appreciated.