Artist David Mabb talks to Amie Mulderrig about how he has used students’ protest slogans to create humourous but thought-provoking artworks

Artist David Mabb talks to Amie Mulderrig about how he has used students’ protest slogans to create humourous but thought-provoking artworks

Artist David Mabb talks to Amie Mulderrig about how he has used students’ protest slogans to create humourous but thought-provoking artworks

Artist David Mabb talks to Amie Mulderrig about how he has used students’ protest slogans to create humourous but thought-provoking artworks

Artist David Mabb talks to Amie Mulderrig about how he has used students’ protest slogans to create humourous but thought-provoking artworks

First published in Highlights East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Features Writer

The sound of shoes clomping in unison along the pavement, the sight of placards being waved in the air, the feeling of tension caused by the heavy police presence.

It was the student demonstrations of 2011 that influenced artist David Mabb to create a series of works centred on images of protests, featured in an exhibition currently on show at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

“I saw lots of handmade posters that students made that were inventive, funny and incredibly rude,“ laughs David, 53, a teacher at Goldsmiths, University of London.

“That student protest two years ago, about the introduction of tuition fees, is what sparked the idea for my work. Most of my paintings were made at that time, when the William Morris gallery was closed for refurbishment.“
Using the internet to search for slogans, David painted the images of the catchphrases, 22 in total, framing the pieces with William Morris fabric.

“It was important that I paint the images of the slogans and not just the slogans themselves,“ the artist from Lewisham explains. “There is a relationship between the words and the way they’re presented.

“For example, one piece, which has the slogan ‘Eat The Rich’, is funny. It’s done in letters which are almost fairground-like, they’re jokey, good humoured, old fashioned, blocky and square.

“It’s not literal, it’s a bizarre and surreal slogan painted in a funny way, it’s not meant to be serious, it’s a humorous, metaphorical joke; the rich consume the poor, whereas this is turning the tables and the poor are instead consuming the rich.“
Entitling the exhibition Regime Change Begins at Home, perhaps what is most striking about the images, is David’s use of William Morris fabric designs.

“I’ve used a lot of William Morris in my work over the years, I’m very interested in the political aspect of his designs,“ explains David.

“They’re always sunny with flowers and fruit and leaves, but remove these and what are you left with? Wintry images. When you do that, you realise they’re very political, they were all about a utopian idea. Take away that ideological symbolism of the fruit and what you’re left with is dark, cold twigs.

“You have to ask why people like them so much, they’re beautiful, but they mean something as well, values.

“Morris was a socialist, he went on demonstrations and was even arrested at one point. He wrote a song as memorial to a man who was killed on a demonstration.

“You can make connections between Morris’s patterns and his politics. And the fact that these pieces have William Morris integrated, well, it ties together nicely with where they’re being exhibited.

“When people come to the exhibition, I hope they see Morris as one person, not two through the pieces.

“The English heritage brigade like the fabrics and the curtains, whereas his other fans are in the political camp and can’t understand the appeal of his pattern designs.

“But William Morris is one person, and there is a connectivity between both his patterns and his politics. I hope my work will show how those contrasting topics work together.“

Regime Change Begins at Home will be on show at the William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow until June 30. Details: 020 8496 4390 or www.wmgallery.org.uk

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