For some reason my brain likes metaphors. When I think about representing social issues in art, which is where my practice has landed, it’s my automatic response. So last year, when I was thinking about our divided country post Brexit, I thought about building bridges. And when I was wondering how I could represent the way austerity’s eroding the Welfare State, people falling through holes in safety nets sprung into my mind. But that doesn’t take me very far when it comes to making art. So now I’m trying to find more subtle and nuanced ways to communicate some pretty complicated messages – and also trying to follow Stephen’s sage advice about making things clear enough to engage people but not so obvious that they won’t want to come back for more. It’s a great ambition ….
A specific issue I’ve been grappling with is how to represent people of different levels of income and wealth through colours and symbols – in this case the top 1% and the next 4, 45 and 50%. Logos were an obvious starting point – but I want recognisable shapes rather than brand names, and that rules most of them out. The most ubiquitous, like Apple and Nike, span too much of the population. The green diagonal lines of John Lewis and Waitrose should work, and when I got desperate, I also decided to use the yellow/golden arches of MacDonalds on a red background. Upmarket brands tend to have names printed in black on white – so not great for shape or colour. I wondered about the Royal Warrant, but that’s a bit fussy. I’ve settled for the Chanel linked Cs in yellow, the nearest thing I’ve got to gold. And when I reached my deadline for ordering materials and needed a fourth shape in a hurry AND to make the colours work, I’ve ended up using part of the Tesco logo with its colous reversed.
But this is just the beginning. I overheard a tutor recommending a book called This Means This and This Means That which is great for exploring all the possibilities in the world of semiotics.