Escape from freedom (1900-2000)
“There are certain factors in Man’s nature which are fixed and unchangeable: the necessity to satisfy the physiologically conditioned drives and the necessity to avoid isolation and moral aloneness”
Escape from freedom (1900-2000), is a painting inspired by the work of a Swiss psychologist, Eric Fromm, in which 50 faces are seen, some more familiar than others, from across the globe, throughout different decades and fields of endeavour. All are leaders of some form, be it cultural, ideological or scientific. All were visionaries in their own right, since they motivated people to follow them. I am not interested in their particular individuality or their visions, good or ill-conceived, but in the human drives such as power, safety, justice and the need to belong to a community. I am also intrigued by the concept of following, defining one’s own identity in the light of one’s chosen leaders and their promise for a better tomorrow.
The painting contains portraits of a variety of global leaders, arranged in a decomposing grid on top of an idealist Arcadian landscape (their promise for a better tomorrow). The portraits are painted to resemble dated photos, fragile and damaged. They are a reminder of the impermanence of life as opposed to the solid idealized paradise in the background- the archetypal garden of Eden- a vision of what was once and can be again. Embedded in the decomposing grid is a Capital “I” –A wish for the viewer to identify themselves as the person who gives validity to the vision and empowers the leader.
On reflection, Escape from Freedom, can be read not just as a portrait of the 50 faces, but also as a portrait of me and the way that the 20th Century is portrayed in recent history and in popular culture, as West-centric (Europe & North America), white male dominated. In drawing up my initial list of people to include, it was just that which I had compiled, as I want this to be a painting that is fundamentally about human nature. I purposefully widened my glaze to include representatives of different regions, ethnicities and gender.
“But man is not only made by history-history is made by man” Erich Fromm
I have always associated this painting with another work, The Big Picture, as both paintings share common themes of perspective) identity, leadership and its’ structure. Portrayed, are the nine Presidents in an idyllic rural landscape being (re)framed by their succeeding president, up until the current occupant (as of 2013) who stands outside of the frame in a white space, with a child artist. The child holds the tools to colour in the present, shape the future and redraw past perceptions.