Review of Picking up the Pieces

An exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery: Picking up the Pieces – Collage in Post War Britain

This exhibition of collage at the Grosvenor gallery put together representing the artists whom are now mostly no-longer with us. In a time when there was still rationing in the UK and a lot of poverty in the cities which were only starting to rebuild after the extensive war damage.

The art is an existential argument, questioning the reality the darkness of humanity; referencing politics, violence and the pornographic leaving the world broken by the industrial machine both economically and physically destroyed.

Out of a post 2nd world war apocalypse where sanity had disappeared with the fairies and a post-Dada, Futurist, Surrealist, cubist era the artist had little or no access to materials and collage was the excepted way to express ones thoughts in which people like Kurt Schwitters’s  had developed a reformative outlook on art as anti-establishment.

With the arrival of Francis Souza in 1950’s from India; Britain would have been a shock not just by the cultural difference but to see that the Empire had fallen so low. It would have been obvious at that time it would eventually break apart. Rasheed Araeen arrived later in 1964 when things had changed vastly arriving from a new country Pakistan which had only been in existence as a country for 17 years with the breakup of British India and self rule. The other artists were Nigel Henderson, William Turnbull, Eduardo Paolozzi who were all members of the same ‘Independent group’ subverting the classical. They would have experienced the world war with their own eyes although they were from different backgrounds their experiences would connect them.

It seems that all that had occurred has not gone away that the world again is in turmoil and that it is as if we are stuck on a turn table where the pin is jumping back to repeat the event in another flavour of madness. That racism again has reared its ugly head amongst the socialist left who clearly remember nothing of the past that both Hitler and Mussolini came from what were originally socialist supported parties speaks volumes.

In some ways the work is a retrospective of collage of the 1950′s but it is also a look at the mindset of the artist in that period and in a way representative of the changes that were going on during the 1950s and early 1960s when people were trying to pick themselves up. With the beginnings of migration that had begun to the UK for people from what was the end of the British Empire in search to understand, improve and to find solace. It is these artists although they were young would have been participents in the world during an epoch of hatred we had hoped had gone away.

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